The Detective by Jake Zuurbier
A clever story-within-a-story that offers a different take on the “And Then There Were None” plot.
Veteran author Michael Davis is struggling. He’d caught his long-time girlfriend, Jessica, cheating on him, and they’d broken up, and she appeared to be living her best life with Jason, the other guy. Michael, on the other hand, with his latest book due at his publishers, has run aground, mired in a writer’s block that he can’t seem to escape.
After one of a long string of nights spent drinking and staring at a blank page, he decides to venture out into the city, only to run into his ex and her new man. To make matters worse, Jessica needles him about how the new book is going, somehow aware that it’s not going anywhere fast. He returns home in a funk, still facing a looming deadline, and tries to write. After many shots of vodka later, though, he loses his balance and topples backward in his chair, knocking himself unconscious. But when he comes to, Michael is no longer in this apartment with only his cat for company. He’s snowbound in the stylish sitting room of a large mansion, cocktail in hand, and talking to his ex and her new beau. But when he hears them address each other as Joan and Jack, he realizes he’s somehow become a part of the story he’s been struggling to write, and someone is about to die.
The Detective is a clever story-within-a-story, narrated by the stymied and frustrated writer-character and protagonist of both tales, Michael Davis. Michael has had a successful writing career until the last couple of years, and he’s struggling with his latest book project, a detective mystery novel. This is a new venture for him, he’s not written in the genre before now, and it has been proving not to be his thing. He’s depressed over his relationship with Jessica, which imploded when he discovered she’d been cheating on him while she was supposed to be working. Perhaps as a means of working out his anger, he’s made Jessica and Jason characters in the mystery; however, the story is still not working for him, and his drinking is beginning to take over his life.
The plot is quite intriguing as the frustrated author finds himself inserted into his fledgling story with its unintended Agatha Christie-style “And Then There Were None” storyline. Michael hadn’t gotten far in his written version of the book, so the ensuing action is as much a surprise to him as it is to readers. Some unusual twists and turns kept me wanting to turn pages. The story, however, still felt a bit rough overall. There were numerous spelling and grammar issues, and they required me to re-read passages to try to understand what the author was trying to say. Some of these are intentional on the part of the author, though, as a means of mimicking the actual thought processes of the character; many of the repeated "errors" disappear when Michael is back in the real world. This may extend to some of the repetitive passages in the story, repeated descriptions of features of the house or clothing, explanations of situations, and dialogue, as he lives through the events of the investigation. There is quite a bit of sexual innuendo, some sexual encounters, and death scenes that make this book only suitable for adults. The book would benefit greatly from having an editor tighten up the story and the execution.
I recommend THE DETECTIVE to mystery readers who would enjoy a story with a different take on the Agatha Christie “And Then There Were None” storyline.
I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Reedsy Discovery.