The Manual of Detection

From Thomas Jones’s review, LRB 28 May 2009: ‘The hero of The Manual of Detection is Charles Unwin, a clerk at a detective agency, known only as the Agency, which occupies all 46 floors of the tallest building in an unnamed city that in some ways is quite like New York, only smaller (the Empire State Building has 102 storeys), and in other ways isn’t like New York at all: it has no financial district, for one thing - instead, at the southern end of the city is a derelict port. It’s an eerily dreamlike world, at once strange and familiar. “In the maze of old streets that predated the gridding of the city, he passed timbered warehouses and old market squares cluttered with the refuse of industry. Machines � the purpose of which he could not guess � rusted in red streaks over the cobblestone.” The year in which the novel is set is indeterminate, too, though the clothes and gadgets suggest some time, as with all the best noir, in the first half of the 20th century: everyone wears a hat, and phonograph records, typewriters, trains, taxis and telephones are the height of technology.’“”