Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Mystery Girl by David Gordon

Title: Mystery Girl
Author: David Gordon

Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Los Angeles / Mystery)
Publisher/Publication Date: New Harvest (7/16/2013)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: An aspiring novelist is prompted to get a job as an assistant detective when his wife leaves him but the case becomes something more complicated than he expects.

Do I like the cover?: I do -- it perfectly captures the feel of the story.

I'm reminded of...: S.G. Browne, Trevor Cole, Matthew Norman

First line: I became an assistant detective, and solved my first murder, right after my wife left me, when I went a little mad.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy if you like mysteries with big personalities

Why did I get this book?: I like these kind of dark, funny, banter-y mysteries.

Review: The jacket blurb sums this novel up perfectly: It’s as if Tarantino had remade Vertigo after bingeing on Nero Wolfe novels.

Our hero, Sam Kornberg, loves modern, experimental fiction; his best friend works in a video store and trade in the obscure and hard-to-find, the cultish and beloved. His foxy wife surprises him by walking out and that propels him into job hunting.

The only job he gets is with the agoraphobic, morbidly obese Solar Lonsky, a detective-slash-armchair-psychologist who hires Sam to do the running around he can't do. The assignment is to keep tabs on a 'mysterious girl', a young woman named Mona, who is wild and pretty. Following her, literally, takes him through Los Angeles and along the coast, until something happens (sorry! don't want to give it away!) Sam realizes his seemingly simple case is far more complicated.

Gordon's writing style is the star, although the characters are a very close second. The novel is primary narrated by Sam, but now and then another character pops in to fill out the story. And Sam's voice hooked me from the first line. He's wry, dry, self-deprecating and very smart, and while he might border on maddening at times, he also completely charmed me.

What job did I (or she, really) think I could get? By training and nature, I was equipped to do nothing but lie thusly and think deep thoughts. I blamed my hardworking parents for encouraging me to obtain a useless, outrageously expensive, and still unpaid-for education best suited to a minor nineteenth-century aristocrat. I could read philosophy and discuss paintings. Not that I ever did, but I could, if I had to, in an emergency. (p11)

While funny, this is hardly a fluffy or silly mystery. Real crime, real (awkward) sex, real blood, real anguish. It's about Los Angeles, and the film industry, and small businesses, vocations and passion. It's a story of the geeks, the outsiders who find love in the obscure, who find each other; and it's about loss, letting go, moving on.

Perfect for the summer, I picked it up Sunday morning and didn't stop until it ended, which meant I skipped swimming, strawberries, and a hike, but it was absolutely worth it. I'm having a hard time shaking the bittersweet humor and surprising tenderness.

*** *** ***


I'm thrilled to offer a copy of Mystery Girl to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/Canadian readers, ends 8/23.


  1. This sounds fantastic and I absolutely love the cover. I recently embarked on a (re)reading of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe series and this sounds like it would fit my recent book mood perfectly.

    1. Oh, then you MUST read this. It's wonderful -- the mood of the 'classic' mystery is there, but wonderfully absurd at moments -- then morbidly dark. Really didn't want to stop -- it's given me a good book 'hangover'.

  2. It sounds like it has a little bit of a noir feel to it. Thanks for the giveaway!

    1. Yes, it does -- especially with the seedier side of LA -- it's got great mood to it.

  3. I love mysteries but they often turn silly on me. I am glad that is not the case with this one.

    1. I mean, this has some absurd and comedic moments, but never silly.

  4. Maybe not the book for me in the end, but cool cover

  5. Funny mysteries are fantastic. Sam? I wonder if he was channeling Spade? This sounds awesome!

  6. I usually like funny mysteries better than straight ones, so I'm entering my name into the mix. Thanks!

  7. Must be a good book if you read it in a day!

  8. I like that this one isn't "fluffy" but is able to maintain some humor though the nitty-gritty of real life.

    Thanks for being on the tour Audra! I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.

  9. I'm still trying to figure out what I'm going to say about this one. I'm thinking I'm just in a funky mood where I'm not liking much. I'm glad to see you enjoyed it though.