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For Readers Age approx. 14+
Grades 10+

The Manual of Detection - Review
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Publisher's Summary:

 Berry, Jedediah. (2009) The Manual of Detection. Penguin Group. ISBN-10: 0143116517. recommends ages 14+ and acceptable for advanced readers.

Publisher Description:  Reminiscent of imaginative fiction from Jorge Luis Borges to Jasper Fforde yet dazzlingly original, The Manual of Detection marks the debut of a prodigious young talent. Charles Unwin toils as a clerk at a huge, imperious detective agency located in an unnamed city always slick with rain. When Travis Sivart, the agency's most illustrious detective, is murdered, Unwin is suddenly promoted and must embark on an utterly bizarre quest for the missing investigator that leads him into the darkest corners of his soaking, somnolent city. What ensues is a noir fantasy of exquisite craftsmanship, as taut as it is mind- blowing, that draws readers into a dream world that will change what they think about how they think.


Respect for self and others: This includes integrity (adherence to a code of conduct or value system), honesty vs. manipulation or lying, compassion, caring for others (characters not focused on getting their way no matter what) self respect--main character does not let others denigrate him or her; use of self control and self-discipline ; taking charge of own behaviour; fairness to others (such as taking turns and avoiding the blame game). Reader should ask themselves “How does the protagonist depict their peers?” “Would you want others to treat you this way? Should everyone act this way?” This includes true friendships that do not involve regular lying, deceit or manipulation; considering consequences of actions prior to acting; owning up to responsibility once an action has been taken.

Charles Unwine wrestles constantly with wanting to shrink away into oblivion, while knowing he must forge ahead and do the right thing: correct errors in past investigations. He is sufficiently cunning to out-think his adversaries and so does not need to lower himself to lies, manipulation or deceit.  A belief in himself and full of self-discipline, he is relentless and perseveres.

Portrayal of Authority figures: The positive portrayal of parents, teachers, police officers and other “good” authority figures common in a child’s life is a positive influence upon the child’s own moral development. This includes actively-parenting mother and father figures. Minimization of parental involvement in the character’s activities or the portrayal of authority figures as inferior present poor role models. Also to be avoided are main characters that deceive parents and teachers to accomplish goals, and overuse sarcasm towards authority figures. Ask yourself “Are parents seen as positive or negative influence in the character's life?”

All characters respect the bureaucracy for which they work; no negative portrayals.


Citizenship and Patriotism: Loyalty to family, team or group, school, community and world; caring for and being considerate of these groups. Pride to be part of that group or nationality.

Unwine shows unwavering loyalty to his organization as well as to the ideal of truth.

Justice and Balance: A just distribution between good and evil (with good outweighing evil in the presence of the storyline); demonstration of right and wrong; making decisions to enact the above values rather than simply choosing from two bad possibilities; Ask yourself “Is the emphasis on the positive elements or negative?”


This is an excellent story of the shy underdog, under-estimated by his adversaries, overcoming all obstacles and winning. In a surreal world, right vs. wrong continue to be very clear. Evil is used for good to overcome and is never over-emphasized. 

Aesthetic aspects Of life ExperienceLook for a storyline portrayal of beauty, health, and selfless love vs. hedonistic behaviours (sexuality, selfishness, obsessiveness, materialism), profanity, gore and violence. Are nature and environment respected or exploited? Look for dark elements; watch out for humor that is negative, denigrates others excessively, uses metaphors to denigrate the sacred.

The aesthetics of this story are what set it apart. Although a detective mystery, it has a surreal other-world feel to it with a mild coating of science fiction. Dialogue and narrative are rich in description, so that the reader is pulled into this world before they know it. Yet, in spite of its many characters and settings, it is not so complicated as to tire the reader. A very “colorful” story.

Other things to Consider:Other aspects of this book of interest or importance. For example, does it portray Wiccan practices and accurate use of tools of which some parents might object, does it contain hidden meanings in metaphors that may prove offensive to some families; does it address personal issues such as puberty or pregnancy.

No hidden agendas, sexuality, perversity or gore. Only a few instances of profanity. The focus of the book is as it should be: on rich character and setting development.

So what do YOU think? Read our thoughts on the book and join in the discussion: Litland's Blog   

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