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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Review: Mystery, Inc. by Joyce Carol Oates

Mystery, Inc.  
Joyce Carol Oates
Open Road Integrated Media
Bibliomysteries are an ongoing mystery series from Open Road and  Mysterious Press (which offers a numbered edition of this book) about books and their places of habitation.

Mystery, Inc. is a fictitious bookstore that the narrator, who bills himself as "Charles Brockden*," is crazy about, jealous that the owner, Aaron Neuhaus, is able to weather bad times and good yet have a section dedicated to art, even. How does it weather tough financial doldrums?

As Brockden has done before, he concocts a murder, a poisoning, to buy the bookstore. But this bookstore has its own mysteries in store.

Mystery, Inc. is a novella, lovingly detailing a clear passion for classic mysteries and bookstores. The narrator is unsympathetic in the tradition of Iago. But Oates has a trick or two to play. First, the narrator sounds like Oates commenting on the writing of the story:
"I am very excited! For at last, after several false starts, I have chosen the setting for my bibliomystery."
It takes the readers a moment to reorient our perspective from reading about the author's production to the narrator's. Perhaps the idea here is that murder, in the eyes of the narrator, is its own creative act. He, too, is a kind of author.

This is less a literary classic to pore over, than a reader's pleasure, an entertainment. But a few games are afoot, including pop culture. Mystery, Inc. is the name of the Scooby Doo Mystery van and bookstore.

* Charles Brockden Brown was an early American novelist.

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