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Reviewed by Marcus Hammond
Mystery Girl by David Gordon is a complexly written and enjoyable comedic mystery that involves intrigue, humor, and deep character reflection. Sam Kornberg, a failed experimental novelist, who has recently separated from his wife and is struggling to find an identity, narrates the story.
In trying to meet his wife’s lofty demands to become more motivated and successful, he takes a job assisting an obese, eccentric private detective. Completely out of his element, Sam fumbles around LA trying to follow a mysterious and beautiful young woman. The young woman he is charged to investigate may or may not be missing, may or may not be mixed up with a litany of indecent, despicable, and dangerous characters from Mexico to California, and may or may not be the answer to Sam’s romantic woes.
There are a lot of layers to this novel that make it intriguing. Sam deals with the chaos of his life with critical self-reflection that can only come from learning lessons through failure. In one instance Sam reflects on the how many laws he is breaking as he crouches in dog excrement outside the window of the beautiful mystery girl’s house. In another instance he explains the importance of authors like James Joyce and Marcel Proust to the literary tradition. Sam’s scattered thoughts are laughable and totally believable. The odd combination of Sam’s bumbling, freshman detective mishaps and his insightful, educated musings about literature and movies provide likable and relatable character development.
The large cast of secondary characters that surround Sam also help define him as a regular guy with an extraordinary, disaster-prone life. Among the different personalities Sam has to deal with are his adulterous, condescending wife, a snobby movie lover, a bi-sexual former bookstore owner, and his obese employer. All of these characters allow Sam to see his past and present with a clarity that can only be achieved through hindsight.
There are a lot of moments throughout the novel that will make the reader laugh out loud, which compliments the noir grit of the mystery aspect perfectly. At one point, as Sam tails his mystery girl, he dons a blonde wig to become unrecognizable in an upscale, sex shop. The absurdity of the disguise and the entire situation proves just how out of his element Sam is as a detective.
David Gordon’s writing style is emotional, realistic, and enjoyable, though he does have a distinct love for lengthy, run-on sentences that can feel overwhelming. With that aside, Mystery Girl is a surprisingly funny, gritty, and at times shocking mystery that could make a lazy weekend pass by quickly.
After obtaining a Masters in Liberal Arts and Literature Marcus has dedicated most of his time to teaching English Composition for a community college in the Midwest. In his down time, he spends time avidly reading an eclectic selection of books and doing freelance writing whenever he gets the chance. He lives in Kansas with his wife.
Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by New Harvest. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.