Charles Unwin is a clerk at the Agency; he compiles the notes of his detective, Travis T. Sivart, and files them away nicely under titles like “The Oldest Murdered Man” and “The Man Who Stole November Twelfth.” But on this day, he is mysteriously promoted to detective in place of Sivart, which does not suit Unwin, who likes his clerk’s job and has no interest in detecting. He makes his first case to find out what happened to Sivart, and soon realizes that this case will take more skills than what he can learn in his Manual of Detection.
This book was weird, and also awesome. There’s not much more I want to say about it because I’m not sure which are details and which are clues. The weirdness is along the lines of Jasper Fforde’s — an alternate universe where weird things happen and it’s okay. The man who stole November twelfth did, actually, make the whole city skip from Monday straight to Wednesday.
Berry’s awesomeness is much in his writing. I had to read aloud this (long-ish, sorry!) passage to Scott after I read it because it’s just so brilliant:
“On the twenty-ninth floor, another long hall, another lone window at its end. But in place of the carpeting of the thirty-sixth, here was a buffed surface of dark wood, so spotless and smooth it shone with liquid brilliance. The floor gave Unwin pause. It was his personal curse that his shoes squeaked on polished floors. The type of shoes he wore made no difference, nor did it matter whether the soles were wet or dry. If the shoes contained Unwin’s feet and were directed along well-polished routes, they would without fail sound their joyless noise for all to hear.
“At home he went about in his socks. That way he could avoid disturbing the neighbors and also indulge in the occasional shoeless swoop across the room, as when one is preparing a breakfast of oatmeal and the oatmeal wants raisins and brown sugar, which are in the cupboard at the other end of the room. To glide with sock-swaddled feet over a world of glossy planes: that would be a wondrous thing! But Unwin’s apartment was smallish at best, and the world is unkind to the shoeless and frolicsome.”