The Case of the Imaginary Detective by Karen Joy Fowler
|The Case of the Imaginary Detective by Karen Joy Fowler|
|Genre: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: A skillfully-written and character-driven story about the mystery of Rima Lanisell's father and his relationship with her godmother. Recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 336||Date: February 2009|
Rima Lanisell has a habit of losing things. It's not restricted to the usual car keys and purses: her mother died when she was young, her beloved younger brother died in a car crash and not long after her father succumbed to leukaemia. Not yet thirty and the sole survivor of the family unit, she heads for her godmother's home in the hope of solace. Addison is better known as the author A B Early and creator of the fictional detective Maxwell Lane. She and Rima's father, Bim, had been close – just how close Rima would like to find out – but in recent years there had been an estrangement and Rima would like to find out about that too.
The house, appropriately named Wit's End, is littered with dolls houses. Addison prepares one as the set for each murder mystery as this helps her to write the story. These are not the only mysteries which Rima finds though – the more she looks at her father's history the more the mystery deepens and confusingly he also appears as a character in the books. There's also the mystery of quite how deeply Bim Lanisell and Addison were involved with a local cult and why Addison is quite so preoccupied with cults in general.
I'm not quite certain whether it's that Karen Joy Fowler's natural style fits so perfectly with this story or whether it's an exquisite skill which produces a charming, occasionally witty but generally rather befuddled air which so perfectly conveys Rima's attempts to come to terms with her grief. Perhaps that's the skill. In any other situation it could be annoying but here it's perfect.
The characters are compelling too – Addison, who might be past her best with the Maxwell Lane stories but still has an extensive fan following, and Tilda the housekeeper. It's Tilda's son, Martin, who's a catalyst for much of what happens and who's the not-quite substitute for the younger brother Rima lost. Fowler's books are character rather than plot driven and this book is no exception but there's an intriguing look at the part the internet plays in the lives of many people – the chat rooms, the blogs and the ability to reinvent yourself as often as necessary in a world which mirrors and occasionally extrapolates real life. There's real insight about this underworld and the people who populate it.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
If this type of book appeals to you then we think that you might also enjoy Shadowing the Sun by Lily Dunn.
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