The Eighth Detective
By Alex Pavesi. (Henry Holt, 304 pages, $26.99.)

I love a novel that rewards the nerdy reader that I am. Alex Pavesi's "The Eighth Detective" does so with fireworks and fine Champagne! This is a wonderfully clever and erudite puzzle mystery that bibliophiles and mystery lovers will adore. I devoured the novel in one sitting, then scrambled back to the beginning to see what I missed in Pavesi's twisty wordplay and literary allusions.

Grant McAllister is a reclusive retired math professor living alone on an island in the Mediterranean. In the 1940s, he wrote a research paper, "The Permutations of Detective Fiction." He then wrote seven original stories to illustrate each of the seven rules his research revealed. Years later, a small publishing house, Blood Type Books, wants to reprint the stories. Editor Julia Hart is assigned the task of working with McAllister to "tie up the loose ends" and inconsistencies in the stories.

Pavesi intersperses McAllister's stories with the conversations between Hart and McAllister. By the second story, I knew a game was afoot and I couldn't turn the pages quickly enough. What Hart uncovers … what the reader discovers … what Pavesi has written … simply brilliant.


The Shadows
By Alex North. (Celadon, 336 pages, $26.99.)

Missing Ruth Rendell? In "The Shadows," Alex North attempts to pick up the late crime writer's mantle with a mystery that follows the Rendell playbook: Two brisk narratives alternate, wrapping around each other and gathering tension as they reveal themselves to be part of the same story.

Paul Adams returns to his English hometown for the first time in years, haltingly offering details of a crime that involved him and his middle school friends. Meanwhile, Amanda Beck investigates the murder of a man whose body was surrounded by hundreds of bloody handprints. The pseudonymous North falters in the closing chapters but his (or her?) book is a creepy pleasure, propelled by real-word threats such as incels and the violence of social media.