An Exaggerated Murder, October Book Club Summary

-written by Hearth Member, Marika McCoola

Book club night was cold, the wind driving the rain about. It was the sort of night that would open a detective novel, and a terrible one for biking, which is why we had a small group at Diesel Cafe to discuss our latest selection, An Exaggerated Murder, by Josh Cook.

An Exaggerated Murder plays around with mystery novels tropes. Indeed, even the case presented to the PI, Trike, is one in which the “normal” aspects of cases have been carefully manufactured and presented. Those of us who discussed the book are not regular mystery readers, so we were left feeling like perhaps we were missing some key elements. This lead to the question: Who is the intended audience for this book?

As a bookseller, this is a question I often ask myself, but one person said that she has only started considering this since we started the book club. It’s an interesting question, one that, ultimately, we didn’t have a pat answer for, just names of friends who we thought to pair the book with. (As the author himself is a bookseller, I think he would’ve liked this part of the conversation.)

Another member brought up the fact that many of books we’ve been reading contain chapters or passages that play with structure. In this novel, some chapters try to replicate the thought processes of Trike. This may involve columns of text or banners of text surrounding groupings of words. We found these passages difficult to navigate. Take the time to pick through the passage in the hopes that it would be important later in the book, or quickly read to catch up with the story? I’m afraid we didn’t arrive at a straight answer for you. What we did arrive at was a series of questions we wanted to ask the author. Luckily, we can just pop in the bookstore and ask.

I’ll leave you with a small gem from the book:
“When a problem was particularly abstract, she created, in her mind, a visual equivalent for each component of the problem as assignment it a role in the process of painting. One component was line, another the color, another the brushstrokes, another the blocking. If the resulting image made compositional sense, she assessed it better to understand the elements of the problem itself.”

Our next book club meeting will be Wednesday, December 2nd, so as not to interfere with Thanksgiving. We’ll be reading The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel. So many of us loved her most recent book, Station Eleven, that we thought we’d read one of her earlier novels. I hope to hear your thoughts!

Remember, you can check out our list of books for next year here.

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