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The death of the detective by Mark Smith
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The death of the detective (original 1974; edition 1974)

by Mark Smith

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845241,374 (3.7)6
A madman is on the loose in the city. Alone and on the verge of psychic collapse, detective Arnold Magnuson follows clues in murder's wake--through the Chicago of society clubs and nightclubs and the city of small-time hoods and big-time Mafia, the slums smelling of machine oil and riverside tanneries and pristine lakeside villages--through subtle interrogations, split-second lies, and improvised stories, moving ever closer to a culprit who begins to feel alarmingly like himself. The Death of the Detective is a quest novel in the tradition of Don Quixote, Moby-Dick, and Dead Souls. During his frenetic and blood-soaked odyssey, Mark Smith's detective moves through the city on highways, boulevards, side streets, and alleys. He tracks "the death-maker" from a mansion in Lake Forest to the underbelly of the South Side, from a glass high-rise on the Gold Coast to a run-down tavern in the northwestern suburbs, and everywhere in between. In this New York Times best seller and finalist for the 1974 National Book Award, Smith takes hold of the reader and doesn't let go until the last page of his relentless journey into the dark recesses of the American soul.… (more)
Member:hymie67
Title:The death of the detective
Authors:Mark Smith
Info:New York, Knopf; [distributed by Random House] 1974.
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The Death of the Detective by Mark Smith (1974)

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Showing 5 of 5
Synopsis/blurb….

Mark Smith’s Literary Masterpiece of Crime Fiction.

A National Book Award Finalist

The blockbuster New York Times bestseller.

“Remarkable for both its ambition and its accomplishment, it reads as though it were written by a resurrected Charles Dickens, one chilled by a hundred years of graveyard brooding…every page is a pleasure to read,” New York Times

A killer calling himself The Deathmaker is on the loose, pursued by Arnold Magnuson, a grief-stricken detective on the verge of a mental breakdown. Magnuson’s dogged investigation to find the killer, and himself, takes him deep into urban Chicago, laying bare the corrupt city and its seething soul in all its macabre, heartbreaking, and violent complexity. It’s a sprawling, utterly compelling story, widely regarded as a stunning literary achievement and perhaps the best detective novel ever written.

“A masterpiece . . . raises Dickens’ benign ghost to remind us again that we're all connected, all both innocent and guilty,” Kirkus Reviews

“A brilliant and arresting novel which so far transcends the detective genre that inspired it as to stand in a category of its own,” Arkansas Gazette

In its sustained vitality, power and scale, it is unlike any other fiction I have read....A complex and unforgettable novel,” The Times (London)
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My take.......

Well after being seduced by the premise of reading the “best detective book ever,” an assertion somewhat reinforced by the dynamic duo of Lee Goldberg and Joel Goldman over at Brash Books republishing this 1973 tome, so how did we get on?

Enjoyable at times, gripping at times, pretty amazing at times, but by turn frustrating, irritating and by the finish a little bit anti-climactic.

We have an escaped madman on a mission of revenge, over his treatment at the hands of Farquarson (and others, including Magnuson) many years ago. Farquarson, a Chicago business magnate, on his death-bed summons our detective – Magnuson to tackle the threat posed. Magnuson sets off on his quest.

Magnuson’s pursuit of the madman, Joseph Helenowski was compelling and exciting. All through the night from one scene of crime to another. Helenowski always one step ahead and despite his insanity executing his plans with a remarkable clarity of purpose and with extreme violence. Magnuson seemingly attuned to Helenowski’s thought processes, always arriving just that little bit too late to prevent another death. On and on – possibly a dozen, by the time we were sated.

As such a scenario plays out, it makes compelling reading. But frustratingly for me at least; very often the narrative meanders off-point and we are treated (possibly not the right word) to pages of dense descriptive prose only tangentially related to more urgent matters at hand.

An amazing portrait of Chicago in all its glory and squalor, with its wealth, its poverty and ghettos, its politics and its racial and ethnic differences, its geography, its climate, its architecture, its bars and taverns and rivers and parks, its festivals and its people.

Extremely dense at times, enjoyable overall, but sometimes maddening. I’m glad I read it, though I did have to devour it in bite-sized chunks – limiting myself to a chapter a day and on the odd occasion two - over more than a month. Any faster and I think my head would probably have exploded.

Blog friend Moira over at Clothes in Books got there before me. Her thoughts are here.
http://clothesinbooks.blogspot.co.uk/...

4 from 5

I bought my 636 page chunkster – with 45 lines of text to a page - second hand sometime in the last year or so online. Brash Books have re-issued this recently in a slightly more accessible format on Kindle.

From wikipedia.......

Mark Smith (born 1935) is an American novelist. A professor of English at the University of New Hampshire, he is the author of several books, including Toyland (1965), The Middleman (1967), Doctor Blues (1983), and Smoke Street (1984). His The Moon Lamp (1976) and The Delphinium Girl (1980) were Book of the Month Club selections.Smith is probably best known for The Death of the Detective (1973), nominated for the National Book Award in 1974, and a New York Times bestseller.

http://col2910.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06... ( )
  col2910 | Jun 21, 2015 |
A detective novel should not be an epic. It shouldn't be over 700 pages long. In The Death of the Detective, Mark Smith breaks both of these rules and it doesn't matter one bit. This book is so engrossing and mysterious that the length isn't an issue. Also, unlike some reviews I have read, I had no trouble following the story or the characters. In fact, although there are several interwoven plots, there aren't an overabundance of characters, and each is so well drawn that the reader should never be confused. As for the plot, where to begin? There is an escaped, murderous psychopath; a dying millionaire somehow wanting to atone for his past sins; a sensuous nurse; a young heir searching for his own identity; a few other characters I won't mention; and the detective--actually retired and now the owner of an illustrious security firm that is named after him. Though the book jumps between the different story threads, the detective's quest to get to the bottom of what happens to the rich man is the core of the book, and we watch as his mania takes over and leads us from one unforgettable scene to the next. There could be several novels carved from this--but it is far better as it stands. Each chapter is a marvelous miniature work of its own. Smith's descriptions of Chicago, of a Polish celebration, of racing through the night in an old Duesenberg, or of being on a lake in the dark and the mist are each masterpieces. I had no idea what to expect when I started this. I doubted it could live up to its most enthusiastic reviews--but in fact it exceeded them. Don't waste any more time reading my review--read The Death of the Detective! ( )
  datrappert | Mar 30, 2015 |
A killer calling himself The Deathmaker is on the loose, pursued by Arnold Magnuson, a grief-stricken detective on the verge of a mental breakdown. "The Death of the Detective" is macabre story about the corruption in the City of Chicago, and the detective who slowly unravels. This novel is violent and heartbreaking. This novel is often called "The best detective novel ever" It is and so much more. This is a multi-genre masterpiece. The characters and events in this book will stay with you, and haunt your nightmares. ( )
1 vote pixiedark | Mar 4, 2015 |
Anyone who reads my reviews can tell that I like my detective fiction spare and lean. This book is anything but. The language is convoluted and obscure. I found it impossible but I can understand that people who like modern fiction will probably like this book. Try the sample and see what you think. Be aware, though, that the following chapters are very much like the sample and there is no attempt at clarity in the presentation of the story.

"The Death of the Detective" is one of the older detective novels that Brash Books is reissuing. It was originally published in 1974. I received a review copy of "The Death of the Detective: A Novel" by Mark Smith (Brash Books) through NetGalley.com. ( )
  Dokfintong | Mar 3, 2015 |
I tried hard with this book. I wanted to love it. Of course I did. Who picks up a book with the intention of a miserable reading experience? But, try as I might, there was just nothing here for me to latch onto.

First, the story is confusing. Is there a lead character? Who are these people? What is the point of it all? I have no answer for the first question, and the second two took me half the book to figure out. We're given an overload of characters who are doing a whole lot of things that aren't necessarily connected or even interesting. On top of that, we're given abundant, extraneous detail that doesn't move the story forward, or anywhere at all.

The writing itself has a compelling quality, with a literary feel. But put together in story form, the experience is like wading through a swamp filled with flowers - beautiful, but blocking the path we need in order to see where we're going.

*I was provided with an ebook copy by the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.* ( )
  Darcia | Feb 18, 2015 |
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A madman is on the loose in the city. Alone and on the verge of psychic collapse, detective Arnold Magnuson follows clues in murder's wake--through the Chicago of society clubs and nightclubs and the city of small-time hoods and big-time Mafia, the slums smelling of machine oil and riverside tanneries and pristine lakeside villages--through subtle interrogations, split-second lies, and improvised stories, moving ever closer to a culprit who begins to feel alarmingly like himself. The Death of the Detective is a quest novel in the tradition of Don Quixote, Moby-Dick, and Dead Souls. During his frenetic and blood-soaked odyssey, Mark Smith's detective moves through the city on highways, boulevards, side streets, and alleys. He tracks "the death-maker" from a mansion in Lake Forest to the underbelly of the South Side, from a glass high-rise on the Gold Coast to a run-down tavern in the northwestern suburbs, and everywhere in between. In this New York Times best seller and finalist for the 1974 National Book Award, Smith takes hold of the reader and doesn't let go until the last page of his relentless journey into the dark recesses of the American soul.

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