Complicated cases, grisly gunplay, slippery suspects, determined detectives and bitter betrayals – these are common expectations when we read crime fiction. From Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary Sherlock Holmes to the gritty hardboiled school of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, these stories always begin with a shocking crime. The tough, wisecracking private detective quickly arrives on the scene, promising to do what the incompetent official authorities will not: crack the case. Righting wrongs and catching villains, the sleuth discovers clues and questions suspects. The criminal is always the person that the reader least suspects and the solution to the mystery leaves us with a brimming sense of satisfaction.
But what happens when the detective can’t solve the case? When even the most promising clues only lead to others? When paranoia invades the mind and turns the ill-equipped investigator into a psychotic? These aren’t the kind of questions that typically arise from the genre. They are, however, the kind of dilemmas Paul Auster explores in his iconic The New York Trilogy – three brain-teasing novellas that remain as haunting and mesmerising as any Stieg Larsson pageturner.
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