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Q&A with Alex Pavesi, Author of The Eighth Detective

Q&A with Alex Pavesi, Author of The Eighth Detective

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Alex Pavesi is the author of the recently released The Eighth Detective.

Alex Pavesi lives in London, where he writes full time. He previously worked as a software engineer and before that obtained a PhD in Mathematics. He enjoys puzzles, long walks and recreational lock picking. The Eighth Detective is his first book.

Here’s the synopsis:

There are rules for murder mysteries. There must be a victim. A suspect. A detective.

Grant McAllister, a professor of mathematics, once sat down and worked all the rules out – and wrote seven perfect detective stories to demonstrate. But that was thirty years ago. Now Grant lives in seclusion on a remote Mediterranean island, counting the rest of his days.

Until Julia Hart, a brilliant, ambitious editor knocks on his door. Julia wishes to republish his book, and together they must revisit those old stories: an author hiding from his past and an editor keen to understand it.

But there are things in the stories that don’t add up. Inconsistencies left by Grant that a sharp-eyed editor begins to suspect are more than mistakes. They may be clues, and Julia finds herself with a mystery of her own to solve.

Alex Pavesi’s The Eighth Detective is a love letter to classic detective stories with a modern twist, where nothing is as it seems, and proof that the best mysteries break all the rules.

Let’s get to know Alex as he talks favorite novels, story inspirations, writing mystery fiction and much more!

What are some of your favorite novels?

The Hound of the Baskervilles and And Then There Were None are my two favourite mystery novels of all time. Outside of mystery, two of my absolute favourites are The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles and The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch. I like big, epic stories that deftly combine realism with a sense of unreality. Apparently I also lean towards books set by the sea, though I’m not sure why. One Hundred Years of Solitude is another favourite, where the sense of unreality is a bit more explicit. I always used to say that was my favourite novel but it’s been so long since I read it I’d need to read it again to make sure.

When did you know you wanted to become an author?

When I was about fifteen. I was interested in detective shows on television but there weren’t very many of them (back in the days when you could only watch whatever was on), so I started reading mystery fiction. It was G.K. Chesterton that made me want to write. And it was his prose rather than his plots. Chesterton was a master prose stylist and I’d never read good prose before that. It’s still the main thing I look for in a novel.

Where did you get the story idea for The Eighth Detective?

I spent a lot of time thinking about the classic mystery fiction that I love and how it could be reinvented for a modern audience. I was consumed by the idea of a murder mystery with only two suspects, both of them claiming innocence. It resonated because it’s a situation we’ve all been in, when someone is lying and you both know they’re lying and you both know that you both know, but still they just keep on with it. To me that situation has everything, comedy, tragedy and intrigue. But I knew it wouldn’t justify a whole book by itself, so then I had the idea of a crime novel with several stories inside the main story and it all unfolded from there.

What do you like best about writing mystery fiction?

I really enjoy a strong sense of location in a novel. For reasons I can’t quite define, to me this goes hand in hand with classic mystery fiction. I can’t think of any other genre that I associate so strongly with a vivid sense of place. Perhaps it’s because you need the reader to be able to visualise what’s happening for them to follow the story, or maybe it’s just a quick way of creating atmosphere. Either way, it’s tremendously effective. And to me this is the best thing about writing mystery fiction. I love thinking of wildly dramatic locations for stories and then building up descriptions of them.

What was your favorite chapter or part to write?

I’ll stay away from any specific spoilers, but there’s a scene towards the end of the book where a picnic on a cliffside goes disastrously wrong. That was a chance to dramatise my worst fears, particularly my fear of heights. It gave the scene a kind of visceral energy and even thinking about it now gives me chills.

What are you currently reading and what’s on your TBR (to be read) list?

I’m reading Stuart Turton’s new book, The Devil and the Dark Water. His novel The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle was one of the most inventive crime novels of recent years and I’m really intrigued to see how he’s followed it up. I’m enjoying it so far! Another book I’m looking forward to is Sisters by Daisy Johnson. I’ve been putting off reading Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy because I was waiting for the series to be completed, so now that the third part has been released I should try to find time for that!

Click here to order The Eighth Detective on Amazon.