a witty, engrossing homage to noir ... The topic of his all-important library science paper—ghosts in libraries—mirrors the underlying plot of My Darling Detective: in the journey to adulthood, we are sometimes given the opportunity to explore the ghosts of our physical and psychological past. Jacob Rigolet is a unique, unforgettable man who successfully navigates the shoals of his unexpected past.
...[an] ingeniously plotted novel ... The signature elements of Howard Norman’s fiction are everywhere in this book. Like his previous novels, it’s set in Canada’s Maritime Provinces and toys with his trademark preoccupations: libraries, photography, radio, poetry. But despite its noir trappings, My Darling Detective isn’t as dark as some of his others ... There’s obviously a more playful hand at work. Norman knows how to weave an enticing and satisfying mystery, one tantalizing thread at a time. And he left me wanting more of Jake and Martha.
Norman works with an offhand ease and grace that makes the unlikely and at times bizarre events in this novel seem more plausible than they should be. (No fewer than two children are born in the Halifax Free Library during the course of this book.) The whimsy is balanced by moments of powerfully evoked realism ... Though My Darling Detective plays with the conventions of the noir, those conventions do not always fit comfortably in Norman’s novel. The book is too intellectually restless and self-aware to fully conform to the demands of the genre. Norman is less interested in generating page-turning suspense than he is in investigating and re-creating the comfort, longing and nostalgia that detective fiction provides for its consumers ... Despite its flaws, My Darling Detective gives us plenty of reasons to be hopeful.
Norman puts a sweetly comic spin on his signature themes to create a delectably clever tribute to cozy crime fiction ... With a masterfully constructed plot, brilliantly realized characters, and deliciously witty repartee, Norman offers a soulful variation on Nick and Nora Charles from Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man, while also addressing the tragic legacies of war, paying homage to books and libraries, and celebrating love. An emotionally vibrant, keenly funny, genuinely suspenseful, and altogether spellbinding novel that will thrill Norman’s fans and readers who relish creative improvisations on the grand noir tradition.
The plot is a tangle, often absurdly so, but Norman is gifted at establishing atmosphere and character, and he pleasurably engages with old-fashioned crime-story patter (mostly via a radio drama Jacob and Martha enjoy) and hard-nosed detectives pitted against Jacob’s more genteel and bookish sensibility ... ultimately Norman pulls off what old-school noir pros like Chandler and Goodis did: mixes romance with blood in the gutter, makes sure the bad guys get theirs, and ensures the good guys don’t come out unscathed. An unconventional, lively literary mystery.