In an early chapter of David Gordon’s Mystery Girl, our first person narrator (and all-around film buff) Sam Kornburg makes reference to Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.
If you’re familiar with the film, this reference gives away a lot of what’s to come in the later sections of the novel. It unfortunately takes what could have been a great mystery and turns into it just an interesting one — and one that isn’t nearly as clever as it thinks it is.
Kornblum is a struggling novelist, perpetually working on a book that eve he acknowledges no one will want to read. When his wife requests a separation, Sam attempts to get his life back in order to win points in their counselling sessions and hopefully win her back. Responding to an advertisement, Sam becomes an assistant to a private detective. His first case is following a woman and keeping tabs on her for his boss.
Sam’s not exactly a professional at the job and he finds himself become more and more fascinated by the woman he’s following. This leads to a far more complex mystery.
As I said earlier, if you’ve seen Vertigo, it’s not difficult to figure out where some of the treads of this story are leading. And while I was initially drawn in by the uber-intellectual that Sam wants to be, I rapidly found his first person narration to be a distraction to the story rather than adding to it.
All of this added up to a rather disappointing mystery and novel. I realize that Gordon isn’t trying to “transcend” the genre of the mystery novel (Sam makes several references to reading pulp mysteries that don’t that) but I kept hoping that the novel would be something more. It’s got some good pieces, but it never adds up to being more than the sum of its parts.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received an ARC of this novel from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review.