The Magazine for Crime & Mystery




Antoine Bello

translated by Helen Stevenson

Serpents Tail paperback original £9.99

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Reviewed by Russell James

Think you've been here before - a serial killer commits a series of bizarre mutilations and murders as he works his way through a closed group of victims? Well, you haven't. Here's one of the cleverest and oddest puzzle mysteries you'll ever read. Set in the almost imaginary world of 'speed puzzle competitions' and jigsaw puzzle obsessives, THE MISSING PIECE is set out as a puzzle. The picture on the box is represented in the book by an expository preface illustrating the entire plot - well, not quite: "reality is a little more complex" says the author with characteristic understatement. Jigsaw pieces are represented by 48 variously shaped segments - minutes of meetings, newspaper articles, letters, e-mails - presented in random date sequence, rather as puzzle pieces might fall out onto the table. Indeed, I suspect that this book could have been published in 48 pamphlets - plus the summary and solution (supplied) - leaving you the reader to pick them up in any order you choose as you attempt to work out the solution.

Your task is straightforward - to identify the killer. All the clues are given but they are concealed in so much misleading and teasing material that you'll be a puzzle master if you solve it. Not that this matters: the puzzle is deliberately arcane, like the mass of drily comical data you are given about the world of jigsaws and speed puzzling. The story's characters are obsessed with the finest details of long vanished puzzles, they embark on ridiculous puzzle projects and conduct life-long collector feuds - they are in bitter rivalry. The world's champion speed puzzlers are a deliciously weird bunch - and they are the targets of the killer. This is a mad but perfectly readable book with its own crazy logic, and it is impeccably translated. A must for obsessives and puzzlers.

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