Book Review: ‘Death Comes for the Deconstructionist’ by Daniel Taylor

I want to start this review by saying a big thanks to the awesome people at SPCK and Marylebone House for sending me a copy of the book – I always like getting new things to read! I’ll do my best to write a good, spoiler-free review that will hopefully give you a good idea of what to expect from Daniel Taylor’s mystery novel.

Death Comes for the Deconstructionist is a short book, just shy of 200 pages long, but it’s packed full of top quality storytelling. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I don’t read murder mysteries very often, but I tend to enjoy them when I do, and Death Comes was no exception.

But Taylor’s novel is no ordinary murder mystery. Sure, there’s a murder, and a group of suspects and witnesses for the reader to work through alongside the narrator, but the narrator is no detective. No, Jon Mote is a grad school dropout, a former student of the victim, deconstructionist literary scholar Dr Richard Pratt. Pratt’s widow hires Mote to investigate the murder, as she appears to trust his judgment, and the police don’t seem to be getting anywhere in their own investigation.

The other leading character is Jon’s sister, Judy, who has some sort of developmental disability that is never specified in the novel. Together, the siblings are hardly your typical investigative duo, but they are beautifully crafted characters who carry the story superbly.

Throughout the novel, narrated by Jon Mote, there is a sense of wrongness. The mystery is by no means straightforward, but it becomes increasingly apparent that there is some kind of wrongness in Jon’s life, both past and present. Through his struggles with the crime and himself, Judy is Jon’s anchor, and it becomes clear that he relies on her for support just as much as she relies on him for security.

The novel’s other characters are varied, with faces from throughout the victim’s past showing up to add something to the tale surrounding the murder. Despite the novel’s short length, many of these minor characters are fleshed out pretty well, although there are some details that get a bit lost in the story’s brevity.

I have to say, I thought I’d figured out what was going on about halfway through, but I was wrong in the end, and that’s all I’ll say about the ending! It’s safe to say that the book has some pretty significant twists and turns, both in the mystery and in the lives of Jon and his sister, and it was these twists that gripped me as I powered through most of the book this afternoon.

If I have any criticism, it’s that sometimes Taylor seems to enjoy straying a bit too far into literary theory and philosophy, and although these tangents do add to the overall plot of the book, I did feel like a couple of the longer digressions could do with being a bit shorter.

But really, there’s not a lot to dislike about Death Comes for the Deconstructionist. It’s an easy book to read, and it’s definitely a page turner. Taylor’s writing brings the characters to life, and the story goes beyond a simple mystery, engaging with deeper themes and the issues facing the Western world today.

This is a great book to pick up for your summer holiday: 8/10

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