This past spring, I was passed a debut novel from an editor at Delacorte Press, asking if I’d read it. It’s called The Broken Teaglass, by Emily Arsenault. It’s an interesting novel, set in a dictionary company, with a mystery hidden in the files of word citations, buried there for others to find by a Mysterious Someone. It was totally my kind of mystery, words and putting together a story like pieces of a puzzle, and so I enthusiastically blurbed the book, like this:
“Charming and witty are not the usual adjectives used to describe a mystery novel, but in the case of Emily Arsenault’s debut, all expectations and definitions must be relinquished. Not since A. S. Byatt’s Possession have I come across such a fascinating secret history as the one hidden within the pages of The Broken Teaglass and the ones we all carry inside us.”
This past Sunday, a reviewer at the New York Times seems to have felt the same way:
THE BROKEN TEAGLASS (Delacorte, $25) is wordy. But what would you expect from a mystery set in the offices of a dictionary publisher? In her author bio, we learn that Emily Arsenault wrote this first novel to pass the long, quiet nights in the South African village where she worked as a Peace Corps volunteer. The comfort she took from words — funny words, strange words, words that should have been strangled at birth — is palpable in her oddly endearing coming-of-age story about a recent college graduate who lands a job as an apprentice lexicographer and discovers clues to an unsolved murder embedded in the citation files. Billy Webb and a young colleague, Mona Minot, become chummy when comparing multiple “cits” from a bogus book. As their relationship develops, so does the story of the killing, which they suspect was committed by someone in their office. “All those silent types,” Mona observes. “There’s gotta be a sociopath or two among us.” Or at least a very clever wordsmith.
So between the both of us, I think it’s safe to suggest you go out and buy it right now, and take a gander for yourselves.