Publisher: Doubleday, 2010
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Where I Got It: LibraryThing Early Reviewer Program
My Rating: 4 stars (Add to your TBR list)
The Nobodies Album could be classified as a mystery novel. After all, the plot hinges on whether novelist Octavia Frost’s son Milo killed his girlfriend Bettina. Milo isn’t just any old accused murderer though. He is a famous rock star—the lead singer for a group called Pareidolia. His arrest for the murder of Bettina is national news. In fact, Octavia finds out about the murder on a news ticker in Times Square. She doesn’t hear it from Milo directly because they’ve been estranged for the past four years. Dropping everything (including her new novel called The Nobodies Album), Octavia flies to San Francisco to help … yet she isn’t even sure if Milo will talk to or see her. We follow Octavia as she attempts to reach out to Milo and uncover the truth about Bettina’s murder.
However, there is much more going on in this book so that calling it a “murder mystery” doesn’t quite do it justice. Although the murder mystery propels the plot, there are several other story lines that I found just as compelling. We know from the beginning that Octavia and Milo are the only two surviving members of the Frost family, but we don’t quite know what happened to the other two members. Another mystery is what caused the estrangement between Milo and Octavia. As you read, Parkhurst doles out bits and pieces of information that provide answers to both of these lesser (but no less interesting) “mysteries.”
The other aspect of the book that I enjoyed were the excerpts from Octavia’s latest book, which is also called The Nobodies Album. The concept of the book is that Octavia is rewriting the ending of all her novels. Throughout the book, we get to read the original ending and then the revised ending. These little “breaks” from the main narrative were interesting and intriguing, and I enjoyed them quite a bit. I thought adding this aspect to the book was ambitious of Parkhurst; it wasn’t something she needed to do.
Another thing I liked about the book was the humor. I thought Octavia was pretty funny, and I was often amused by her thoughts. For example, she is constantly telling herself: “If this was a murder mystery, this is the part where I would talk to the doorman and discover the clue.” This kind of meta-narration (after all, this is a character talking about the writing of a murder mystery in a murder mystery)—as well as the fact that Octavia’s book and this book are both called The Nobodies Album—was appealing to me. It seemed to me like Parkhurst was having a little fun and challenging herself.
Before The Nobodies Album, the only book I’d read by Carolyn Parkhurst was The Dogs of Babel, which was a wonderfully different story of a widow attempting to teach his dog to talk in order to discover if his wife committed suicide or died in an accident. It was a memorable and unique book, and Parkhurst managed to pull off what seems like a quirky premise and make it powerful, real and affecting. I think she managed to do the same with The Nobodies Album. Rather than just writing a straightforward murder mystery, she dabbles around with metafiction. It was a fun little experiment, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
If you’re looking for a literary fiction book that can double as a murder mystery, The Nobodies Album would be a good choice. It has a sly sense of humor and contains some interesting experiments by the author. I definitely plan to go back and read Parkhurst’s second novel, Lost and Found.
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