Arnold Magnuson

Created by Mark Smith

Rich, successful ARNOLD MAGNUSON is losing it.

After the death of his wife, he just wants to crawl into a bottle in his Chicago penthouse and die. Or at least be left alone.

The founder of the highly respected Magnuson Men agency, a detective firm rivalled only by the Pinkertons, the former cop's content now to just wander through the eight rooms of his apartment, cut off from his two grown children and wracked by guilt and loss, avoiding the world. And then he gets a troubling call from an old friend, a millionaire named Frazer Farquarson. He says he's dying and that he has something he wants to discuss with Arnold -- and only Arnold -- in person.

But in true P.I. fashion, when Arnold arrives at Farquarsons estate his friend is already dead, of course. Apparently murdered by an escaped mental patient who calls himself "The Deathmaker." Suddenly, Arnold has something to live for again: tracking down his friend's killer.

Yeah, it sounds like a simple set-up; an almost classical framework that many a pulpy P.I. tale has been hung on. But Mark Smith's The Death of the Detective (1973) is anything but simple. Or pulpy.

It's a sprawling and unapologetically ambitious novel that clocks in at over 700 pages -- an audaciois literary romp splattered with violence and woe that's almost Dickensian in scope. It flits from viewpoint to viewpoint, and takes on everything from questions of race and morality to the decline and fall of Western Civilization and the nature of "truth" itself.

Disturbing, relentless and powerful, it was nominated for the National Book Award and is considered by many as one of the most admired, compelling and unforgettable crime novels ever written.


  • "Remarkable for both its ambition and its accomplishment, The Death of the Detective reads as though it were written by a resurrected Charles Dickens, one chilled by a hundred years of graveyard brooding... every page is a pleasure to read."

-- New York Times



Chosen by Gary Warren Niebuhr, from The Reader's Guide to the Private Eye Novel

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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