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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Grand Manuscript

Zoran Živković

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To purchase The Grand Manuscript

Title: The Grand Manuscript
Author: Zoran Živković
Genre: Novel
Written: 2012 (Eng. 2016)
Length: 224 pages
Original in: Serbian
Availability: in The Papyrus Trilogy - US
in The Papyrus Trilogy - UK
in The Papyrus Trilogy - Canada
Il grande manoscritto - Italia
  • Serbian title: Нађи ме
  • The second volume in The Papyrus Trilogy
  • Translated by Alice Copple-Tošić

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Our Assessment:

B : enjoyably playful procedural

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
World Lit. Today . 9-10/2017 Michael A. Morrison

  From the Reviews:
  • "(T)hese novels interrogate the possibilities and limitations of the detective genre. Živković does so by introducing into the reality of the novels a single fantastic element that undermines core principles of detection." - Michael A. Morrison, World Literature Today

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Grand Manuscript begins quite a while after Inspector Dejan Lukić (re)solved the case of The Last Book. While things appear not to have worked out between him and Vera, the former owner of the Papyrus Bookstore (which she closed and which is now a cosmetics chain store branch) -- she seems to be out of the picture --, his interest in literature is undiminished -- and in The Grand Manuscript he is again drawn into a very bookish case.
       It begins with him being called to a writer's apartment by her desperate literary agent, who fears the worst. She hasn't heard from the writer in a few days, and there's an important deadline looming. At the writer's apartment they find the door locked -- from the inside -- but no one answering. Eventually making his way in, Lukić inexplicably finds no trace of the author -- a classic locked-door mystery. But without evidence of any actual crime, there's not much he can do.
       Something fishy is, however, clearly going on. The author, Jelena Jakovljević, was working on a novel apparently titled Find Me (which is also the Serbian title of The Grand Manuscript), and the agent isn't the only one desperate to get her hands on the manuscript. Like the 'last book', it's a very special book, holding potentially great promise to whoever can get to it first.
       There are quite a few mysteries, beginning with the elusive Jelena Jakovljević. Lukić is not familiar with her work, because she just writes popular detective novels (and though an avid reader, his tastes are more discerning ...), but she's very successful. As to her identity, that's more complicated -- with the fact that 'Jelena Jakovljević' is a pseudonym just the first of quite a few twists to that.
       While Lukić doesn't find any trace of her or her manuscript, he does pick up a cellphone at her apartment -- and reads the message: "Find me" on it. The telephone proves of interest to Commissioner Milenković of the National Security Agency, too, because it seems to work untraceably, without SMS card or battery. (A second, similar one comes into play, too, with poor Inspector Lukić eventually going around with four phones on him.)
       And then there's the blind painter living next door to Jakovljević, who has very sharp hearing, and a dog .....
       As in The Last Book, there's a (different) mysterious tea shop nearby that Lukić repeatedly visits. Beyond that, there are quite a few other mysterious circumstances, too -- like the number of stairs he goes up and down inexplicably changing. It's no wonder that Commissioner Milenković finally has to ask:

     "Is this another case like that ?"
     "Like what ?""
     "Like the 'Last Book' ?"
       It's not surprising to find that it is. Živković does take a somewhat different tack, but can't get around the fact that the denouement -- even with a few twists to it -- can't have quite the same impact as it did the first time around. (And while it is not essential to read The Last Book before The Grand Manuscript, it certainly helps, and makes sense to.)
       The hunt for the mysterious 'Grand Manuscript', the mysterious cellphone communications, and Lukić's methodological investigation, where has to take into account at every step that he's being closely monitored by Commissioner Milenković, is reasonably exciting, and the wrap-up sufficiently satisfying -- but it doesn't pack nearly the punch that The Last Book did.
       Still, the literary angle, in particular, is amusing, for those who like that kind of thing, from Lukić unfamiliarity with the works of the missing writer to her agent's complaints:
Forget the idealized notions you have about writers. They're all sadists who take particular pleasure in torturing their poor agents.
       Appearances -- and their absence (such the pseudonymous missing author) -- are nicely constantly deceiving here, making for an enjoyable enough read.

- M.A.Orthofer, 27 August 2016

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The Grand Manuscript: Reviews: Zoran Živković: Other books by Zoran Zivkovic under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Zoran Živković was born in Belgrade in 1948.

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