Charlotte Illes Is Not a Detective (Not a Dectective Mysteries)

Image of Charlotte Illes Is Not a Detective: A Modern and Witty Mystery (Not a Detective Mysteries)
Release Date: 
June 27, 2023
Reviewed by: 

"one of the sharpest, funniest, first date scenes in contemporary fiction"

Katie Siegel opens her novel with one of the sharpest, funniest first date scenes in contemporary fiction. The first line sets the stage for what follows: "So . . . I Googled you." Because Charlotte Illes turns out be someone you would definitely look up online, a famous child detective, now a 20-something young woman trying to figure out what kind of career can possibly follow solving cases.

Unfortunately, Charlotte is as bad at dating as she's good as solving puzzles. The date goes downhill so fast, it's surprising that the couple manage to get through dinner. Amy, the date, doesn't get the hint and keeps on probing, with no success. Charlotte sums up the experience as a topic she could write a dissertation on:

"The Two Types of People Who Want to Hear About Charlotte's Experience as a Kid Detective . . . The first type of person—and the most common of the two—is the Audience Member. . . . The second type of person is the Psychologist . . ."

Amy is a classic Audience Member. There are no more dating scenes in the book, so the reader doesn't get the chance to meet the Psychologist type, but future books may reveal them.

Each character is introduced with a brief physical description that belongs more in a police blotter than a novel. The gimmick will be distracting to some readers, stopping the action as it does each time. Others may appreciate it as revealing how Charlotte sees the world, though limiting character analysis to a few physical features doesn't show great insight.

"The woman: early thirties; White; straight, long, dark-blond hair. The man: early forties, White, light brown hair, stubbly beard with traces of gray."

After setting up Charlotte's skills, the predictable plot wheels start turning. Naturally, after insisting to Amy that she doesn't do that sort of thing anymore, Charlotte is drawn into not one but two mysteries, driven to solve them to help her brother Landon and his girlfriend Olivia. Siegel sets up clues well and lays out clearly how Charlotte makes her deductions, noticing details in classic Sherlock Holmesian fashion.

"Charlotte liked it when she had more pieces. Not necessarily all of them, but just enough to be able to start putting some of them together, and maybe look at what she had and say, 'Okay, there's definitely a river in this picture.' That was when she could really put her brain to work."

The reader is happy to follow where Charlotte leads, though the sharp, incisive humor of the first pages is left behind. The book is more a portrait of a group of friends than a social commentary or a humorous farce. Still, a solid mystery is served up, and Charlotte finds herself polishing old skills, not ready to not be a detective, after all.