Mystery Girl: A Novel
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Mystery Girl: A Novel

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by David Gordon

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When Sam Kornberg’s wife, Lala, walks out on him, he’s an unemployed used-book store clerk and failed experimental novelist with a broken heart. Desperate to win her back, he takes a job as assistant detective to the enigmatic Solar Lonsky, a private eye who might be an eccentric and morbid genius or just a morbidly obese madman.


When Sam Kornberg’s wife, Lala, walks out on him, he’s an unemployed used-book store clerk and failed experimental novelist with a broken heart. Desperate to win her back, he takes a job as assistant detective to the enigmatic Solar Lonsky, a private eye who might be an eccentric and morbid genius or just a morbidly obese madman.
It’s a simple tail job, following a beautiful and mysterious lady around L.A., but Sam soon finds himself helplessly falling for his quarry and hopelessly entangled in a murder case involving Satanists, succubi, underground filmmakers, Hollywood bigshots, Mexican shootouts, video-store geekery, and sexy doppelgangers from beyond the grave. A case that highlights the risks of hardcore reading and mourns the death of the novel—or perhaps just the decline of Western Civilization.
Mystery Girl is a thriller about the dangers of marriage and a detective story about the unsolvable mysteries of love, art, and other people.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Gordon’s second crime novel fails to deliver on the promise of his debut, The Serialist (2010), though he can still grab the reader’s attention, as shown by the opening sentence: “I became an assistant detective, and solved my first murder, right after my wife left me, when I went a little mad.” Sam Kornberg—a former used-bookstore clerk, now unemployed, living in L.A.—is completely lost in the wake of his spouse’s departure, and he rapidly disintegrates into the epitome of the lonely single guy, breakfasting on peanuts and using napkins from MacDonald’s as toilet paper. His feeble attempt to find work leads him to PI Solar Lonsky, a behemoth who makes Nero Wolf look svelte. Lonsky hires Kornberg to follow the title character, Ramona Doon, and report on everything he sees her do. An early reference to a favorite movie telegraphs some of the plot surprises, but even without that spoiler, the storyline becomes less and less interesting. Agent: Madeleine Clark, Sterling Lord Literistic. (July)
From the Publisher
“Reading David Gordon is pure pleasure. He's one of the smartest, most stylish writers I've ever come across, a gifted storyteller whose work perfectly combines an incredibly sharp wit with moments of real transcendent beauty.” —Karen Thompson Walker, author of The Age of Miracles
Library Journal
This antic novel from Edgar Award finalist Gordon, whose 2010 debut, The Serialist, earned him the 2011 VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, revolves around Sam Kornberg, a failed experimental novelist and unemployed used bookstore clerk. When his wife, Lala, leaves him, Sam signs on as assistant to detective (and lunatic) Solar Lonsky. His first job is to follow the mysterious Ramona Doon around L.A., but he is not very good at it, and fortunately she knows he is there. Things get complicated when he falls for Ramona, who seems to commit suicide and then seems to reappear, with a murderous gang after her. Gordon includes characters from every genre (underground and dark Coen Brothers films figure in the plot) and allows chaos and wit to unravel the plot.

Verdict Both funny and frantic, complex and crazy, Gordon’s work will appeal to readers of thrillers, cult film stories, and absurdist fiction.—Joanna Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Libs., Providence
(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Reviews
A failed novelist on the verge of divorce is drawn into a murky murder mystery at the behest of an unconventional mastermind. I'm a Lebowski, you're a Lebowski, and fans of the famous Coen Brothers film may find many of their favorite aspects mirrored in this dark comedy, the sophomore novel from Gordon (The Serialist, 2010). The sad sack at the heart of this follow-up is Sam Kornberg, an unemployed bookstore clerk and creatively bankrupt novelist who is half out of his mind. His Mexican wife, Lala, is fed up with his tube-watching, couch-surfing ways and has flown the coop. Besides pining for Lala, the only thing that breaks up Sam's usual routine are movie-watching marathons with his bro Milo, including the classic The Big Lebowski, which serves as the spiritual touchstone for Gordon's novel. "It is a comedy of course, a light film compared to the Coen bros darkies, like Fargo or their great masterpiece, Miller's Crossing, but it is a sad movie too, sad in the way only comedy is sad, and brimming with the tender love we save for life's losers," Sam opines. In a rare deviation from his lethargy, Sam answers an advertisement titled simply, "Private Detective Requires Assistance." A phone call leads him to the inner sanctum of one Solar Lonsky, a Sherlock Holmes–like figure who displays equally bewildering behaviors. Without revealing too many details, Lonsky commands Sam to follow the titular Ramona Doon. After an ill-advised liaison with the girl, she throws herself off a cliff. Then we're off to the races as Lonsky and Sam pledge to solve the mystery of the girl. Gordon throws in everything but the kitchen sink, including a reclusive filmmaker of horrible art films, Mexican gangs and resurrected victims, but he somehow manages to set it all right in the end. An unpredictable farce.

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

David Gordon was born in New York City. He attended Sarah Lawrence College and holds an MA in English and Comparative Literature and an MFA in Writing, both from Columbia University, and has worked in film, fashion, publishing, and pornography. His first novel, The Serialist, won the VCU/Cabell First Novel Award and was a finalist for an Edgar Award. His work has also appeared in The Paris Review, Purple, and Fence, among other publications.

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Mystery Girl: A Novel 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Man_Of_La_Book_Dot_Com More than 1 year ago
Mys­tery Girl by David Gor­don is a noir novel set in Cal­i­for­nia. Mr Gordon's first novel, The Seri­al­ist, won the VCU/Cabell First Novel Award and was a final­ist for an Edgar Award. Sam Korn­berg lives in L.A., his mar­riage is falling apart and it looks like he'll never be the nov­el­ist he dreamed of being. Look­ing for any job he might be qual­ify for , Sam gets a job as an assis­tant (he spe­cial­izes in being an "assis­tant") detec­tive to Solar Lonsky. Sam's first assign­ment is to track a mys­te­ri­ous woman who trig­gers the adven­ture his about to take involv­ing shootouts, mis­taken iden­ti­ties, insane asy­lums and lots of movie talk in a video store. Mys­tery Girl by David Gor­don is def­i­nitely a men’s novel full of self doubt, awk­ward­ness, porn, manly movie talk and Jackie Chan. The book is both funny and sad, easy to read but cer­tainly not fluff. The novel is much like real life, when things which are insignif­i­cant to oth­ers seem to be insur­mount­able objects in your life, and sub­jects which are impor­tant to you are mean­ing­less to most. The style of the book took me a lit­tle time to get used to, it’s frank but with a lot of sim­i­les to make sure you know you’re read­ing a noir novel. How­ever, I did enjoy the humor, the char­ac­ters as well as the story. The author pays homage to the movie indus­try; the nar­ra­tor is a nov­el­ist so it was nice to read how movies influ­ence writ­ers and not nec­es­sar­ily the other way around. The char­ac­ters were inter­est­ing, self-deprecating and hon­est. I found the idea of a failed writer who thinks he’s right (his sto­ries have no plot) while every­one else is wrong to be funny and amusing. There is no doubt that Mr. Gor­don is a very tal­ented writer, while the book has a few ups and downs, over­all I really liked the writ­ing and the story.