THE BROKEN TEAGLASS by Emily Arsenault, Review: Literary mystery

The Broken Teaglass is bestselling author Emily Arsenault’s debut novel, described as “a literary gem” by the NY Times.

The Broken Teaglass Review - Emily ArsenaultThe Broken Teaglass Synopsis

In the maze of cubicles at Samuelson Company, editorial assistant Billy Webb struggles to focus while helping to prepare the next edition of a dictionary. But there are distractions. He senses that something suspicious is going on beneath this company’s academic façade.

What’s more, his (possibly) flirtatious co-worker Mona Minot has just made a startling discovery: a trove of puzzling citations, all taken from the same book, The Broken Teaglass. Billy and Mona soon learn that no such book exists. And the quotations read like a confession, coyly hinting at a hidden identity, a secret liaison, a crime. As Billy and Mona try to unearth the truth, the puzzle begins to take on bigger meaning for both of them, compelling them to redefine their notions of themselves and each other.

The Broken Teaglass is at once a literary mystery, a cautious love story, and an ingenious suspense novel that will delight fans of brilliantly inventive fiction.

(Delacorte Press)

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I love word puzzles, so The Broken Teaglass, a mystery set in a dictionary publisher’s office ticked all the right boxes. But over and above the quirky wordlover factor, I was pleasantly surprised to find this novel was actually grittier than I had expected.

The Broken Teaglass mystery is cleverly constructed. Debut author Emily Arsenault has taken care to develop her ensemble cast of characters slowly, creating tension and gradually revealing depth in unexpected places.

“Well, I was about to say that these cits are different. This is the one story I want to finish. This story is driving me crazy. Because I know it’s not just hacked out of some magazine. There’s no way to go to the library and look it up. It’s because there’s no clear way to find the rest that I care.”

I also commend Arsenault for not taking the all too easy and unrealistic option of tying up everything neatly in a bow at the ending.

The Broken Teaglass by Emily ArsenaultThis story explores the strength of spirit and character in the context of the fragility of life — how each split second decision can have wide ramifications for ourselves and those we interact with.

The Broken Teaglass is about honour and loyalty and making the most of what one has, whether it be time or acquaintances. Quality sentiments from a quality novel.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5

Get your copy of The Broken Teaglass from:

Amazon | Book Depository | Kobobooks | B&N | Booktopia(Aus) | Indigo

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Literature

Other novels I have enjoyed of a similar quirky literary style include The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs, Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan and Bellwether by Connie Willis. But if it’s psychological literary thrillers you are drawn to I highly recommend anything by Emily Winslow (Look for Her, The Red House, The Start of Everything), Hiding by Jenny Morton Potts and The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton.

About the Author, Emily Arsenault

Emily Arsenault has worked as a lexicographer (like her characters Billy and Mona), an English teacher, a children’s librarian, and a Peace Corps volunteer. She wrote The Broken Teaglass while living in rural South Africa, to pass the long, quiet evenings in her mud brick house. She now lives in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, with her husband.

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and Emily Arsenault’s next thriller All The Pretty Things is scheduled for release in March 2020.