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The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault

The Broken Teaglass is Emily Arenault's debut novel and it features a rather unique mystery that needs some good, old fashioned sleuthing to solve.

Billy's a recent college graduate who is hired as a lexicographer in training at the Samuelson Company, home of America's premiere and most prestigious dictionary. Samuelson is home to a rather odd work atmosphere fueled by the academic, intellectual, sometimes socially awkward staff. At work Billy meets Mona, another junior editor, hired about a year ago. Together they stumble upon two mysterious citations that come from a book that doesn't exist, written by an author who doesn't exist, published by a company that never existed.

It appears the citations themselves were written in 1985 by another junior editor. Billy's extremely reluctantly dragged into this office intrigue and mystery by Mona, who craves an adventure amidst the monotony of the Samuelson office. Mona's determined to track down the identity of the writer and solve the mystery of the corpse mentioned in the few citations they've managed to stumble upon. It becomes clear that if Billy and Mona hope to discover all of the mysterious citations attributed to The Broken Teaglass that are hidden in the citation file, they must begin a a deliberate and systematic hunt through the remaining files.

As they discover the story and put it back together piece by piece a close reading of the citations yields clues to the identities of the mysterious Red referenced in some of the citations, and Scout, who's clearly another young editor at Samuelson. By this time Billy and Mona realize that the characters and the mystery are connected to the company where bizarre undercurrents simmer under its reserved, academic veneer. Another citation yields the name of the corpse which is enough for Mona to conduct a newspaper search that provides independent confirmation and other clues to the mystery told in the citations.

At first Billy's reluctantly drawn in and dragged along in Mona's efforts to solve this mystery; he hopes it might lead to a romance with Mona, but it soon becomes clear that the mixed signals Mona's been sending mean that a romance won't happen. This leads Billy to wonder just what this is really all about and where this will lead. Soon Billy becomes obsessed with the story told in the citations as a rather significant anniversary approaches for him that triggers a personal existential crisis.

This is an interesting mystery told in a unique setting and provides a rare look into the world of dictionary editing. Oddly, the book itself reads like a page turner. Anyone who loves words, not necessarily etymology, but rather the usage of words and how it shifts and evolves over time, will love this story. Mystery lovers will enjoy the return to old fashioned sleuthing and analyzing of the citations for clues. I recommend this book for literary mystery lovers.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


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