Henry Holt & Company: The Eighth Detective by Alex Pavesi

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The Restoration of Otto Laird

In The Restoration of Otto Laird, Nigel Packer explores the relationship between people and the facades they create. A philosophical argument hidden in a rich, plot-driven narrative, the book begins when aging and reclusive architect Otto Laird discovers that one of his old buildings, Marlowe House, is being torn down. When he flies back to London to head an effort for its rescue, he's forced to deconstruct everything else from his previous life as a flawed husband, father and artist.

Packer's debut builds the perfect synthesis of character and theme, wherein Otto's megalithic concrete structure's demise stands in for the architect's failing health, body and soul. As he spends more and more time in Marlowe House and the posh, old London neighborhood, he reckons with the hard truth he'd spent his career avoiding: even the most beautiful and sturdy of structures break down in time.

Estranged from his son and still reeling from the long-ago death of his first wife, Otto wanders through the halls as though he's wandering through his own past. Everything in the building is a trigger for him, and as he rubs his hands along a tiled wall or falls asleep in the unfamiliar dark of his hotel room, Otto finds himself remembering more of his mistakes than his successes.

As Otto and Marlowe House move helplessly into the last days of both their lives, Packer takes his narrative back into Otto's past, so that someone--if not Otto--may take something positive away from man's hubris and shortcomings. --Josh Potter