Jon Mote—grad school dropout and serial failure—has been hired to investigate the murder of his erstwhile mentor, Richard Pratt, a star in the firmament of literary theory. Feeling unequal to the task, Mote skitters on the edge of madness, trying to stifle the increasingly threatening voices in his head. His only source of hope is the dogged love of his developmentally disabled sister, Judy, who serves as cheerleader, critic, and moral compass.
Death Comes for the Deconstructionist follows Mote and his sister through the streets and neighborhoods of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota—from crime scenes to the halls of academe. Mote’s investigation uncovers a series of suspects—including the victim’s wife, mistress, and intellectual rivals. Along the way he stumbles onto the victim’s terrible secret, one that prompts the discovery of an equally dark mystery from his own past.
These revelations hasten Mote’s descent into darkness, putting both him and Judy at grave risk. Death Comes for the Deconstructionist is a tragi-comic mystery, a detective story that is at once suspenseful, provocative, and emotionally resonant. It asks not only “whodunit” but whether truth is ultimately something we create rather than discover.
“Daniel Taylor blends a passion for theology, civil rights, and the saving grace of story in a mystery involving an unlikely pair of underdog investigators—the psychologically broken Jon Mote and his ever hopeful, developmentally challenged older sister, Judy. Known primarily for his nonfiction books, Taylor displays the natural skills of a crime writer in his debut novel set in the world of academia. His plot begins conventionally, but eventually evolves into something much deeper. Death Comes for the Deconstructionist is a fascinating exploration of what is ultimately good and true, a perfect choice for Slant’s first offering in the detective genre.
NAOMI HIRAHARA, the Edgar Award-winning author of the Mas Arai and Officer Ellie Rush mysteries
This whodunit from Dan Taylor is a cause for celebration. His Jon Mote rivals Harry Bosch, and Taylor’s ventures into literature, religion, and notions of progress shine, challenge, and stun. With his remarkable sidekick, Judy, Jon Mote, “an expert on things he wished he didn’t know,” is not simply looking into a puzzling death. He is exploring his own odds of finding transformative life. Great books are those that force readers to reexamine the very ground on which they stand. Death Comes for the Deconstructionist is such a book—a luminous performance.
DALE BROWN, Director of The Buechner Institute
In Death Comes for the Deconstructionist, Daniel Taylor has written not only a highly engaging murder mystery but also a metaphysical page-turner—a strange and wonderful cross between Walker Percy and G. K. Chesterton. His oddly reluctant Sherlock Holmes is accompanied by the most unusual and heartwarming Watson in my reading experience.
PAUL J. WILLIS, author of The Alpine Tales
Jon Mote—by his own admission a clueless detective—is asked to solve the murder of a renowned English professor. Despite his bumbling efforts he discovers truth, not only concerning the murder but, more profoundly, concerning himself and his painful past. This witty, tragicomic novel slices a scalpel into the heart of the modern university and lays bare the intellectual and spiritual bankruptcy of its reigning ideologies.
HUGH COOK, author of Heron River
One part academic satire, one part mystery, and one part theological investigation, this pleasingly disorienting novel packs a wicked punch. Like life itself, Daniel Taylor gives us a story in which all sorts of incongruous elements are jumbled together. (Reality is not fastidious.) But is there—could there be—a pattern nonetheless, a great design amid all the confusion?
JOHN WILSON, Editor, Books & Culture
The death at the heart of Daniel Taylor’s Death Comes for the Decontructionist strikes an academic headliner whose ascent to scholarly fame created boosters and backbiters aplenty for the kind of rogue’s gallery a murder mystery requires. But Taylor has more on his mind and in his soul—and in his literary heart—than a simple whodunit, because in this clever and thoughtful novel there’s more to death than meets the eye.
JAMES SCHAAP, author of Up the Hill