On the surface a murder mystery—a detective’s search for the killer of five people in Denver—Expectation is also, among other things, a meditation on the relationship between language and music.
In his newest novel, Jeffrey DeShell draws on the musical innovations of Arnold Schoenberg—by turns traditional, serial, and atonal—to inform his grammar and language. Moving progressively through specific Schoenberg compositions, DeShell complicates the surface of his text into lyrical derivatives, all the while drawing us into a murder mystery like no other as Detective Francisca Fruscella pursues both the killer and her own complicated personal history.
By turns rapturous, rigorous, and gripping, Expectation is a thriller of another kind—and a bold venture to the limits of the mystery genre and language itself.
"With spare and rigorous brilliance, Jeffrey DeShell's Expectation reforms speech, narration, and the tropes of American noir through the spellbinding operations of a new Schoenbergian lingo, a hard-boiled sprechstimme, a talk as tough as Hammett, Cain, and Chandler’s, as singular and expressive as Pierrot Lunaire’s. DeShell's exploration of Viennese serialism’s effects on form and content succeeds mightily because, in the best tradition of experimentalism, its conclusion is not closure or confirmation, but a necessary reminder that everything, particularly language and its performance, could be otherwise, and that the complexities of otherwise can be as moving as hell." —Michael Mejia, author of Forgetfulness
“I have long admired Jeffrey DeShell's work because each novel is a fresh and entirely different, asking the reader to adopt a new theory of reading. The high-concept detective story that is Expectation reaches a moving musical climax in its final third that's not often seen in the prose of peers. But readers will be equally delighted to find in this work a memorable, compelling character--the widowed, driven, urbane Denver detective Francesca Fruscella. Her voice of voices drives this thoroughly satisfying novel.”—Ted Pelton, author of Malcolm & Jack and Bhang