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An Exquisite Corpse Book Review

Updated: Feb 17, 2023

There is a small mystery bookshop located across the street from a cornfield. It's name is the Mechanicsburg Mystery Bookshop and I have contributed a few book reviews to their quarterly newsletter. Here is my book review on An Exquisite Corpse by Helen A. Harrison.



The story takes place during World War II and revolves around a tightly knit artist community that call themselves Surrealists. They escaped France as the German occupation began through patrons such as Peggy Guggenheim, scraping by and relying on the generosity of others whilst living in New York City. On a Saturday evening, painter André Breton sees fellow painter Lam’s studio light on, from the street, and decides to call on him only to find his friend dead on the floor arranged in a unique fashion, an exquisite corpse to be precise. An exquisite corpse is a game played by surrealist artists in which one artist draws a head before folding the paper down to cover the image, hands the paper off to the next artist who sketches the torso and arms before folding the paper again and the last artist creates the feet. When the paper is unfolded, a bizarre and misshapen figure is left - derived from the subconscious and seen as the crazier being better for inspiration.

The case becomes twisted when Lam is found with his wallet intact, including $300, and there appears to be no visible wounds on his person. Detective Sergeant O’Connell and Detective Dillon head up the investigation that takes them between the eclectic worlds of the foreign artists, Chinatown, and the Cuban community. Between many of the artists romantically involved with each other’s spouses, a sailor with some drugs on the loose, and the police hitting a stone wall at every turn, things are not looking bad for Officer Fitzgerald, who would like the case to drag out so he has an excuse to keep seeing the Spanish speaking Officer Diaz. Between the Sixth and the Twenty-Third Precinct, can the police find the creative murderer or will they keep playing with Cuban Voodoo dolls and Chinese firecrackers for theories?

I found this book entertaining and creative in the way it twists together numerous perspectives into one narrative. There are many artists and additional characters to keep track of, but it kept me on my toes and engaged me throughout the book. No extreme violence occurs, nor sexual imagery- except some innuendos, and some moderate use of foul language would give it more a classic detective story leaning closer to a cozy in format. The people described in this story were real but the actual crime is pure fiction, and you won’t guess who the killer is…


For more information on the author, and the other books in her series, please visit the following link:

If you would like to see more reviews, like mine, please check out the following link that will take you to this issue of their newsletter. You can also visit their website at for all your mystery book needs. Thanks for reading and I hope this helps you pick out a new adventure to dive into. #reading #books #exquisitecorpse #helenharrison #author #bookreview #mechanicsburgpa #bookshop #mysterybookreview #mystery

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