ARC · Contemporary Literature · Mystery/Thriller

The Verifiers

Thanks to the publisher (Vintage Anchor) for reaching out to send me a review copy of this debut novel. I am not usually a mystery reader, so I was initially hesitant, but something about this one sounded different enough that it might be worth a try. Perhaps the fact that the MC likes girls and wrote a senior thesis on Jane Austen had something to do with it (as in, I, too, like both those things…). And so I figured, why not give it a try. Plus, I do love to break from heavier contemporary lit and hefty sci-fi/fantasy sometimes. And while I usually hit up romances for that, I figured a mystery might do the trick too. 

The Verifiers by Jane Pek

“If this were a novel, he might simply be a poorly written character. But there are no poorly written people. Only ones you don’t yet understand.”

Claudia Lin wrote her senior thesis on Jane Austen, is obsessed with the Inspector Yuan mystery series, is a bit of an idealist/romantic when it comes to love, and has a fairly fraught relationship with her mother and siblings, which means she hasn’t come out to her mother yet and for sure hasn’t told any of them that she just recently left the fancy corporate job her brother helped her get to work for a small mostly-secret agency called Veracity. Veracity is a company that verifies people on dating apps/websites. So, let’s say you’ve gone on a few dates with someone you met through a dating app but you think they’re lying about something they’ve said in their profile, you can hire Veracity to confirm (or deny) your suspicions. After one of Veracity’s recent clients turns up dead, Claudia has some suspicions that everything is not as it seems, and she starts to do some off-the-books investigating, digging herself deep (possibly dangerously so) into corporate drama in the big match-making industry. 

If you have ever read a detective or mystery novel and wished you were the protagonist, then this is the book for you! Claudia Lin is the most fun MC to take a narrative ride with: human, relatable, and totally invested in solving a mystery that she may or may not be qualified to get involved with (in the way that makes for a fantastically adventurous reading experience). Pek’s writing is superb for the story she is telling, full of that self-recognizing snarky-smart vibe that (especially millennial) nerdy literary people will recognize and love. If you’ve read Soulless, I felt like it had a really similar feel to that. There are many nods to literature and language (mystery, classic and otherwise), but all communicated in a really accessible way that was just a low-key joy to read. There is also a really fun thread throughout in which Claudia references the fictional Inspector Yuan, a long-running mystery book series detective that she and her mother have bonded over throughout the years (sort of like Miss Marple), as she pulls ideas and inspiration from the situations he has been involved in as she works through her own real-life mystery. And in an overall plot sense, the mystery itself felt well-paced, had some nice twists, and just generally kept my attention.

On a slightly more serious note, Pek brings depth and infuses some real contemporary life discussion into this novel with the inclusion of Claudia’s family dynamics and the exploration of the way technology is playing an ever-greater role in romance. As far as the family piece, I really enjoyed the way the sibling interactions were written. The combination of supportive and judgmental felt so accurate to me. The added context of being children of immigrants, both in relation to sibling dynamics and parent-child dynamics (within Asian immigrant families), as well as the model minority expectations and issues related to coming-out, is not something I can speak to personally, of course, but the way Pek wrote about it felt quite genuine. It is, of course, speaking to just one experience, instead of making a universal statement, but in that specific context, it seemed spot on, and well done. As to the romance aspect, I was interested in the (light) philosophical lean into the role of technology in our decision-making and finding love in this age of tech-enhanced dating. 

All in all, this was just a super fun read, with top-notch entertainment value. An homage to classic lit (in an upbeat way, not a heavy or verbose way) and cozy murder mysteries (which is not my usually genre but is absolutely a great experience here). The ending sets up really nicely for a series, but without leaving the reader with an unbearable cliff-hanger, (which is perfect, IMO) in regards to setting up a next story-line in continuation of the mystery solved here, as well as Claudia’s “team” and a potential(??) romance of her own (maybe not, that could just be wishful thinking on my part). And I can definitely see myself picking up that next book.

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