Books: Wordplay

A P.I. has Tourette's--and a tricky murder to solve

If you're prone to touching strangers randomly and shouting insults like "Eat me Mister Dicky-weed!" becoming a detective is probably not the most obvious career move. Case in point: Lionel Essrog, a Brooklyn P.I. who can't shoot a gun but can spend the better part of a stakeout obsessing over the numerical integrity of his meal (six White Castle burgers at 6:45). He's got Tourette's syndrome and--by the end of the first chapter of Jonathan Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn (Doubleday; 311 pages; $23.95)--a dead boss on his hands.

Frank Minna wasn't just any boss. He was the epitome of hustler cool, a...

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