You don't often find a book which crosses literary criticism with a whodunnit, and perhaps for good reason, but Gilbert Adair pulls it off with aplomb in The Death of the Author.
Leopold Sfax is an acclaimed French critic and scholar. He left France just after the war to settle in America and there has made his name with groundbreaking theories concerning the death of the author (the text, once in the hands of the reader, renders the author redundant). The first fifty or so pages of the novel offer a brief account of his life to date - family history, as a young man in occupied France, fleeing to the US, his career as a critic - up to the point when one of his ex-students asks if she can write a biography of him.
We then get another fifty pages which offer an alternative version of the story we have just read, a somewhat less innocent account, one which alters our opinion of Leo. It is a clever and intriguing device and successfully challenges us to rethink and re-evaluate everything that has come before.
Finally we get back to the point at which the student makes her request, and the novel then becomes something else entirely: a murder mystery.
The Death of the Author is an intelligent and playful novel. It surprised me, in a good way.