The Mystery of the Invisible Hand by Marshall Jevons

The Mystery of the Invisible Hand (Princeton University Press, 2014) by Marshall Jevons is without a doubt the worst mystery novel I have ever read.

It’s all about a boring and irritating prick of an Economics professor named Henry Spearman, who feels the need to interject “educational” economics witticisms into everything he says. He is a dull-witted socially inept asshole. He’s not written with that intent – Jevons writes him as a great hero – but Jevons is a bad enough writer to not be able to pull that off in the least. Spearman is a stupid and annoying protagonist who is only comical because of how pathetic he is.

mystery of the invisible hand marshall jevons book

Henry Spearman walked around dropping these little economics 101 truth bombs and everybody in this Mary Sue novel. People worshipped him for this wannabe Freakonomics crap. In real life, Henry Spearman would have no friends because people don’t put up with this kind of shit. He’s the worst kind of annoying person.

So, we have a terrible main character in this mystery novel. What else makes it the worst? The mystery also really sucks. There’s no real mystery here at all. The last person who saw him killed him. It’s the only person with a clear motive. It’s the person who had the obvious opportunity. From the beginning – it’s obvious. Then the book just beats it around the whole time.

Like come on, we get it.

At the end, it’s revealed he has an accomplice. Unnamed. Just as an afterthought. No big deal. Not like it’s integral to the plot or anything. But it’s mentioned in passing in the last few pages, and that’s it. Terrible.

The best/worst part is the big revelation, though. Oh my god. This is just embarrassing. I’m cringing to myself just thinking about it again; I couldn’t even imagine how Jevons actually wrote this. How editors and publishers let it go. So…

It was an artist who got murdered. The murderer did it because he owned a bunch of the art and wanted it to go up in value. To try and hide suspicion from himself, the murderer pretended the art was “mysteriously stolen” before the murder, and then after the murder, it “mysteriously reappeared”. Somehow the police have a hard time with this. Actually, an impossible time.

But Spearman is giving a lecture and suddenly realizes that this incredibly obvious and strange sequence of events gives the murderer motive. Because, duh. Because, like… duh. But he has an Economics Epiphany and actually has to run to the bathroom to splash cold water on his face. He’s hyperventilating. He’s in shock. He figured it out, he cracked the case. It’s worked up as a huge moment.

Just because he realized that the mysterious guy with the motive, opportunity, and the most to gain, probably is the murderer.


I’m not saying this was the worst book of all time that I’ve ever read, but I can’t think of any worse. It was certainly the worst mystery and calling it a mystery is exceedingly generous. This is a book for pretentious arrogant economics professors to fantasize about being in as they wish they were as relevant and desired as they are in this mockery of a mystery.

I threw this book away.