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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Not by the Book: The Pencil Pro is a cultural/mystery fiction novel written by Roni Rosenthal. Adam, Kenny and Drew had been friends since they were in grammar school together. And while they each pursued their own interests during their college years, the three friends made sure to keep track of each other. After college, each of them ended up back in their home state of Maryland. Adam was a creative writing teacher; Kenny, an intuitive mathematician who ended up in real estate; Drew, the golden boy and athlete of the three, ended up becoming a lawyer and volunteer teacher. The three smoothly and easily gravitated to Thursday beer night sessions where they’d converse while the beer flowed. But something special happened during one of those beer nights. They started thinking about things, thinking about thinking in fact, and how, like the computers we’ve created, our thought processes have become all zeroes and ones. But what if we transformed that process and added a third element, or in some other way changed things? On that night, The Pencil Pro was born, a grand resolution to retool how one thinks, to design exercises that encourage people to think outside the box. A Facebook page was created, and, before they knew it, there were thousands of people involved with changing how they solved problems and viewed the world.
Roni Rosenthal’s thought-provoking cultural mystery novel, Not by the Book: The Pencil Pro, weaves the story of Adam and The Pencil Pro phenomenon with that of a classic detective murder mystery where Detective Eric Gutenheim must find out the story behind the young woman whose story gets more complicated, even as the detective discovers more about her life. I enjoyed seeing how the techniques Adam and his friends work through help the reader approach the mystery of the murder of Carolyn James. Rosenthal gives the armchair sleuth plenty of red herrings to consider in this book, as well as some intriguing new tools to use when puzzling things out. Not by the Book: The Pencil Pro is well-written and original, and it’s highly recommended.