July 30, 2021

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Word + Quiz: perspicacious

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1. mentally acute or penetratingly discerning

2. acutely insightful and wise

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The word perspicacious has appeared in six articles on NYTimes.com in the past year, including on Sept. 5 in the book review “Recreational Adrenaline: Three Sizzling New Thrillers” by Sarah Lyall:

This debut novel is a cerebral box of delights that begins when Julia Hart, a publisher, travels to an unnamed Mediterranean island to visit Grant McAllister, who vanished decades earlier after producing a single volume of mystery stories. Her firm wants to republish the book, “The White Murders,” a collection of seven fiendish murder mysteries that each reflects a different approach to the genre. (They are all gems. One turns out to be a diabolically plotted homage to Agatha Christie’s classic “And Then There Were None.”)

From the cat-and-mouse present-day discussions that alternate chapters with the original short stories, we discover that Julia is an unusually perspicacious detective as well as a sharp-eyed editor. She starts to pick up subtle narrative inconsistencies in the stories — mixed-up words, chronological anomalies, out-of-place details. A creepiness sets in; no one is who he (or she, maybe) seems. Why is Grant so vague about his past? What does Julia really want?

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