Friday, October 23, 2015

Copperman & Cohen, The Question of the Unfamiliar Husband

E.J. Copperman and Jeff Cohen, The Question of the Unfamiliar Husband.
Midnight Ink, 2015
ISBN 978-0-7387-4350-9
Also available as an ebook

Samuel Hoenig is the owner of a rather unique service business, Questions Answered—you have a question, he will find the answer…for a fee.  One fine day, Sheila McInerney enters his place of business (a not entirely converted pizza parlor) and asks (after some preliminaries), “Who is the man in my bed who calls himself my husband?”  Samuel agrees to try to find the answer.

But first he has to persuade Janet Washburn, who assisted him in The Question of the Missing Head, to re-join Questions Answered.

Naturally, the answer is not easily found, and the quest becomes quite complicated.  And Samuel’s approach is hardly conventional, and his interactions with the people he has to deal with are somewhat difficult—he finds it difficult, sometimes, to understand their behavior, and they almost always have difficulty understanding him, or his approach.  It’s hard to go into any detail without giving things away that readers should discover for themselves.
But, damn, is this a fine book.  I wound up reading it instead of paying attention to the Blue Jays/Royals game (3-3 in a rain delay right now—11:23 PM EST, Friday, October 23).  I am blown away by the quality of the writing, by the grace and sensitivity with which the characters are depicted, and by the intricacy of the plot.  As much as I enjoyed the first book in this series (The Question of the Missing Head), I found this book a major step forward.  The first one was really good.  This is great. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Bill Crider, Between the Living and the Dead: A Dan Rhodes Mystery

Bill Crider, Between the Living and the Dead: A Dan Rhodes Mystery
Minotaur Books/St. Martin's, 2015
ISBN 978-1-250-03970-5

In the 22nd installment of the Adventures of Sage Barton's alter ego, Sheriff Dan Rhodes discovered a dead meth dealer (Neil Foshee) in a crumbling, long-abandoned house.  (The house is reputedly haunted, but Rhodes has his doubts.)  The first obvious step is to find Neil's cousins, Louie and Earl Foshee, Neil's meth cookers (whom we have encountered before).  Before we are through, Rhodes (with the assistance of Seepy Barton, college professor and lately branching out into paranormal investigations as Clearview Paranormal Investigation,  and his partner Harry Harris, an academic colleague) finds a skeleton.  He also has to deal with a runaway bull, feral hogs (again), county commissioner Mikey Burns (who wants to acquire an assortment of military equipment, including drones), a turtle,, a college student allegedly researching a paper on small-town drug dealers, his uncle the mayor, and more.

If this sounds fairly complicated, it is.  But we as readers, and Rhodes, as our guide, never lose sight of the central mystery--who killed Neil Foshee, and why.  Rhodes' path to the answer is hardly direct, but he does (as he always does) get there.

Crider knows his characters and his setting thoroughly, and through him we come to know them well.  While I am occasionally less than enchanted by the by-play between Hack (the dispatcher) and Lawton (the jailer), their presence is generally, and is here, an essential part of the book. 

For me, Crider's books have become must-reads, and I'm already looking forward to #23.
This is only of interest to some, but the title is from a poem  by William Wordsworth, "The Affliction of Margaret."  I'm not much of a Wordsworth afficianado, and if I were, I'm still not sure I'd care for this one.  But the verse from which the title is drawn fits well with the book:

I look for ghosts; but none will force
Their way to me: 'tis falsely said
That there was ever intercourse
 Between the living and the dead;
 For, surely, then I should have sight
 Of him I wait for day and night,
 With love and longings infinite.