Thursday, October 18, 2018

E.J. Copperman and Jeff Cohen, The Question of the Dead Mistress

E.J. Copperman and Jeff Cohen, The Question of the Dead Mistress
© 2018 E.J. Copperman and Jeff Cohen
Publisher: Midnight Ink
ISBN 978-0-7387-5061-3

Samuel Hoenig, the proprietor of “Questions Answered” (you have a question that you want answered, he’s likely to take a shot at answering it—but you must formulate it as a question, does not approach life as most of us do; as someone wrote (in the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine), “Copperman/Cohen succeeds in providing a glimpse not only of the challenges experienced by those with Asperger’s, but also of their unique gifts.”

And, more to the point, he makes a fascinating investigator in this series of extremely well-done mysteries.[1]  And this, the fifth book in the series, is a worthy entry.

As the story opens, Samuel has received an email (which reads: “I have a question that I desperately need answered.  May I come in for an appointment?”) to which he is not sure how to respond—he does not require that potential clients make appointments.  So he asks his associate in the business, Janet Washburn, what she thinks.  She suggests responding that no appointment is needed, and providing their office hours.  He does so, and returns to his current assignment—“determining the reach in millimeters of the average orangutan”—and he has some doubts about that client.  He gets an almost immediate response—“I’m coming now.”  And, after some back-and-forth, the prospective client, Virginia Fontaine, asks her question:  “Mr. Hoenig, is my husband having an affair with his dead girlfriend?”

Samuel does not believe in ghosts, so you can probably guess his answer.  But it’s not that simple, and Janet persuades him to take the question.

And it turns out to be much less clear-cut than those of us who do not think ghosts “exist.”  Among other things, Virginia Fontaine’s first husband died under somewhat murky circumstances.  And a still more complicating circumstance is that the current husband—Brett [2] Fontaine—does not play a particularly active role in the remained of the book.  And the girl friend, Melanie Mason, died a couple of years ago in a spectacular car crash.

And things get more complicated (and dangerous) from there.  Samuel finds himself more-r-less dragged into finding the answer, although Janet has the primary responsibility for it.  And Samuel’s life is complicated enough, as his father has recently re-entered his (and his mother’s) life after 27 years.  Another issue is that the relationship between Janet and Samuel is changing, in ways that please, puzzle, and disturb him. 

But as complicated as it is, and as hard as the various actors try to discourage Samuel and Janet from pursuing their inquiries, they move closer and closer to an answer.  If not to an answer to Virginia’s question, an answer to the various mysteries that intrude.  Like, for example, are ghosts “real”?  There’s a trip to a cemetery that forces us to, perhaps, reconsider that one.  Ultimately, of course, the original question, and all the other questions that arise, are answered.  And the changes in Samuel’s life that began early on in the series continue.  Personally, I can’t wait for the next episode.[3]

[1] I might suggest reading them in order, as there is a major plot element that runs through all the books.
My reviews of earlier books in the series may be found here:
The Question of the Unfamiliar Husband
The Question of the Felonious Friend
The Question of the Absentee Father

[2] This was written, I probably don’t need to tell you, before the most recent Supreme Court nomination.

[3] Oddly, this is the second book I have read this year with all or part of the title includes the words “Dead Mistress.”  And they are nothing alike.

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