MURDER IN THE MUSEUM OF MAN by Alfred Alcorn

BLURB: Dean Cranston Fessing, dispatched from Wainscott University to investigate finances of the neighboring Museum of Man, has been murdered. Not only that, but his grisly remains bear the unmistakable mark of haute cuisine. The police are baffled, and the media have a field day, dragging the name of the venerable museum through the mud. To get to the bottom of it all, and save his beloved museum from the University’s institutional embrace, comes recording secretary Norman de Ratour, the most reluctant of heroes, the unlikeliest of sleuths. Disappointed in love thirty years ago, Norman lives a reclusive bachelor’s existence, tormented by the memory of Elsbeth, and of his own timidity at a crucial amorous moment. Aided by the e-mail missives of an anonymous informant, and thwarted at every turn by his politically ambitious boss, Norman is thrust to center stage and begins to investigate a long list of suspects. Along the way he uncovers a cannibal cult in the anthropology department, creative writing in the primate pavilion, and Nietzschean ambitions in the genetics lab. It’s a race to find the culprit, save the museum and reclaim his lost love before he himself winds up gracing the table of some fiendish gourmand.

NOW ME:  Norman de Ratour is the Recording Secretary of the Museum of Man (MOM). He is fussy, prim, ,principled, guided by rules; a scholarly, formal, 19th century style raconteur. but he IS careful and deft and cagey when it comes to politics, and goodness knows there is (are?) plenty of politicking going on in academia and museumland.

So, what happened to the unfortunate dean?

It appears that the dean after having been murdered (presumably), was butchered and cooked quite expertly before being eaten (presumably).  The coroner, Dr. P. M. Cutler — a familiar figure here at the MOM, having used for forensic purposes specimens from out considerable collection of human remains — too unseemly relish, I thought, in relating to me some of the details of the autopsy.  Indeed, he sounded more like Rick Royick, the Bugle’s food critic, than a coroner.  The dean’s buttocks, it appears, were baked with a cinnamon honey glaze;  there was a veritable roast rack of dean, complete with those little paper caps, one of which the doctor kept twisting in his hand; there were (I am paraphrasing Dr.  Cutler) medallions of thigh dressed in a basil curry beurre blanc that had been served with a thyme-infused puree of white beans and black olives in a marinade of citrus and fennel; there was evidence of a bourguignonne; and the dean’s head, while intact, had been partially emptied, with gross violation to the foramen magnum, where traces of nutmeg were found.

You can see why I loved this book.

As Recording Secretary de Ratour says to Lieutenant Tracy of the police investigating unit,

“Do you really expect me, Lieutenant, to believe or even suspect that Corny Chard killed Dean Fessing, cooked him gourmet style, and fed him to the other club members [of a secret campus dining and adventure club]?  I simply cannot believe they would ever eat a sitting dean.  Certainly not a whole one.”

As if eating a sitting dean might be worse than eating any other non-academic.  hahahahaha

When informed by the Lieutenant that they had found the murderer of Dean Fessing, de Ratour confesses

Imagine! Malachy Morin!  I am flabbergasted.  Murder, perhaps, but I would never have suspected that the man was capable of haute cuisine!

So, what we have here is cannibalism, plus a chimp lab working on having the creatures furiously typing all day trying to produce the full cannon of English literature, internecine warfare between the museum admins and the university to which it is connected, and a nostalgically lovesick Recording Secretary.  And oh, yes.  The murder.

Loved it.  Absolutely loved it.  There’s more, too.  A couple more in the series.  Spoiler, he marries the former love.

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HELLCORP by Jonathan Whitelaw

The plot:  Sometimes even the Devil deserves a break!Life is hard for The Devil and he desperately wants to take a holiday. Growing weary from playing the cosmic bad guy, he resolves to set up a company that will do his job for him so the sins of the world will tick over while he takes a vacation. God tells him he can have his vacation just as soon as he solves an ancient crime .But nothing is ever easy and before long he is up to his pitchfork in solving murders, desperate to crack the case so he can finally take the holiday he so badly needs

The reality:  well, the mystery was pretty lame…  a guy stabs another guy 40 years ago in a mugging, and then four decades later, the stabee dies of some sort of internal scarring which resulted in a blockage and death.  Meh.  Howsomeverly, the whole rest of the book was a hoot.  Lots of fun.

He gets the  clever idea of making Hell a legitimate business — Hellcorp will be a ‘one-stop shop for anybody and everybody who wants to get on in life.’ It seems perfect, an idea he puts to the Pope whom he thinks is God’s holy snitch.  God calls him up to Heaven, which is designed as a premier golf course complete with clubhouse, and advises the Devil he can have his vacation after he solves a cold case mystery.

God sends the devil to earth in a human body without all his devil powers.  He proceeds to get beaten up and ends up in the emergency room where he meets a young lady doctor, whom he hauls along with him when he takes off.  The rest of the story is all about what they do together to solve the so-called mystery.

So basically, there was very little about Hellcorp, the title of the book, and a whole lot of mystery solving.

Fun read, cleverly constructed.

 

EYE OF THE MOON by Ivan Obolensky

Official blurb coming atcha:

“Johnny’s legendary socialite Aunt Alice mysteriously died while reading the Egyptian Book of the Dead when he and Percy were ten. They have been kept in the dark about that night ever since…

Twenty years later, they are reunited, along with family and guests, for a weekend house party at Rhinebeck, the sumptuous estate once owned by Alice.

But Rhinebeck holds more than just childhood memories.

From the family butler, they learn that Alice’s story is far darker than anticipated, and will impact all their lives, particularly Percy’s, before the weekend concludes.

All who attend are ensnared in a surprising web of mystery, Egyptian occultism, sumptuous elegance, and intrigue, where family members, guests, and even the staff have their own agendas, and nothing is what it seems.

This complex and sophisticated gothic mystery thriller is a page-turner you will not be able to put down.”

I second that emotion.  I really loved this book.  A lot of the story is told by various characters telling it to our first person protagonist narrator.

Some fun paranormal, but paranormal in the sense that we are not certain whether the experiences are from psychotropic drugs or what, but everyone keeps saying how eerie the house is, how there feels like ‘there is something there.’

A lot of family intrigue and manipulation, and financial skulduggery, and the reveals just keep on comin!

Great story, wonderful writing, but I can see how it could be not everyone’s cup of tea.  But I am just a sucker for gothic-y kind of stuff

A fair amount of Egyptian woo-woo in the story, and the title refers to:

…Wadjet, the patron goddess of one of the great oracles of the ancient world located at Buto, in lower Egypt.  She was known as the Green One and was often depicted as a cobra.  She preformed a protective function.

This Egyptian religious symbol is also called the Eye of Hathor, the Eye of Horus, and the Eye of Ra.

 

THE DEAD FATHERS CLUB by Matt Haig

Official plot description:  “Eleven-year-old Philip Noble has a big problem: His dad, who was killed in a car accident, appears as a bloodstained ghost at his own funeral and introduces Philip to the Dead Fathers Club. The club, whose members were all murdered, gathers outside the Castle and Falcon, the local pub that Philip’s family owns and lives above. Philip’s father tells him that Uncle Alan killed him and he must avenge his death. When Philip realizes that Uncle Alan has designs on his mom and the family pub, Philip decides that something must be done. But it’s a much bigger job than he anticipated, especially when he is caught up by the usual distractions of childhood—a pretty girl, wayward friends, school bullies, and his own self-doubt.”

Actually, dead dad tells Philip that his Uncle Alan has designs on the pub and on his mother, and constantly provokes Philip to do something about it, while insisting that if he is not avenged, he (dad) will suffer terrible agony for eternity.

It is a wonderfully told tale of paranormal proportions, and a rather different spin on the ol’ Hamlet story, but when we really get thinking about it, we are not sure whether Philip is actually seeing ghosts, or is experiencing a kind of mental breakdown.  Or both.  Just because one is nuttier than the proverbial fruitcake does not remove the possibility that one is really seeing a ghost.  Right?

Smash-o ending.  Totally unexpected.

Well written, and really, you don’t feel you are wading through yet another Hamlet rehash.  Very well done.

INTO THE SEA OF STARS by William R. Forstchen

Think Gulliver’s Travels in space, and that pretty much sums up this light weight spacer written in the mid 80s.

A history professor at a mid-rank college in the umm 3000s?  later?  is forced by circumstances to travel into deep space with four annoying colleagues and a wonky pilot to try to discover what happened to the more than 700 space colonies that left earth in the late 2000s right before the big war that destroyed the planet, all but for a handful, relatively speaking,  who survived.

And, OMG!, they do find a bunch of these lost colonies, each one a separate theme, like the feminist enclave where everybody is butt naked, along the lines of the Amazon women theme, one is a religious group who split off into two sects and are now warring with each other, and eventually, The Father, a geneticist who is populating a huge civilization all by himself.

I hated Gulliver’s Travels and I didn’t like this one much better.  The smug moralizing disguised as parody which wasn’t particularly funny, along with the teenage boy’s wet dreams of naked women eager to have sex with a fat middle-aged awkward professor, just wasn’t for me.

Moving right along.  They can’t all be winners.

And it had such a great cover, too.

BOOGIE HOUSE by T. Blake Braddy

OK, I really loved this book.  A nice mashup of mystery, thriller, paranormal lite, and small southern town politics.

Even though it stars  a tried-and-true trope of the alcoholic cop on suspension, or maybe he was fired? I forget.  He was drunk, ran a stop sign, ploughed into an older black woman, destroying her car, but fortunately she only suffered a leg injury.

In one of his evenings along with the bottle, he wanders into the surrounding woods and finds himself at the old boogie house, a negro juke from the sixties, now abandoned and decaying.  He hears music, blues and laughter and people having fun.  He goes gingerly to the building, steps in, the halluciation stops, and he sees the beaten and tortured body of a young black man, dead a few days, in a corner.

He of course calls the police and reports it, and it turns out to be the son of the woman he T-boned.  She visits him to tell him she will speak in his favor at the court hearing for his dui, and asks him to find the killer of her son.

We meet a mojo man, more spirit apparitions, more ethereal blues music, and a desperate wannabe senator who will do anything to keep his run for congress from collapsing.

Great mystery, just enough paranormal to be interesting without being too woo woo and not credible,  just enough sad history of his own, which all twines around this current situation, and just enough likability of our trope-bound protagonist to make it a really interesting and fun read.

There are two more volumes to this series.

PROTECTOR by C. J. Cherryh

Number 14 in the foreigner series.  And the last of those I have in my possession, although not the last in the series, as there are six more to go.

It’s coming up on Cajeiri’s birthday. The boy has been promised he can have the young human children he knew from his voyage sent down from the space station for a two week stay.

But there’s far a darker business going on in the background–a major split compromising the Assassins’ Guild, which furnishes security and law enforcement to the whole continent.  Tabini’s consort’s own father has been barred from court, and may be involved in a new conspiracy against him.

For safety reasons, Tabini wants Bren and Ilisidi to take charge of Cajeiri, and protect him and his young guests. They themselves are very likely targets of whatever’s going on, no question of it. So is Cajeiri. But having the targets separated and contained is an advantage.

It’s Bren’s responsibility to entertain the guests, keep the security problem secret…and let a lonely eight-year-old prince reestablish his controversial relationship with the only other children he’s ever met…inside the best security they can manage.

So all’s well, etc, except that the birthday party hasn’t happened yet, although the kids are having a great time riding those huge horse things with tusks at the uncle’s estate, where they have all gone for security.

Another good volume, although frankly it seemed a little bit like Mz. Cherryh is getting a bit bored with it all and kind of phone it in, but I still enjoyed it anyway.