The Alpha Reads: The Question of the Unfamiliar Husband by Jeff Cohen and EJ Copperman

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Nathanielle Sean Crawford, author and blogger. Today I will be reviewing The Question of the Unfamiliar Husband, by Jeff Cohen and EJ Copperman. If you would like to read my previous review on the first book of the Asperger’s Mysteries, please click on the following highlighted text, which contains a Uniform Resource Locator that will take you directly to the post: The Question of the Missing Head.

Please be aware that this and other reviews may contain what the Internet community refers to as a spoiler. A spoiler means that I have revealed a piece of information that would not be available to you if you didn’t read the book. I don’t understand this concept, as I could not possibly depict the information exactly as the author would, so it would seem rather foolish to take my word as a reason not to purchase (or borrow, from your local library) the book and read it for yourself. But authors have a hard job, and it is courteous to see to it that you give readers of your reviews an incentive to watch or read the piece that you are reviewing.

This is pretty much the narrative style of the book, as it is told from the point of view of Samuel Hoenig, proprietor of Questions Answered. He is in his thirties, lives with and cares for his capable yet aging mother, and was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when he was sixteen. Samuel (not Sam) is not a detective, but he makes his living by utilizing his unique sense of focus, combined with encyclopedic knowledge, to answer questions from the most mundane (Crossword puzzles) to the most abstract. (See the titles)

Samuel is not what you would call a “cookie cutter” character. The writer did not take a list of traits and make sure his character ticked every box. Several times in the narrative, we see the challenges he faces in dealing with others, especially police, but the character (and by extension the author) reminds us that Samuel is just one individual with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Fortunately, he now has Janet Washburn at his side. A photographer by trade, Janet is Samuel’s only official employee, but she also quickly adopts the role of protective surrogate sister, running interference whenever Samuel’s need for routine, (like his need to be at his mother’s house for lunch) or one of his other quirks gets in the way of a healthy social encounter.

The Question of the Unfamiliar Husband starts off simply enough. A woman claims she was married under unusual circumstances. Things escalate and soon, an incompetent detective is attempting to strong arm Samuel into answering a question pertaining to the murder of the groom in question.

Not every mystery is a murder and not all murders are a mystery. With that in mind, I certainly hope that the Asperger’s Mysteries does not fall into, what I’ve begun to think of as the murder-by-numbers category. For someone like Samuel, there are so many fascinating questions that a guy like him could answer, and not every story has to end with a body count.

The only other criticism I have for this particular story is something that TVtropes might refer to as a series continuity error. This can be a problem in any series, especially if you’re on a deadline and you can’t always stop to check and make sure things line up.

In The Question of the Missing Head, Janet agrees to sign on with Questions Answered on the proviso that Samuel stock his vending machine with diet soda, as well as spring water. When he approaches her for help with answering The Question of the Unfamiliar Husband, she claims that she refuses to do so, citing the adventure (or misadventure) of the previous novel, as well as her husband’s concern for her safety.

As something of a self-proclaimed apologist, who was also diagnosed with Asperger’s, I can chalk it up to a conversation, or a change of mind being the result of events that happened “off camera”, or in the undocumented passage of time from the end of the previous book to the beginning of the first.

Once the story picks up, the oversight is forgivable. I wound up finishing it so soon after checking it out of the library, that I briefly considered creating a new category of book reviews that pertain to books that took me less than a week to read.

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