At my request, the Salem Public Library ordered The Question of the Felonious Friend. On September 23rd, I was the first library patron to borrow the book. This morning of the 26th, approximately six hours before writing this post, I finished reading the third book of the Asperger’s Mysteries.
“Quickly, why isn’t chess an Olympic event?”
The manager stared, blankly at first, then answered, “Because chess is more intellectual.”
Her tone was even, professional, the way she would likely have responded to any customer’s questions, no matter how strange. From her response, I inferred a low opinion of chess players and athletes (More on that in another post, maybe).
Why did I ask her such a cryptic question? Because, a few months earlier, I read E.J. Copperman’s interview in Mystery Scene, a magazine for readers and writers of crime fiction. It was there, just a short while before reading The Question of the Missing Head, that I learned of the main character, Samuel Hoenig’s tactic of gaining insight about someone by asking them about their favorite Beatles song.
(Until Word of God says otherwise, I assume that no two people who respond with “Help” give the same impression. But as Sue Grafton had 26 letters to work with, The Beatles have a long and storied history of music that will keep this from being an issue anytime soon.)
So, inspired by this bit of trivia, I devised a question of my own that I also asked another employee of the same lesser known sporting goods store, though I can’t remember that woman’s response as of yet. I’m sure I came to some conclusion, however it’s not relevant at this time.
One of the things readers will notice in this series is that the flow of the story will periodically stop so that Samuel can educate the reader on some aspect of Asperger’s Syndrome. Sometimes this happens at such random an inappropriate times that it actually takes the reader out of the story. This will no doubt become a focal point for many critical reviewers, and if this story was in the third person I would object to it as a reader. However, since this story is told in the first person, from the point of view of an adult man who needed quite a bit of social training and professional assistance just to get where he is today, these narrative breaks are essentially an aspect of his character and it can be forgiven.
There are a couple of technical goofs that the editor must have missed. One narrative hiccup confused me at first, until I waved my magical apology hand and decided there was a precedent within the story for such an occurrence, whether or not Copperman/Cohen intended it as such.
Although the main mystery is a lot less convoluted than The Question of the Unfamiliar Husband I was disappointed when someone was murdered. Not all of the questions Samuel answers have ended with a body count, but for the purposes of keeping a reader entertained, the author probably doesn’t have too many options. Still, it might behoove the good author to keep in mind what people have long speculated (sometimes in humor, other times not so much) about the famous Miss Marple. And since all three questions that have ended in Samuel facing mortal injury started coming through the door once his partner, Janet Washburn arrived, I have no doubt readers will eventually start eyeballing her with similar scrutiny.
Joking aside, it was well worth the read. A lot of my usual reactions to stories of this nature are in how the author interprets Asperger’s Syndrome. It helps to know that the author is experienced in this subject and that he has also gone on record as saying that no two people with the “disorder” are alike. At times Samuel experiences traits that I myself have never had difficulty with. Other times I feel like he is my fictional counterpart and indeed one of the three characters who define me.