5-Stars to "The Case of the Missing Head" by either E.J. Copperman or Jeff Cohen (take your pick)

   The Question of the Missing Head is a new twist on the tired detective genre and introduces a wonderful new pair of lead characters. The detective has Asperger's Syndrome and, unlike other books, this story is told from his perspective. The author, E.J.Copperman/Jeff Cohen (who either has a pen name or a split personality) has a son with Asperger's in real life and has written two non-fiction books on the subject--including The Asperger's Parent. It's this deep knowledge of the condition that allows him to portray his lead character as a complex and  fully-drawn individual, instead of a cartoon.
    Samuel Hoenig, the proprietor of Questions Answered, may not act like everyone else, but the first-person viewpoint of the book demonstrates the logical reasons and intense self-awareness behind his every decision. Yes, there is even a good explanation for the fact he tends to jump up and run around the interrogation room in the middle of an interview.
    The other lead, Ms. Washburn, appears as a temporary hire staffer at Questions Answered but soon proves to have the ability to understand Hoenig without pitying or condescending to him that is so rare in those who work with the disabled (a term that Hoenig justifiably dislikes.) She acts as a simultaneous translator between  the world that Samuel Hoenig constantly struggles to understand and the delightfully rational world that he inhabits.
   The nice thing is that it's not all sugar-coated either. Hoenig is extremely self-aware of his condition but that doesn't mean that he can escape all the drawbacks: inability to deal with loud noises, misunderstanding others' motives, and more. It's a real picture of a real person.
     OK, OK. They are neat characters but the book is more than that. The mystery is excellent, the minor characters clever and well-developed and the physical thrills and chills at the end are as good as it gets.If you don't believe that Samuel Hoenig can fend for himself in our alien world, you will when you get to the end.
     I managed to score an advanced review copy as I was trying to prepare for a book convention. Luckily, I hit The Question of the Missing Head first and didn't stop reading--all the other books ended up unread. It was well worth it, Cohen/Cotterman pulls you into his story and into the very different mind of his protagonist with an ease that is as cool and professional as the way James Lee Burke delivers the simmering anger and pain in alcoholic detective Dave Robicheaux or Tony Hillerman reveals the completely different worldview of a Navajo shaman. 
    Yeah, I want to read more of Hoenig and Washburn. I'm sure that after this strong a debut, that's not going to be a problem. It's an excellent book and I highly recommend it. not because the lead has a different kind of mind but because it's a damn good detective story.
     AND, because the detective has an extremely interesting kind of mind.

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