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.
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
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.