The Question of the Missing Head, by E. J. Copperman and Jeff Cohen (Midnight Ink, 2014)
What is your favorite
Beatles song? This is one of the first questions that Samuel Hoenig asks his
clients. He finds it gives him
added insight into a person's character. One thing Samuel needs is a bit of
help when relating to other people. But who doesn't? It’s just that Samuel is
what is known as "on the spectrum." He was diagnosed with Asperger's almost immediately
after the condition was officially designated in scientific terms.
doesn't consider it a mental illness; rather, he is convinced that it is merely a
personality trait that hinders him in communicating and relating to
others. In his view, this is a
quality that is evident when most strangers interact. Asperger's also provides
him with certain tendencies, which he finds very useful. Even though some might
consider him odd, Samuel is sure that he behaves most rationally.
Samuel's main forte is his
ability to research and gather information––mostly over the Internet. At the
suggestion of his supportive mother, he opened his own business in Piscataway,
New Jersey, appropriately named Questions Answered. He has a slow, steady stream of clients, the latest of whom is a gambler who wants to make wagers related to the fact that different wind
currents might change the possibility of hitting an out-of-the-park home run at
When Janet Washburn calls Questions
Answered, she only hopes for the answer to a crossword puzzle clue, but she
finds herself asked to come to the office and help Samuel solve the baseball problem––in return for her answer. Janet, a laid-off news journal photographer, follows
her instincts and is drawn into an unexpected adventure because, shortly after
her arrival, another new client shows up at the door.
He is Marshall Ackermann
(favorite Beatle tune: Eleanor Rigby; pretentious, terrified of death and sees himself as
lonely), the head of the Garden State Cryonics Institute. This is a facility
where people hoping for a better, gentler future have put their mortal remains
in suspended animation with the help of liquid nitrogen.
Apparently, when the bodies
of the customers are prepared for the freezing process, their heads are kept
separately from their torsos and extremities. Ackerman is in a dither because
one of his most important heads is missing. Samuel enlists Janet's help on this
case as well and, before the investigation begins in earnest, they find the body
of one of the doctors at the institute in one of the container rooms. Samuel realizes
almost immediately that this is a case of murder.
When the police arrive, they
are a bit blinded by science and Detective Lapides (Help; energetic, articulate, possibly sees himself as a victim, aware
of his own limitations) appreciates Hoenig's help.
Hampered by Charlotte (You Know My Name, Look Up The Number; complete and utter lunatic), who refers to herself as a citizen journalist, and sometimes by both Washburn
and Lapides, the sleuthing duo––in
total ignorance of the fact that they too are in danger––sort through the
suspects and the motives.
Authors Copperman and Cohen appear to be two sides of the same
coin; one author writing under two different pen names, each of which has different
Copperman has written several mystery series, all of which take
place in New Jersey and all of which are
humorous cozies. Jeff Cohen, on the other hand, has written about Asperger's syndrome. When this dimorphic personality works together, the
results are like two outs on an
infield fly, which is something unexpected and extraordinary, because you have
to fool the umpire.
moves at a rapid pace and the excitement mounts slowly and nicely to a credible, complex twist at the end. The humor is much more subtle than in some of
Copperman's series, where he is labeled "King of the Zingers." Samuel's unusual perspective and his interpretations
are so discerning that I couldn't help but laugh frequently, mostly at myself
because I hadn't appreciated the irrationality of some of the things we all say
If you enjoyed the Rosie
books by Graeme Simsion, you might enjoy this book. Samuel's interests are
police procedures, baseball and the Beatles. His favorite song is
Strawberry Fields Forever. It is one of my favorites but the top of my Beatles list is In My Life. What's yours?