Guggenmoose presents a campus mystery involving theft, murder and ancient Rome.
The Department of Pontifical and Pathological Philology at Life of the Mind University is the peaceful, if wordy, home to graduate students Morty Guggenmoose and his classmates. But that serenity is shattered when rare coins go missing from the Louis T. and Ernest R. Pfumpfermeister Museum and student Alvy Barg is accused of the crime. Visiting professor Gabriel Dewfinger thinks the young scholar is innocent, but when he catches Barg standing over the body of the recently deceased museum director Edler Nooken, Dewfinger accuses him of something far worse than pilfering ancient Roman currency. But who is responsible for the thefts? And who murdered Nooken? Guggenmoose and his colleagues—including Wilbur “Mashie” Micklechuck, a promising philologist threatening to decamp to business school—must get to the bottom of it while simultaneously decoding Horace’s odes and preparing a paper on his use of ablatives for the upcoming Regional Graduate Student Latin Conference. Guggenmoose, the main character and ostensibly the story’s author, is witty, acerbic and, naturally, verbose. At its best, his prose evokes midcentury campus comedies of manners; at its most grating, readers are reminded of impenetrable classroom lectures. The story seems to be set in Chicago, but we’re never quite sure of the era. The dialogue is stilted, but ultimately clever. And the story moves apace; the mystery propels the narrative and theclassics lessons about Roman numismatics and Latin literature entertain as well as educate. Overall, once the reader settles into the book’s idiosyncratic rhythms, the tale is quite engrossing. It’s a mystery on many levels; readers wonder what becomes of the story’s characters and who could be behind this anachronistic prose. Life of the Mind University may be a school readers want to enroll in again and again.
Loquacious but enjoyable.