A tightly plotted debut mystery that mixes foul play, wordplay, and humor.
The jokes start right away. Jonathan Tucker wakes up with “her” in his bed, but “she” is his faithful dog, Nip. Together, they are Nip and Tuck. He's a widower who in his grief walked away from his former Manhattan law firm, Winston Barr & Trombley. Now senior partner Evan Trombley wants him back because Ben Baum is dead of an apparent heart attack. Baum had headed Ozone Industries, the law firm’s biggest client, and he left behind a strange precatory letter containing Tolkien-style runes and a prediction of his “murder most foul” committed by an unspecified person close to him. Baum’s letter leaves behind a set of puzzles, all relating to his favorite books. He loved classics such as The Hobbit, The Wizard of Oz, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and that contributes to the novel’s light tone. Tuck’s consulting assignment is to “discreetly ferret out” information to help the firm decide how to proceed with Baum’s will. Tuck’s pay is $200,000 per month for up to three months, an amount that doesn’t appear to surprise him in the least. He attends Baum’s funeral in London at the request of Baum’s daughter, Dorothy. The decedent turns out to have been “a bit of an aging hippie” who had argued with what a colleague called his “gypsy whore” on the day of his death. The author’s fun shows through with Tuck’s constant indulgence inventing new collective nouns: “a joint of osteopaths, a rash of dermatologists, a stream of urologists, a balance of accountants.” Many of the characters’ names come from children’s literature: Dorothy, Charlotte, and Baum, to name a few.
Often funny, always light, this one will appeal to mystery buffs who don’t require sex and gore—and to those harboring fond memories of reading J.R.R. Tolkien, L. Frank Baum, and Lewis Carroll.