OLD WAYS IN THE NEW WORLD by Richard Timothy Conroy


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Accustomed as he is to zany goings-on at the Smithsonian, beleaguered foreign-affairs officer Henry Scruggs (Mr. Smithson's Bones, 1993, etc.) meets his match when he hosts 37 members of the K'ng-Gui tribe for the Bicentennial Folklore Festival. His guests make themselves at home by building a fire on an airport runway, bringing crates of forbidden bugs and grass into the country, and urinating en masse on anyone who just says no. Meantime, Henry's getting unexpected help with pestilential African musicologist Cedric Mahute, who's married Lolita-ish Bitsy Cross in order to clinch his green card: Somebody obligingly kills Cedric, freezes him, and plants his body where the K'ng-Gui are sure to find and eat it. There'll be many more adventures -- the birth of a talismanically six-fingered infant, a cooking fire that rages through the museum, the escape of the insatiable cloth-eating devil bugs, who chomp their way through DC -- before Henry, rescued from protective custody by his sometime lover Phoebe Casey, is ready to sit down and unmask the murderer. A bargain for connoisseurs of comic mysteries: Beneath the knockabout farce is a byzantine puzzle guaranteed to leave you both baffled and itchy.

Pub Date: June 15th, 1994
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: St. Martin's