Book Reviews: The Fire Dance by Helene Tursten and The Question of the Missing Head by E.J. Copperman

The Fire DanceThe Fire Dance
An Inspector Irene Huss Investigation #6
Helene Tursten
Translated by Laura A. Wideburg
Soho Crime, January 2014
ISBN: 978-1-61695-010-1
Hardcover

Fifteen years is a long time between police investigations involving the same person, but that is what Inspector Irene Huss finds as she investigates the death of a young woman, Sophie, who as an eight-year-old girl was suspected of arson in the death of her stepfather when their house burned down. What is so striking in the present is that Sophie was burned to death.

The novel proceeds basically in fits and starts, as Irene and the rest of the Gotberg Murder Squad encounter other cases taking up time, and as she seeks either a clue to the past, as well as the present, or inspiration. Sophie had grown up to be a choreographer and dancer who created a dance called, naturally, The Fire Dance, which debuts posthumously to great acclaim.

As in the previous five installments in the series, Irene juggles her police duties with family life, her gourmet chef husband and twin daughters who now exhibit minds of their own in relation to their interests and boyfriends. This portrayal makes Irene a sympathetic, and somewhat harried, character. But she prevails somehow in both roles. At the same time, the author manages to move a crime story forward subtly with panache.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, August 2014.

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The Question of the Missing HeadThe Question of the Missing Head
An Asperger’s Mystery #1
E.J. Copperman/Jeff Cohen
Midnight Ink, October 2014
ISBN: 978-0-7387-4151-2
Trade Paperback

Samuel Hoenig, the protagonist and first-person narrator in this newest book by E.J. Copperman, 29 years old and still living with his mother, opened Questions Answered, in Piscataway, New Jersey, three months ago as our story opens. His first client of the day is one Janet Washburn, who quickly becomes his invaluable colleague, assisting him in handling his second client of the day, one Dr. Marshall Ackerman, proprietor of Garden State Cryonics Institute, in North Brunswick, where they freeze the body, or just the cranium, “of people who have just died in the hope that someday there will be a means to reanimate them and cure their disease.” Dr. Ackerman’s problem is quite unique: One of the facility’s heads is missing. Since any job requires that a specific query must be posed, Dr. Ackerman asks “Who stole one of our heads?” Daunting as this is from the outset, it becomes only more so when the three go to the facility in question, and a dead body is found in the room in which the head was stored.

The novel displays equal amounts of the usual components of this author’s writing: suspense and humor.   But perhaps one of the most intriguing things about this particular book has to do with the character of Samuel, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, which Samuel believes is not a disorder, but merely a “facet of his personality.”  No one questions his intellect, which borders on brilliance.  He tends to be obsessive about some things, e.g., the Beatles and the New York Yankees (there is a priceless paragraph about baseball as a sport).  The plotting is ingenious, and I devoured this book in little more than twenty-four hours.  I probably don’t have to add that I loved it, and it is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, October 2014.