I first stumbled upon The Question of the Missing Head in our local mystery bookshop several years ago. It was the first in a new mystery series where the main character and lead detective was a man with Asperger's Syndrome. This fall saw the publication of the fourth book in the series, The Question of the Absentee Father, and I have to say that this series just keeps getting better.
Samuel Hoenig runs a small business called Questions Answered, where he does just that--he answers people's questions. Growing up with Asperger's, he learned that a traditional job would be very difficult for him, but his independence and his ability to research a subject thoroughly could be assets in the right small business. So he found an office and hung out a shingle. An early customer, Ms. Washburn, came in to ask a question of him and ended up becoming an associate. Now Samuel and Ms. Washburn help people get their questions answered, their research taken care of, and their strangest mysteries solved.
This latest question hits close to home though, literally, after Samuel's mother gets a mysterious letter from Samuel's father, a man who had left them 27 years before. Although his mother had heard from the man occasionally through the years, she hadn't kept up with his moves, and she'd never asked for a divorce. So Samuel's next question is from his mother: "Where is your father?"
Samuel has a difficult time leaving home because of his Asperger's, or changing his routine in any way really, but in order to find the answer that his mother wants, he is willing to go all the way to California to try to find his father. While Samuel seems unaffected by his personal relationship with the father he barely remembers, he still has to face a very difficult journey to get to his mother's answer and to find answers about his own history.
Samuel is an unusual hero. His Asperger's gives him different skills and challenges than your average neurotypical amateur detective, which accounts for almost all of his charm. He is smart enough to see what he doesn't easily understand and knows how to get help for those areas where his skills are seen as lacking. He lets his colleague Ms. Washburn elicit emotional information from others while observing what he sees in the situation. The combination of the social intelligence and the intellectual information means that the Questions Answered team work well together in getting to the answers. It's a brilliant and winning combination.
Author E. J. Copperman/Jeff Cohen is a respected author of mysteries and an authority on Asperger's Syndrome, so he knows what he writes about. And like I said, these Asperger's mysteries just keep getting better. While my local mystery bookshop is no longer with us, I'm glad that we still have strong authors who are willing to share some of their personal journeys with us through entertaining stories. I very much recommend this series to anyone who is personally touched by the Autism Spectrum, to those who want to know more about Asperger's or other atypical neurological syndromes, and to everyone who just loves a good mystery novel.
Galleys for The Question of the Absentee Father were provided by Midnight Ink through NetGalley, with many thanks.