Thursday, July 26, 2018

Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab, by Columbkill Noonan

Crooked Cat Books, 2017

In Victorian England, Barnabas Tew read the stories of Sherlock Holmes, and decided he would be a great detective, too. He attends university, completes his education, and then takes his small inheritance and sets up an office and home in London. He even acquires an assistant, Wilfred--who is perhaps more observant of detail and a more promising detective than Barnabas.

They don't have many successes, but they do find an Egyptian man's stolen ankh necklace. That man is happy and grateful, and might seem to be a great source of word of mouth advertising. However, he dies not long after.

His word of mouth advertising goes to Anubis, who, as it happens, does need a good detective. The scarab beetle in charge of rolling the sun around the sky has been stolen. Or kidnapped. And the Egyptian afterlife doesn't have any detectives.

So Barnabas and Wilfred are getting a crash course in the Egyptian afterlife and divine pantheon, something they both actually studied a bit--but clearly not enough--in the course of their educations.

They have some wild adventures, and it's a lot of fun. Sadly, a lot of the humor here is cringe humor--making the hero act stupid so we can laugh at him. When the object of this kind of "humor" is so clearly a good guy trying to do the right thing, I do laugh. I do, in fact, cringe. Yes, I know these are fictional characters--but if we don't care about them, why are we reading? So that we can laugh at nice guys trying to do the right thing, being made to look foolish?

Nevertheless, I persisted, and Barnabas, despite continuing to make errors due to lack of information, in some cases information deliberately withheld from him, begins to get his footing and make some progress with his investigation.

He also meets a very nice mouse lady....

I really like Barnabas, Wilfred, and some of the friends they make along the way. (Thoth, for instance, is an Egyptian god after my own heart, and Bast is, well, Bast, and really, Barnabas should have expected that...)

Once we get past the early indulgence in cringe humor, I enjoyed the book, and look forward to the next one.

I received a free electronic galley from the publisher, and am reviewing it voluntarily.