Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Dead Genius-Axel Brand

The Dead Genius
Axel Brand
Five Star, Aug 10 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9781432825140

Just after WW II in Milwaukee, pioneering forensic document examiner Armand de Trouville dies suddenly at his office desk. The cause of the sexagenarian’s death appears to be a heart attack. His lawyer Bartles, his junior business associate Potter and his part-time office assistant Winsocket tell Milwaukee Police Detective Lieutenant Joe Sonntag, an admirer of the brilliant Armand, that they know of no heirs and ask if he can investigate to see if he can locate one.

Joe finds it curious that there is no information on Armand’s life before he arrived in the city allegedly from Chicago in 1936. He is ready to give up on the inquiry that comes out of his pocket (no cost to the city) when his superior Captain Ackerman plays a hunch and assigns him to keep digging. Confused by the assignment that makes no sense especially since Ackerman’s hunches always failed, Joe investigates what happened on the night Armand died and who he was before de Trouville suddenly arrives in Milwaukee.

The latest Sonntag historical police procedural (see A Hotel Dick) is a superb investigation that provides readers a taste of late 1940s Milwaukee. The story line is leisurely paced so the audience can taste and smell the hops of the city though Joe’s senses. The twist to the search for the heir wraps up an engaging post WW II mystery.

Harriet Klausner

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