So after reading #3 in this series, The Question of the Felonious Friend last year, I was going to read the first two before the next one came out but you know what they say about the The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men, right? Gang aft agley . . . So, here it is, a few months later and the next book is out. Picking up soon after the last ended -- this time the case is a bit more personal. Not case, of course, Samuel isn't a detective, he answers questions. To be accurate (as Samuel would want), this time the question is a bit more personal. Not that Samuel cares about it, but people in his life do.
(actually, I technically can still read the first two before the book comes out -- I've got a few months, now that I think about it)
I should back up a bit, for those who didn't read what I thought of book 3 (I'll get over the slight) -- Samuel Hoenig isn't your typical mystery protagonist. He runs a business called Questions Answered -- basically, he researches things for you. A human Boolean Search. From the looks of it, this occasionally results in him playing amateur detective. As is indicated by the name of the series, Samuel finds himself on one end of the Autism Spectrum, which helps him focus on his questions, but leads to challenges on the interpersonal level.
Which is where is mother and his associate, Ms. Washburn, come in to play -- Ms. Washburn helps him through the challenges presented by the world around him (as well as helping research his answers). His mother is . . . well, his mother -- she still cooks for him, , still cares for him, pushes him to do new things, while providing a safe environment at home. He has a friend, Mike (no known last name), a taxi driver with some military experience that he relies on when things get sticky. And things get pretty sticky this time around.
Samuel's father left home when Samuel was a kid, he always assumed it was because he was such a difficult child. He never let this define him -- or affect him at all (as far as he's aware). But now, his mother receives a letter from him, and it distresses her. So she asks Samuel the question that she's probably been wanting to ask for a while, "Where is your father living now?" The question is not emotionally wrought for Samuel, but he can tell it is for his mother (and Ms. Washburn keeps trying to make it into something that matters to Samuel).
What Samuel does get emotional about is what this question makes him do -- leave home. Get on an airplane, travel to California, sleep on a strangers bed, ride in a car that he is unfamiliar with, eat at restaurants he's never heard of, deal with LA traffic -- and much more. In the midst of all that, Samuel and Ms. Washburn begin to suspect that his father is mixed up in something nefarious, and potentially dangerous.
The story is really strong, and more complex than I'd assumed it would be. In the last book, Samuel was dealing with other people on the Spectrum or their families. This time, there's none of that -- just strangers who are unused to interacting with people like him and who have no patience. Which serves as a good challenge for Samuel to overcome. There is real character growth evident in this book -- it's not the same kind of growth you expect to see in most books -- because Samuel isn't like most protagonists. But it is there -- and really, he makes some pretty big strides here. It's nice to see him not be treated as static, but someone who can make choices, can evolve.
Once again, Samuel isn't treated as a bag of symptoms or tics, he isn't made a paragon of anything. He's an individual who has to do some things the rest of the populace don't consider. There are some lighter moments in the book, but none of them are at Samuel's expense, just human foibles.
The Question of the Absentee Father is another strong outing for Samuel and his team -- as well as for E.J. Copperman. For those who like a mystery on on the cozy side, with some strong characters, this is the one for you.
Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Midnight Ink via NetGalley in exchange for this post -- thanks to both for this.