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Murder in the Museum of Man (1997)

por Alfred Alcorn

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885312,648 (3.28)9
Dean Cranston Fessing, dispatched from Wainscott University to investigate the finances of the neighbouring Museum of Man, has been murdered. Not only that, but his grisly remains bear the unmistakable mark of preparation as haute cuisine. Norman de Ratour, museum recording secretary and unlikely sleuth, sets out to uncover a bubbling cauldron of clues in this hilarious satire of academic life and contemporary social issues, a stew of murder, cannibalism, political posturing and high camp.… (mais)
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Mostrando 5 de 5
Murder in the Museum of Man is the first-person journal of Norman de Ratour, a fusspot Recording Secretary in the museum's administration team. The narrative is overall charming, with flashes of farce that serve to show Alcorn isn't taking things too seriously. I quite enjoyed this first book in the series, and will be picking up the second I'm sure! ( )
  391 | Mar 16, 2012 |
Lots and lots of style, based on a riveting presentation of the foibles of academe. And lots and lots of fun. Qua murder mystery, it's a bit formulaic, but the murder isn't really the point here. ( )
  annbury | Sep 5, 2010 |
love it! ( )
  hearthside | Mar 6, 2009 |
In which we meet Norman De Ratour, Recording Secretary at the Museum of Man in Seaboard, adjacent to Wainscott College, which he fears is attempting to take control of the museum. Norman narrates the story, telling us that, "Above all I do not with to be querulous," then proceeding to demonsrate the term in an exemplary fashion.

As the book opens we learn that Dean Cranston Fessing has gone missing, just one of several alarming items that Mr. De Ratour catalogs for us. Various aspects of the management and activities of the MOM have offended his sensibilities. Much of the book is spent giving us a detailed,
humorous look into Norman's mind.

Before many pages have passed, we find that Dean Fessing
has been not only murdered but apparently cannibalized.
Norman tells us that the coroner took "unseemly relish" in relating some of the details of the autopsy, but Norman does not scruple to inform us that "the dean's buttocks, it appears, were baked with a cinnamon honey glaze" and more salubrious details of the dean's final disposition. Norman sees the police investigation into the dean's death going nowhere, and that combined with his annoyance at other goings-on leads him to conduct his own investigation.

During the course of the story we see repeated parodies of scholarly specializations and the forms of political correctness that pervade academe. I believe restraint in depicting these scenes would be a failing, and Alcorn shows none at all, and so he gets away with this form of humor for the most part. Perhaps, like me, you didn't know that communal defecation may have been an early form of prayer.

Alcorn creates a distinctive narrative voice for Norman, who details the birds in his garden, his pique at the lack of respect for museum traditions, etc. For me the tone got pretty tiresome before things started to change more than half way through. At that point the story proceeds more satisfactorily, as Norman develops a bit of a backbone and events build toward a climax. The book is not a traditional mystery, in that its focus is much more strongly on Norman than on solving the crime, but if you can put up with his
querulousness and the slow pace of the book's first half,
and appreciate the parodic intervals, enjoyment can be found.
I'm hoping that the sequel will give us more humor and
detecting and a little less of Norman's idiosyncracies. ( )
  Jim53 | Jan 31, 2009 |
A wonderful little mystery about cannibalism in a college-affiliated natural history museum (loosely based upon Harvard). What makes it great is the narration in journal form by the old fuddy-duddy and often catty Norman De Ratour. With his prim observations on internal politics in the museum and self-aggrandization of his duties as recording secretary, its easy to forget there's a murder mystery going on. Yet, he does manage to grow and change as a character facing extraordinary challenges. Add to this a lot of comic detail from outrageous board meetings to lab chimps run wild, and you've got a pretty fun read.

"I can't help thinking sometimes that the past is as full of hazards as the future. Perhaps that is why we have museums: to organize, label, and tame the past, lest it rear up and devour us." - p. 188 ( )
  Othemts | Jun 25, 2008 |
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Dean Cranston Fessing, dispatched from Wainscott University to investigate the finances of the neighbouring Museum of Man, has been murdered. Not only that, but his grisly remains bear the unmistakable mark of preparation as haute cuisine. Norman de Ratour, museum recording secretary and unlikely sleuth, sets out to uncover a bubbling cauldron of clues in this hilarious satire of academic life and contemporary social issues, a stew of murder, cannibalism, political posturing and high camp.

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