Thursday, January 12, 2012
FFB: The Mummy Case Mystery - Dermot Morrah
A fire occurs in the rooms of Peter Benchley, professor of Egyptology, where a newly purchased mummy was being temporarily stored. The fire completely destroys his room and only one body is found inside, charred beyond recognition. The only items that can be found to identify the body are a wristwatch and a set of keys. Denys Sargent, law professor, is not satisfied with the university's quick decision to settle the matter by calling it an accident and voting that Benchley be formally named as the charred corpse. He wonders if the body is Benchley's, then what happened to the mummy? And if the body is really the mummy, then where did Benchley go? And could Benchley's rival, the Russian Egyptologist Feodor Bonoff, have something to do with the fire that is all too suspicious? Sargent and his pal Humphrey Considine, ancient Assyria professor, set out to discover the answers to these riddles and more.
Of the many academic mysteries out there this is one of the best from the Golden Age. Satiric, clever, with a very dry British humor - they don't seem to write them like this anymore. And I doubt you will find a better book that mixes crime and universities where the motives of the culprit are so thoroughly intellectual that only a professor could dream up such a scheme.
Luckily, this is one of the rare instances where you can buy a cheap copy of the book. The Mummy Case Mystery was reissued in a paperback edition by Harper's Perennial Library in 1988 and a handful of copies are available from multiple online dealers.