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If this were a movie, I’d describe it as Cocoon meets Pi, or maybe Miss Marple meets Pi. Of course, it’s not a movie, it’s a well-written murder mystery at a senior’s home with a dose of Jewish mysticism. It starts with a senior citizen killed (by going out a window, thus giving rise to the use of the word ‘defenestration’ throughout the novel). Homicide or suicide? A resident of the retirement home is determined to find out. Claire (our Miss Marple) enlists the help of her neighbour, a retired cop, and her friend, a retired professor. There are other mysteries and murders woven into this one and connections and secret past s are revealed. The Jewish mysticism? You’ll have to read it yourself, I don’t want to spoil anything. Again, I say skilled writing, but with a tendency to…prattle on? wander? Ah, but our narrator is a senior. So, it fits. However, the voice becomes tiresome at times. The phrase ‘I mean’ is used far too often. Although, it is also very clever–I’m torn. (“Any policeman’s dream is to make Homicide. I mean to join the department, not fabricate murder.” “Agnes’ room was a miniature museum. I mean a museum of miniatures.”)

See? Good stuff, but peppered throughout the entire novel. I enjoyed The Humbugs Diet, I did. However, I honestly can’t think of anyone I’d recommend this book to. I found it a little too academic at times (but then I had to go to the dictionary to determine the difference between the Talmud and the Torah). The plot is intriguing, Majzels succeeds at keeping you interested, and he can spin a pretty piece of prose that carries weight and insight. The main character says of his age: “…it was not the sin of vanity that had stopped me counting the years, but rather sloth.” Describing an old woman: “And she wore that bright red lipstick that frightens small children and young men.” Yes! I have been frightened of those women wearing that lipstick! (Mitch Adams)

by Robert Majzels, $18.95, 176 pgs, The Mercury Press, Box 672, Station P, Toronto, ON, M5S 2Y4

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