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Memory Book: A Benny Cooperman Detective Novel (Benny Cooperman Mysteries) Paperback – December 20, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Engel's 11th Benny Cooperman mystery (The Cooperman Variations, etc.) is notable because it's the Canadian author's first novel since 2000, when a small stroke left him with a rare disorder that rendered him able to write but unable to read. His PI hero suffers from the same ailment as he wakes from a recurring dream about a train wreck to find himself in a Toronto hospital. It turns out Benny has been in a coma for eight weeks after being found in a Dumpster near the university with a near-fatal blow to the head—next to the body of a young female professor, dead of a similar head trauma. Using a small notebook in which he jots things as they occur to him—a memory book—Benny and girlfriend Anna Abraham reconstruct his most recent case. An anonymously sent basket of roses triggers the name Rose or Rosie, while the sudden disappearance of a student and a prominent faculty member suggests conspiracy. Engel is better on the mechanics of Benny's disorder, and on his laborious recovery process, than he is at creating sleuthful suspense. Benny's vividness, and that of a variety of incidental characters, carries the book. (Jan.)
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From Booklist

In this new novel, Engel's first book in several years, private investigator Benny Cooperman wakes up in a Toronto hospital. He's taken a blow to the head, he's told, and he now has a rare condition called alexia sine agraphia, which affects the memory and the ability to read (although not the ability to write). From his hospital ward, Benny solves his toughest case yet: finding out how he got there, and who put him there, and why. He also tries to come to terms with his life-altering affliction. While it's a typical Cooperman novel in many ways, the book is also something altogether new for its author: an exploration of his own life. In 2000, Engel suffered a stroke that left him with alexia sine agraphia; his fear, confusion, and sheer frustration permeate the novel, and many of the feelings Benny expresses are Engel's own. The novel could have turned into something maudlin, but Engel keeps the tone remarkably light and breezy. Compelling reading for Cooperman's legion of fans. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Benny Cooperman Mysteries
  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Carroll & Graf (December 20, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786717173
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786717170
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #949,428 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Judy McMullan on August 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
When I heard about Howard Engel's stroke, I assumed that I would never see Benny Cooperman again. However, this author has done the seemingly impossible and given us another great story.
Memory Book is different from the other Cooperman novels because Benny has been afflicted with alexia, like Engel. Thus, quite a bit of time is spent with Benny in the hospital, learning how to cope with his altered abilities. However, Benny is just as nosy, persistent and peculiarly charming as ever. He enlists his visitors onto his sleuthing team. The mystery unravels alongside Benny's therapy.
We get to see some old, favourite characters and - of course - some new ones. Engel is a master at painting characters with details that leave you feeling you've met them somewhere before. Former Cooperman fan or not, I recommend you spend some time with Benny and his friends as they help to unravel the mystery and have some laughs along the way.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Librarian VINE VOICE on November 14, 2010
Format: Paperback
Benny Goodman, private investigator, feels the train leaving the tracks. He sees objects flying everywhere, then a suitcase coming toward him. The next thing he sees are the white walls of his hospital room. But he didn't get hit on the head in a train wreck; he got hit on the head in an alley in Toronto and left for dead alongside another poor soul who wasn't as lucky. But all he remembers is the train wreck that never happened. And the blow to the head in the alley he can't remember has left him with a rare condition, "alexia sine agraphia," where he can write but cannot read--written words are just a jumble of marks without meaning. He knows he must have been working a case, but what case? Who was his client? What was he doing in the alley? Who tried to kill him and did they still want him dead? If he can't remember, how can he find out?

Howard Engel's latest entry in the Benny Goodman series is unique in crime fiction as Engel wrote this work after a stroke that left him in the same condition as his character--no small achievement for a writer who could no longer read the pages he had just written. So "Memory Book" becomes somewhat of a reversed locked-room mystery where, instead of the murder occurring in a locked room, the detective is locked in a hospital without normal access to the crime scene and witnesses. Benny must use what few clues he has about what has happened to infer the answers to the mystery

"Memory Book" is a very enjoyable cozy detective story. Benny exhibits a good sense of humor about his condition, and his observations about hospital life and patients can make you chuckle out loud. Even though the scene where Benny unveils the murderer taunt's your willingness to suspend disbelief, you can forgive him because he's just so darn likeable. I'm looking forward to meeting the former Benny Goodman in his earlier cases, before he got the dent in his brain.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Darcia Helle VINE VOICE on October 2, 2010
Format: Paperback
Prior to reading this book, I had never heard of Howard Engel. Therefore, I knew nothing about him as an author prior to this book or his condition during the writing of this one. The afterword explains it all but I won't give that away here. I went into the story blind, no preconceptions, and I'm glad I did.

This is more like an old-fashioned, Sherlock Holmes-type mystery, rather than the typical intricate, fast-paced mystery of today. Benny Cooperman, the detective and narrator, has a brain injury and does most of his detecting from the brain injury ward in the hospital. While some might consider this story slow due in part to the lack of movement, I found it entertaining and enjoyed every word.
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