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Shell Game: A Professor Simon Shaw Mystery (Professor Simon Shaw Mysteries) Hardcover – March 6, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Shaber's brisk fifth Simon Shaw cozy (after 2004's The Bug Funeral) obliges the Raleigh, N.C., history professor to apply his forensic skills to the murder of a close friend and colleague. David Morgan, a highly regarded archeologist, is found bludgeoned to death, his notes and collection of ancient Native American artifacts missing. Morgan had sat on a committee formed to decide the fate of a 14,000-year-old Paleo-Indian skeleton: should the remains be preserved in a museum for all to study or reverently interred in Indian burial grounds? The controversy may have provided a motive for the murder. Suspects include Morgan's sister, his gorgeous assistant and various colleagues, none with alibis. Simon proves his resourcefulness after a plane crash strands him in the wilderness of North Carolina's Nantahala National Forrest. Amorous interludes lend some spice. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
History professor Simon Shaw is stunned when he learns that his good friend David Morgan has been murdered. As Simon, a "forensic historian," has experience helping the Raleigh, North Carolina, police solve old cases, he is eager to participate in the investigation of his friend's murder, but he is warned off the case. The obvious suspect is Morgan's sister, who inherits his estate, but Simon believes Morgan's involvement with a committee that is to decide the fate of Uwharrie Man, a recently discovered prehistoric skeleton, may be behind the crime. It looks like Morgan's vote would have decided whether Uwharrie Man would be studied by scientists or buried by the Lumbee Nation, and Morgan's notes are missing. Prehistoric detail--and the overarching question of what should happen to prehistoric artifacts and skeletons--frames the mystery, which centers on academic rivalry. In this fifth in the series, Shaber adds new dimension to the likable Simon by portraying his struggle to get over a failed romantic relationship. Fans of Aaron Elkins' archaeology mysteries will enjoy the prehistory milieu. Sue O'Brien
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
Cozy mystery readers who have not yet met Dr. Shaw are in for a treat. I would suggest reading the 5 books in order, because the back story will make more sense.
Professor Simon Shaw teaches undergrads at a small college in Raleigh, NC but he has gained celebrity status as a forensic historian and solving murder mysteries. When his best friend David Morgan is found dead, hunched over his computer, death and murder touches too close to home. To make matters worse, David appointed him executor of his estate. While the police focus on David's beneficiary and financial motives, Simon's instincts tell him that David's death is tied to the discovery of the Uwharrie Man, a 14,000 year old skeleton archeological find that might completely change the understanding of prehistory as well as Native American history. Only Simon seems to understand the stakes involved and the seething hotbed of jealousies and power struggles inside academia and local politics. Can Simon figure out who killed his friend and stay alive?
Sarah R. Shaber begins each chapter with a quote from famous people from Woody Allen to Voltaire, Winston Churchhill, and others about death. Often the quotes are the last words of the cited person and usually quite humorous and/or irreverent in the face of such a somber occasion. These quotes complement and contrast with Simon's actions and emotions as a friend of the murder victim. At the same time, however, these quotes give this mystery just the right tone, adding both a seriousness and lighter relief as Sarah R. Shaber's mystery looks into some of the customs, rituals and even mundane duties surrounding death from the casserole brigades to choosing clothes for the deceased and the process of insurance policies. Despite the grave topic, Sarah R. Shaber touches just the right emotional balance between Simon's grief and inane humor. As in her previous mysteries, the use of quotes guides the tone of this mystery while adding depth to the plot.
Sarah R. Shaber's gives her fans a more personal look in to her intriguing sleuth, Simon Shaw as he struggles with his grief and to make sure he honors David's last wishes and his research. David served on a committee to decide the fate of the Uwharrie Man, whether he should be reburied according to Native American burial customs according to North Carolina and federal law or be turned over for archeological study. When certain items appear missing from David's home, Simon investigates the players, trying to determine which way David's tie-breaking vote would have gone and whether anyone on the committee had a motive for murder. As Simon begins to uncover clues, the danger mounts so that even his own life might be at stake. SHELL GAME creates a moving and sometimes humorous portrait of friendship. David's sister adds both a moving and practical side to effects of death of relatives as well as their actions and concerns. This portrait of current day death customs compliments the discussion of Native American burial customs and honoring the dead. At times, the contrast between the two can be humorous with just a touch of sadness that modern day burial rites often diverge from the person's culture and wishes.
Sarah R. Shaber does an excellent job at showing the interconnections and implications of academic research and the kinds of ramifications one theory might have outside of academics as politicians and Native American burial claims come into conflict. The addition of David's sister in the fray takes the death down to the family level. SHELL GAME differs slightly in tone than the kind of supernatural atmosphere of THE BUG FUNERAL with its question of reincarnation. Those who loved THE BUG FUNERAL, however, will find the same multi-layered approach to murder mysteries as Simon's person and profession converge to give the reader an intriguing glimpse into death customs. Academicians and others will love this author's ever so accurate and humorous portrayal of academia (at least some parts of it) with its contrast between Simon Shaw, a man dedicated to teaching, and some of the prima donna researchers who would never deign to actually teach. Whether you are a Tar Heel native, a relocated North Carolinian, tourist or just a mystery lover, Sarah R. Shaber's Simon Shaw mysteries are a treat not to be missed!
The victim's sister comes in for the funeral and learns she is coming into more money than she anticipated. She makes no pretense of her happiness because her husband is an invalid and she has to work to support him and their three children. Her alibi doesn't check out but Simon is convinced his friends death is related the pending decisions as to the bones of the Uwharrie man. The acadenics want to examine to find out if the first settlers on the continent weren't those who crossed the Bering Strait. Additionally the Lumbee tribe wants the bones on the fourteen thousand year old skeleton buried. Simon decides to ignore Otis' warning and investigate.
SHELL GAME is a fascinating academic mystery as the hero uses the techniques of a teacher to conduct an investigation. Police have used his knowledge in the past to solve cold cases, but this time Simon is emotionally involved, enabling readers to see how hard it is for him to separate his feelings from the investigation. The fact that he can do so makes him an admirable man who makes a believable sleuth. The debate between academics and the Native Americans enhances a totally fascinating whodunit.