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Howard Engel

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Memory Book (2005)
Getting Away With Murder (2002)
My Brother's Keeper (2002)
The Cooperman Variations (2001)
Crimes of Passion: An Unblinking Look at   Murderous Love (2001)
Murder in Montparnasse: A Mystery of   Literary Paris (1999)

Mr. Doyle and Dr. Bell (1997)
Lord High Executioner: An Unashamed Look   at Hangmen, Headsmen and Their Kind   (1996)
There Was an Old Woman (1993)
Dead and Buried (1990)

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Memory Book

Benny Cooperman is a mild mannered private investigator and a nice Jewish boy with a penchant for egg salad sandwiches. But Benny is not quite himself when he awakens in a Toronto hospital room with no memory of how he got there. He’s told that his problem is a result of the condition, alexia sine agraphia, courtesy of a vicious blow to the head. When Benny finds out that he was brutally beaten and left for dead in a dumpster beside a murdered woman, he sets out to recover his memory and reconstruct who was after him and why.

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Getting Away With Murder

From Library Journal
Three hoods abduct private investigator Benny Cooperman in the middle of the night and take him to see Abe Wise, Canada's most infamous unconvicted crook. Someone wants Wise dead, so Wise, using what has worked for him in the past, forces Benny to discover a name. Chief on the suspect list are Wise's two ex-wives (one alcoholic and one snobby) and two children (both spoiled), but Benny also interrogates Wise's old friend, his second-in-command, and a police contact. Pretty straightforward plotting, then, as well as direct prose, and a slight-but-steady whiff of Canadian atmosphere. A pleasant read for fans of the series.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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My Brother's Keeper
written with Eric Wright

From Amazon.ca
This short, engaging mystery brings together two of the great crime solvers of Canadian literature: Howard Engel's somewhat bumbling private investigator, Benny Cooperman, and Eric Wright's smooth, retiring police detective, Charlie Salter. When Dr. John Davidson Horner, the chief of staff at Toronto's Rose of Sharon Hospital, disappears, Benny Cooperman is brought into the case by his brother Sam, a surgeon at the hospital, who feels he might be implicated in a yet-to-be-published memoir Horner has written that exposes the sins of a number of staff. Horner is considered a bit of an odd duck: old- fashioned, highly moral and slightly racist, single, living alone with his spinster sister. Unlikely that he has run off to the Bahamas with a young nurse.

Chapters alternate between Cooperman (in the first person) and Salter (in the third person), as they head for a combined resolution of the mystery of Horner's vanishing. Considering the book had four hands working it over, the style is surprisingly seamless, with Engel/Cooperman's wry humour much in evidence, along with Wright/Salter's gentle intelligence. The dialogue is punchy and the plot sufficiently contorted with several intriguing twists near the end. Once a plot has been established, detective fiction is all about character, and these are two of the more likable characters in the genre. You know you're hearing the voice of experience when Benny Cooperman says, "Over the years I've discovered that the number of answers you get often depends on the number and quality of the questions you ask." Cooperman and Salter still know how to ask the right questions. --Mark Frutkin

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The Cooperman Variations

From Amazon.ca
Benny Cooperman's favourite lunch counter and diner have closed down and the fittings have been sold to Americans. The nation mourns the accidental death of its greatest artist, cellist Dermot Keogh. It's April and there's already a heat wave. Things are just not the way they used to be.

Alas, not just the plots and settings have changed in Howard Engel's 10th Benny Cooperman mystery. While Canada's favourite fictional detective is still his smart-alecky but unsophisticated self ("Dim Sum may be unknown in Grantham, Mr. Cooperman, but we in Toronto have had it for nearly forty years"), his talents seem washed out, if not washed up, in this nasty little mystery set in the high-tech, high-pressure world of a Toronto TV station far up the road from his native Grantham. All the stock figures are there: the former high school love goddess who calls at the detective's office wondering if she's in the path of a killer, the small-town lawyer, the slobbish cops, the heavies in dark glasses. What's missing are the gritty small-town ambience and naked class antagonisms that drive best hard-boiled detective fiction, including Engel's early novels. Burdened with the bland homogeneity of the contemporary city and with convoluted literary references, the tale becomes progressively less gripping. In fact Cooperman hasn't been himself since 1990's Dead and Buried, when his creator first fell for the suits and the happy ending. The warning of his first sentence--"I should have seen the writing on the wall"--should have been a message to readers as well.

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Crimes of Passion: An Unblinking Look at Murderous Love

For the second time, celebrated crime-fiction writer Howard Engel turns his hand to non-fiction. This time he leads us on a riveting and spectacular journey through the murky passages of criminal law to the places where love and murder intersect.

Setting out in the nineteenth century, Engel travels from France and England to Canada and the United States, with engaging detours along the way. As he discovers, le crime passionnel, a concept originating in France, has a special place in many legal codes around the world. Someone who has suddenly or unexpectedly been betrayed by a loved and trusted partner, even in an illicit relationship, is rarely treated as a common murder.

In Crimes of Passion, Engel explores more than twenty-five classic, infamous and still unresolved cases. With the elegant flair and penetrating insight of a novelist, he brings the victims and perpetrators to life in remarkable detail. Ruth Ellis (the last woman hanged in England), OJ Simpson (the football star), Juliet Hulme (the writer Anne Perry), Jean Liger ("the hungry lover") and Jean Harris (the headmistress) are just a few of the intriguing characters you'll meet along the way.

The result is a wonderfully eclectic investigation -- complemented by more than forty illustrations and photographs -- into the strange, tragic, world of passion and murder. Love, lovers, loss, and lingering malice combine in this emotional volume, sure to thrill any crime fan or historian.

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Murder in Montparnasse: A Mystery of Literary Paris

It's autumn 1925, and a killer uncannily like England's Jack the Ripper is stalking the city streets of Paris and preying on young women. Michael Ward is a journalist newly arrived to the Left Bank. When he falls in with Jason Waddington, an expatriate American writer who introduces him to the cafe scene and his crowd of writers and artists, Ward soon discovers that Jack de Paris is not the only trouble afoot in the City of Light. Rumor has it that Waddington has written a damaging roman a clef about his friends, and tempers are rising even as fear of the killer grips the city. When the body of Laure Duclos is found, it seems their circle has finally been touched by Jack. But Ward has his doubts and begins to wonder whether Laure was truly Jack de Paris's latest victim, or if someone else was using the serial killer as a convenient cover to protect themselves.

In a feat of literature reminiscent of Caleb Carr's The Alienist, Howard Engel blends intriguing historical fact with nail-biting fiction to produce a thriller of the highest order. Murder in Montparnasse will delight both new readers of Engel and his long-time fans.

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Mr. Doyle and Dr. Bell

In Edinburgh 1879, the famous actress Hermione Clery and her young lover are brutally murdered. A young man, Alan Lambert, stands accused of the crime, arrested after an expensive chase across the Atlantic. His brother, Graeme, appeals to Dr. Joseph Bell, professor of surgery and one of a dynasty in Scottish academic medicine. At first reluctant, Bell agrees to investigate the case and engages his medical student Arthur Conan Doyle in the task.

The story is told from Doyle's imperfect perspective. Beset by many obstacles from the police, the courts, and the Lambert family, Bell's investigation reveals a string of errors, including police sloppiness, suspicious evidence, and corruption in both government and law enforcement. On the day of the planned execution, Bell identifies the true killer and his motive, saving Lambert from wrongful death.

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Lord High Executioner: An Unashamed Look at Hangmen, Headsmen and Their Kind

From Amazon.ca
"Hangmen and headsmen have been in the back of our minds for years," writes Howard Engel in Lord High Executioner. "They are the bogeymen of our worst nightmares, the shape of our darkest fears." And yet what a fascinating and entertaining group of folks they actually turn out to be, at least in Engel's lively historical account of death--by hanging, drowning, burning, beheading, electrocution, and other more exotic means. Engel of course authored the famous Benny Cooperman mysteries, and for that series won the Arthur Ellis Award for Crime Fiction in 1984. (Incidentally, Arthur Ellis, the most famous of Canadian hangmen, is one of the book's subjects.) It doesn't seem right to call this light reading, but Engel's prose is undeniably engaging, fast-paced, and never weighed down by its subject matter: "The touch of a hangman's hand was said to be a sure cure for warts, wens and other blemishes, but, as Douglas Jerrold noted in Punch, hanging was supposed to cure murder, and that didn't work either." Even for an opponent of capital punishment like Engel, there is something inherently, if perversely, compelling about this subject matter. Consider the "death of a thousand cuts," say, where the condemned is dismembered with knives labelled with different body parts and drawn at random from a basket, or a punishment for adultery that required a woman to be "sown into a sack in company with an ape, a poisonous snake, a dog, and a cockerel, and flung into a pool to drown." The author has obviously done a lot of research, but this is not a scholarly book: Engel describes it as "literary and curious." For those who find themselves still morbidly captivated after reading Lord High Executioner, a bibliography has been included.

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There Was an Old Woman

It all starts with a noisy toilet. Benny's janitor, Kogan, is preoccupied with the death of his sometime girlfriend, Lizzy Oldridge, who appears to have starved to death. Benny agrees to attend the inquest if Kogan will look into the plumbing.

Lizzy may have died hungry but she had plenty of money, and somehow former alderman and mayoralty candidate Thurleigh Ramsden, an unsavory character if there ever was one, has gained control of it. Ramsden escapes the inquest with his reputation untarnished, while Benny finds himself hopelessly enmeshed in the posthumous troubles of Kogan's late love. By the end of this twisting, turning tale, the body count has increased alarmingly. But has the toilet been fixed? Only Benny and his loyal readers now for sure.

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Dead and Buried

From Library Journal
The long-running Benny Cooperman series gets a booster shot with this tale of toxic waste and murder in Grantham, Ontario. A woman whose husband died in a suspicious accident hires P.I. Cooperman to investigate. Cooperman lacks enthusiasm until he finds ties to a former nemesis; then he risks the wrath of a powerful waste disposal company apparently in cahoots with city government. Benny's usual sources of information and others get him deep into other people's boats, books, and eventually, the truth. A necessary purchase for most collections. Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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