Very Bad Deaths

Reviewed: January 30, 2008
By: Spider Robinson
Publisher: BAEN Books
316 pages, $10.99

“I was fifty-four years old the first time a dead person spoke to me. Wouldn’t you know it? It was the wrong one.

“To be fair, he did manage to save my life,. Just for openers.”

Russell Walker is ready to die when his old college buddy, who is supposed to be dead, arrives at the door of his Heron Island writer’s office, a former pottery shack that is just behind his house. He’s been spending a lot of time there because he can’t stand to be in the house. It hold too many memories of Susan, his recently deceased wife of 32 years.

Zandor “Smelly” Zudenigo is, it turns out, not dead. He’s just a recluse. The reason for that being that he is a telepath with no “off” switch on his receiver. He simply can’t stand to be around people. This is also how he got that nickname, which is Spider giving us the most novel way I’ve ever read for some who needs to keep the world at arm’s length to solve that problem.

Russell, who shares some aspects of his creator’s life, is a tall, skinny guy, a writer who produces a regular trends column for the Globe and Mail. He is the only person Zandor has ever formed a close relationship with - they were college roommates in Olympia, New York - and the only one he can share his big secret with.

Zandor has inadvertently read the mind of a serial killer. He doesn’t know the man’s name, but he does know what he has done and what he is planning to do, and he knows he has to find some way to prevent it.

Russell is ill-equipped for this task, so much so that he enlists the help of a frustrated female police officer, Constable Nika Mandiç. Their search for the killer is both comical and tense, and the resolution to this particular case is one of the weirdest you can imagine, although it makes perfect sense when it happens.

This SF-mystery was a good read, and there’s a hint that Spider may have another of these in mind. I’d certainly be interested in reading it.