Friday, April 18, 2014

Murder at the Museum of Natural History: Review

I started the Bill Donovan series by Michael Jahn in mid-stream, as it were, with Murder on Theatre Row (#4) back in 2011.  I've since been grabbing up the books as I find them at book sales and what-not and when Charlie updated her What's in a Name? Challenge to include a "read a book with 
a school subject in the title" category I decided to step backwards in the series to read Murder at the Museum of Natural History (#3)

By the time Donovan is investigating the murder in Theatre Row, he has established himself as an expert on crimes with unusual weapons. In Museum, we see part of the reason for his reputation. It's Donovan's birthday and he's getting some major presents. His friends and colleagues manage to surprise him with a new set of home exercise equipment (to replace the rusty weight bench he's had since forever). The Commissioner stops by his birthday celebration to not only surprise him with the news that he's been recommended for a captaincy but also that the Commissioner is unable to attend the gala opening of the new Silk Road exhibit at the Museum of Natural History--an event that Donovan, a widely-read man with varying interests (including history), would give his eye teeth to attend. 

The centerpiece of the exhibit is a priceless one-thousand-year-old dagger which Marco Polo carried along the Silk Road as a gift from the Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII to Kublai Khan. During the media circus surrounding the opening, someone steals the dagger and plants it in the chest of Paolo Lucca--the man who has made the exhibit possible. Not only does Donovan have to figure out how the killer got their hands on the ancient dagger, but he also has to make his way through the minefield of famous people and touchy diplomats. The suspects are all high-powered individuals--from Lucca's beautiful model wife to the provincial terrorists--er--diplomats to the Russian mafiosi--and if Donovan wants to make captain he'll have to be careful whose toes he steps on.

As with Theatre Row, I really enjoy the character of Bill Donovan. He's just the right mix of tough-guy cop and intelligent, widely read man--he makes it easy to believe that he just might know something about everything or if he doesn't that he'll soon be reading up on it and have a mastery of the subject. The supporting character are also good and Bill has excellent interactions with them all. Jahn also tells an interesting, fast-paced story that is fun to read. The main problem--and for some it might be too big--is that a major key to the mystery is blatantly telegraphed and there really isn't much of a mystery to solve. Fortunately, the characters and the pacing make up for that and it is still an enjoyable read. 

★★★



1 comment:

fredamans said...

Sounds like a solid story. Too bad it wasn't more of a mystery. Great review!