Sunday, December 11, 2016

Detecting and Inspecting: Double Trouble in Bugland by William Kotzwinkle

"Well," said Toe-Biter, as I say, I'd had a nip or two and I suddenly got an impulse to visit my old friend Angus Earwig. I went up to his room over a horsefly stable--nothing fancy about Angus--and knocked. There wasn't any answer, so I opened the door. There was Angus stretched out on the floor and the Vampire going out the window."

"My, my," said the landlady, inching closer to listen.

Toe-Biter continued. "It was a terrible shock. But far more terrible was the sight of that cloaked figure hurrying toward the open window. It was all in black velvet, and the collar of its cloak was high to hide its face. It twisted toward me, and I saw--its face. The leering, awful grin it had, Inspector Mantis, that face seemed as old as time, as if it had lived forever on the blood of the innocent."

Inspector Mantis and his loyal assistant Dr. Hopper are happy to escape their lodgings, occupied as they are by the vigorous spring cleaning of their landlady, Mrs. Inchworm, taking on a case that leads them to the quaint village of East Gum Leaf, the scene of the ghastly crime. There Mantis' trusty magnifying glass helps him spot a glittery blue insect part which is their only clue to the identity of the exotic killer.

And for the cerebral Inspector Mantis, "the game is afoot!" (all six of them!)

A visit to Professor Channing Booklouse's prodigious library of partly-chewed books reveal the identify of the intruder, the exotic vampire moth, to Inspector Mantis, and after a curious stop at an exotic perfume shop, Mantis meets back with Dr. Hopper and Toe-Biter, both of whom agree with great reluctance to disguise themselves as a lady vampire moth, whose redolent perfume flushes out the suspected perpetrator. Believing he has at last found his lost love, the Vampire flies the disguised two, Dr. Hopper carried on Toe-Biter's shoulders, back to his ruined castle, where amid the bled-out husks of the blood-sucker's prey, Inspector Mantis waits, armed and determined, for the final showdown with the evil vampire moth.

So begins the first episode of the brainy Inspector Mantis and his doughty assistant, Dr. Hopper, "The Case of the Lonely Vampire" in William Kotzwinkle's Double Trouble in Bugland (David R.Godine, 2016), "profusely illustrated by Joe Servello," in another humorous and clever parody of the beloved cases of Sherlock and his flatmate and assistant Dr. Watson.

Kotzwinkle's cast of creepy-crawly Victorian characters offer many sly witticisms couched in understated English wit which will appeal to the more sophisticated middle and young adult readers who are fond followers of the Arthur Conan Doyle canon. This new edition offers three other cases, filled with wickedly delightful arthropodian take-offs on the Holmesian casebooks, with juicy jokes and original plots that will delight fans of Kotzwinkle's first book, Trouble in Bugland: A Collection of Inspector Mantis Mysteries (Godine Storyteller) (read review here).

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