William Kotzwinkle, 1983 clothbound, David R. Godine, Publisher
No one can say William Kotzwinkle writes boring, normal, everyday fiction, because he doesn’t. What he does write is clever, nutty, off the cuff, creative, funny and smart. This one is no exception. This was my introduction to Kotzwinkle’s work. I also really like his The Bear Went Over the Mountain.
This is a book not many people know of, pretty much truly “forgotten”. It’s a collection of five illustrated short stories featuring Inspector Mantis, a Holmes-like character, and his partner in crime solving, Doctor Hopper. The stories have an all-insect cast of characters, making for an interesting set of personalities and crimes.
In this case, the Holmes character is a police detective inspector, with a brilliant mind, supersensitive antennae, and iron grip. It’s his faithful sidekick Doctor Hopper who plays the violin and is also a long-jumper. Together these two solve entomological cases with logic and clever sleuthing.
From the publisher website:“Going forth from his little cottage at 221B Flea Street, Inspector Mantis, accompanied by his trusted colleague Doctor Hopper, solves “The Case of the Missing Butterfly,” “The Case of the Caterpillar’s Head,” and three other antennae-bending mysteries puzzling the populace of Victorian Bugland. Criminal detection, combined with entomology, makes this, in the words of The Horn Book, “the most engaging and cleverest reincarnation of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson yet.” Joe Servello’s color and pen-&-ink drawings bring exquisite period detail to these tales: steam engines, deerstalkers, fog, and mandibles have never been more lovingly crosshatched.”
The illustrations are by Joe Servello: color dust jacket (cover on the paperbound editions), ten full page color interior pages plus many smaller black and white line drawings throughout the book. The bookmark shown here was a promotional item provided with the hardcover edition.
I’ve read this book several times and re-read it for this review, finding it enjoyable as always. For me it works on both the mystery and the pastiche levels. Though you may find it listed as a children’s book, but there’s a child in all of us, isn’t there? Trouble in Bugland is for anyone who enjoys mysteries with a touch of whimsey. It’s what an awful lot of mysteries published these days are not: fun.
Publishing information: The first printing was this 1983 hardcover with a print run of 5,095 copies. This was the only hardcover edition. In 1986 Godine printed the first paperback edition, 7,000 copies and a second softcover printing was in 1996 of 4,500 copies.
The 2nd softcover (which is the 2nd edition, 2nd printing) is listed by the publisher as Out of Stock, but used copies are available from the usual sources. This book isn’t for everyone, but those who are tempted by this review will be delighted with the book once it’s in hand.
This review is my 8th entry in a series of Friday Forgotten Books.
Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more FFB reviews at her own blog, along with a complete list of today’s participating blogs and the books reviewed.