by Tim Downs
2003 / 371 pages
Did you know that insects have been known to help solve murder investigations? One of the first recorded cases of an insect aiding in a murder investigation occurred in 13th-century China. The murder weapon was assumed to be a sickle, a common tool used to harvest rice. An investigator had all the local workers lay out their sickles and although the sickles looked clean, flies began to swarm one. Why? Because the unseen blood was a magnet for flies who were searching for a place to lay their eggs.
Forensic entomology, the study of insects to solve crimes, has now progressed to a point that investigators are able to estimate the time and place of a death just by looking at the age and species of the maggots on the person of interest. In Shoofly Pie, we follow a fictional entomologist, Nick Polchak, as he investigates the suicide of one of his clients’ close friends.
Polchak is extremely bright and has decided to move beyond associating with the human race, referring to them only as “your species.” This disassociation leads Polchak to some funny and interesting interactions with the human species around him.
I had a really hard time putting this book down. Author Tim Downs does a great job developing characters that you want to care about while at the same time driving a very strong plot.
If thinking about maggots makes you squeamish, this may not be the book for you as descriptions of death and decay are encountered often. There is also reference to hard drug use by one of the characters, so if the mention of a suicide didn’t already make it clear, this isn’t a book for preteens. The only language concern would be one use of “Gosh.”
I highly recommend this book to anyone high school-aged or above. I loved it! If you enjoy this book as much as I did, Shoofly Pie is the first in a series of eight “Bug Man” novels.