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Shoofly Pie

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. 

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Adult fiction, Book Reviews

Father Brown and the Ten Commandments: Selected Mystery Stories

by G.K. Chesterton 2017 / 249 pages An heiress of a large fortune has fallen to her death, and suicide seems the obvious explanation. But then along comes a short man in clerical dress with an explanation that shocks everyone. This short man is Father Brown, Roman Catholic priest, who doubles as an amateur detective. Brown often finds success in his investigations because of his perceptive understanding of human nature. Brown also uses his unimposing character and position to gain valuable information from witnesses who see him as only a priest. This information, often overlooked by even the reader, helps Father Brown bring the criminal to justice. Brown was a creation of G.K. Chesterton, who was Catholic himself, but whose apologetic writings are much appreciated by Protestants too. His Father Brown character has been featured in over 50 short stories. This collection of mysteries is focused around the Ten Commandments, taking on the commandments one by one. I enjoyed all of them – each story is just 20-30 pages long, which is great if you don’t want to commit to reading a novel. And Chesterton still manages to build enough suspense to leave the reader shocked by the criminal and their motive. Two cautions: first, G.K. Chesterton wrote over one hundred years ago so his vocabulary may be less accessible to younger readers. Some of Chesterton’s characters use racial slurs (Agar Rock in The Scandal of Father Brown) and there are a couple uses of “salty” language. I have never been a huge fan of mystery novels but found myself thoroughly enjoying each story. I look forward to picking up another collection of Father Brown mysteries....