Mr. Smithson's Bones: A Mystery at the Smithsonian

Richard Timothy Conroy, Author St. Martin's Press $17.95 (194p) ISBN 978-0-312-09341-9
Known as the Nation's Attic, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D. C., is a promising setting for a mystery series, but Conroy's prequel to The India Exhibition is a disappointment. Henry Scruggs is a timid, lovelorn bachelor on loan to the Smithsonian from the State Department. Taking a foreign visitor on tour, Henry stops at the Physical Anthropology lab where a postdoctoral fellow demonstrates the capabilities of the department computer with a random skull. To everyone's shock, the skull is said to belong to James Smithson, whose bequest after his death in 1829 funded the Institution and whose bones are supposed to be in a special crypt in the building called the Castle. An examination of the crypt reveals the freeze-dried body parts of the Smithsonian's general counsel, who was thought to be on vacation. Henry's further investigations , aided by legal counsel Phoebe Casey, uncover the gruesomely preserved bodies of more Institution officers, all of whom were involved in an internal probe of the International Publications Exchange Service. The tale's light-hearted tone wars with the grotesque methods of preserving bodily remains; Smithsonian lore is the star of this uneven tale. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/02/1993
Release date: 08/01/1993
Genre: Fiction
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