Monday, December 3, 2012

Shoofly Pie by Tim Downs

A lovely Lepidoptera

I have good news and bad news. The good news is that overall I liked Shoofly Pie, a mystery by Tim Downs that features forensic entomologist Dr. Nick Polchak. The plot concerns four childhood friends, Andy, Peter, Jimmy and Kathryn, who all grew up together in a small town in North Carolina. 

Andy and Kathryn get married just before the three boys go off to fight in Desert Storm. Andy doesn't come back. Now, eight years later, Jimmy's decomposing body is found in a field. It is determined that he committed suicide only Kathryn doesn't believe it for a minute. She hires Nick Polchak to investigate the death of her friend along with the help of Peter who is now the town sheriff. 

Now for the bad news: Dr. Polchak comes across as a know-it-all showoff and at the drop of a fly speck sermonizes on scorpions, wasps, bees, flies and other creepy crawlies. Although sometimes interesting to read about, it becomes tedious and these insect lessons don't always move the story along. 

He also takes it upon himself to try and force a cure of Kathryn's entomophobia, fear of insects. A bit of an arrogant overstep if you ask me.

Also I fear Mr. Downs tends to overwrite. For example, a character doesn't just tromp across a field, he "gallops like a Great Plains buffalo" or someone is not just taken unawares but "is startled like a flock of pigeons."  

And here are others - three in a row:

His arms and head punched through the screen wire like tissue paper. The center strut caught him across the ribs, and the wooden frame shattered and folded inward like an umbrella. For an instant he lay trapped, surrounded in a tangle of wood and wire like a Lepidoptera in a butterfly net.

Although I appreciate a clever comparison there are way too many here and I began to think that Mr. Downs was a bit of a showoff as was his protagonist Nick Polchak.

Also, the ending was soooooo drawn out. Not only was there a car chase, but there was a foot chase across a field, then through a Quonset hut filled with deadly specimens, and finally up a tree. Whew. 

By then I was exhausted and glad to have the mystery solved. 


  1. The story line sounds so very interesting, but, my, those sentences are a bit of a "put off". Still, I think I'll put it on my TBR list and see if it is on audio. It might be good for my long drives up to MN.

    1. Yes, Penny, you might give it a try. I do like my mysteries to be solved in about 200 pages while this one ran for almost 400. Like I wrote, overall I liked the story. Don't be put off by my 'bad news'.