Aging, Jewish-Canadian gum-shoe, Benny Cooperman, awakes in hospital from a coma to discover that he has forgotten many things about himself and his recent past. He has also lost the ability to read, although he still can write: alexia sine agraphia. The therapists give him a memory book as an aide to functional recovery; he must record vital information for later deciphering. He learns that he was found unconscious in a dumpster with a blow to the head; beside him lay the corpse of a woman professor.

Leaving the hospital only once (without permission), Cooperman uses dogged determination and ingenuity to unravel the complex academic homicide. Adapting to his own disability proves just as demanding to Cooperman as solving the murder. Without giving away the ending, this "whodunit" involves premonitory dreams, pretty students, rogue professors, a crusty underworld, and drugs. Engel's trademark light touch and vignettes of Toronto and its University colleges and hospitals add humor and credibility to the vivid yarn.


An intriguing pathography of a frightening neurological condition, presented in murder-mystery form. Award-winning crime author, Engel, experienced a small but devastating stroke that left him with the rare disability of alexia sine agraphia. The writer could write, but he could no longer read what he had written. The illness resulted in weeks of hospitalization and therapy. In this, the eleventh Benny Cooperman novel, Engle assigns exactly the same problem to his long-time hero; instead of a stroke, the cause is a head injury. The protagonist solves the mystery of his murdering attacker, but he also tackles the greater mystery of how to function with neither reading nor remembering in a highly literate world.

An afterword is included by neurologist, Oliver Sacks, who met and corresponded with the author in consultation (pp. 238-243). For an interview with Engel during the writing of this book, see Sandra Martin, 'You just get on with it,' Saturday, December 14, 2002, Page R13 in the archives of the Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper website:


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