The Conjure Man Dies

Fisher, Rudolph

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Annotated by:
Stanford, Ann Folwell
  • Date of entry: Jun-01-2000
  • Last revised: Dec-12-2006


The well-known and mysterious "psychist" and former African king, N. Frimbo, is found dead one night in his chair at the conjure table. What appears to be a murder is investigated by Detective Perry Dart of the Harlem police force and Dr. John Archer, his friend. Archer had been the physician summoned by Frimbo’s clients when one of them found he was speaking to a dead man.

The plot becomes more complex when Frimbo’s corpse disappears and returns as Frimbo, living. Declaring that he has control over his mind to such an extent that he can return from the dead, Frimbo nevertheless was attacked by someone for some reason and the detective and doctor proceed to find out who and why.



Fisher, a physician during the Harlem Renaissance, was the first known African-American mystery writer. This novel is interesting on a number of levels, not the least of which is the rich evocation of 1930s Harlem and the complex plot line. Most relevant to medicine, however, is Fisher’s fascination with the connection between Western science and (in this novel especially) African spirituality.

Fisher is compelled by questions of mystery and uncertainty in the face of empirical and scientific hegemony. For Fisher, science and religion must be seen as compatible. The novel is narrated in the deductive style of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and would be fruitfully paired with a Sherlock Holmes story or novel for discussion.


First published: 1932


The X Press

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