The Question of the Absentee Father
Samuel, a young man on the autism spectrum who runs an investigative business called “Questions Answered”, finds the case in The Question of the Absentee Father more personal than usual. His mother has hired him to find out where his father, long gone from his life, currently lives. The case takes him, and his assistant Ms. Washburn, to Los Angeles.
Samuel, as one might expect, doesn’t like to travel, so in addition to a challenging multi-level mystery — what happened to his father? why did someone in LA give them $40,000 with little explanation? — the reader gets a good deal of valuable information on dealing with the non-neuro-typical in that kind of situation. Plus, Samuel has to cope with other people’s expectations about how he should be feeling about his missing parent.
There’s a lot of interesting insight on family relations with an autistic member as well as good indications as to how someone else’s brain might work, presented with both clarity and humor. Samuel is firmly in the great tradition of observant detectives with severe personal impediments when it comes to dealing with people, but in his case, there’s a sensible underlying reason. There are also a number of solid research procedures used by the team, another welcome practical detail, particularly for the mystery reader who’s tired of investigators who merely guess.
Most welcome to me, though, was the sprinkle of comedy, with some goofy things that happen to lighten the mood. Most obvious is how frustrating a wannabe tough-guy gangster finds Samuel’s straightforward approach to life and answering questions. Too bad he doesn’t realize that Samuel is usually right!