Howard Engel  



A Benny Cooperman Mystery
with an afterword by Dr. Oliver Sacks

“Engel has produced one of the most unusual and affecting mysteries ever.”

Kirkus Review

“This is a slick mystery, but it’s also a terrific recovery tale.”

The Globe and Mail

“ of the best Benny Cooperman mysteries yet...Engel does a masterful intriguing perspective.”

Quill & Quire

“A fascinating mystery...”

Library Journal

“Probably his most talked about book in 25 years.”

New York Times

The most lovable private eye in the business, Benny Cooperman, has suffered a grievous, life-altering injury. He was trying to find a young university professor who went missing, when he received a vicious blow to the head. He is thrown in a dumpster and left for dead. When Benny wakes, he is in hospital with no memory of the event, and deprived of the ability to read.

As he works to solve the mystery, Benny copes with a rare condition, alexia sine agraphia, meaning he cannot read, but he can still write. Reading for Benny is Shakespeare and Hawthorne, not to mention Hammett, Chandler and Christie. Writing is only himself. Not much competition there, he says ruefully.

He can quote lines from his high school production of Twelfth Night, but nouns slip from him like an errant bar of soap. His memory book, a three-ring binder where he records important items to keep in his grasp, is his life-line.

With his girlfriend Anna working as field agent, and help from two Toronto cops, Benny unmasks his assailant. The final scene, worthy of Agatha Christie, takes place in the hospital common room where Benny gathers the suspects.

In 2001 Howard Engel experienced a stroke that resulted in alexia sine agraphia. Despite the challenge of writing a novel while being virtually unable to read, he quickly embarked on his 11th Benny Cooperman mystery and his 13th novel. Memory Book is a well-plotted, character-rich who-dunnit, but also a fascinating exploration of the complex mystery of the human brain.

Oliver Sacks, in an afterword, analyzes the rare brain condition and then asks:. “Does Engel succeed as a writer? Is the present volume up to the standard of the previous Cooperman novels? My answer, as a reader of detective stories, is ‘Yes, absolutely.’ Indeed, I think this may be the most remarkable of them all, because of its special, personal dimension.”

Hakurosha Japan 2007
Penguin Canada 2005
Carroll & Graf 2006


A Benny Cooperman Mystery

"This story, which ships Benny off to a fictional Toronto television station as a gunless bodyguard, is sure to go down as one of the series' best...Engel has spent decades at the CBC. He knows all the inside stories about television; that makes the story sparkle."

Globe & Mail

"A welcome and long overdue reappearance...a nicely
wrought mystery with some acerbic observations about the bureaucracies and in-fighting that infest in large corporations and some nifty street-level descriptions."

Quill & Quire

A great pleasure of a Benny Cooperman mystery is the prose which sheds piquant metaphors like glitter dust.

An equal pleasure is the crackle of character. In this tale we are captivated by Vanessa Moss, a tightly wired package of energy, ambition, and sex. She is head of entertainment at a major television network and she wields power ruthlessly. Her life veers toward crisis when her friend Renata is murdered while staying at Vanessa's house. Is Vanessa the real target? Or is Vanessa guilty, as police suspect?

Vanessa hires Benny, her old highschool chum, to protect her. He relishes the task. Vanessa's precocious sexiness was the stuff of his adolescent dreams and he succumbs to her entreaties and her retainer.

Benny learns the hard way, that if he is going to sleep with a
client, Vanessa isn't the person to choose. In the intimacy of the bedroom, he discovers too much about her peccadilloes -like a gun under her pillow which she brandishes at a delicate moment.

Then there is the plot's satisfying richness. Renata had her own enemies, thanks to her romantic involvement with the late, world-renowned cellist Dermot Keogh. Her lover rivaled pianist Glenn Gould in eccentricity, posthumous popularity, and the wealth of his musical estate.

And then there is Benny, witty, lovable, and smarter than anyone expects. In his 10th outing, he solves the conspiracy, gracefully ducks Vanessa's talons, and escapes with our hearts.

Penguin Canada 2001



A Victorian Mystery

"Get out your pipe and magnifying glass, because veteran writer Howard Engel provides mystery buffs with more to ponder than your average whodunnit. ...The chapters end in anticipation and key pieces of information are not revealed until the final scene, making this a compelling read."

- Quill & Quire

This intriguing and stylish mystery opens in Edinburgh in 1879 where young Arthur Doyle is a medical student. He has aspirations as a writer, but his medical education is currently enriched by his charismatic professor. Dr. Joseph Bell is a a celebrated physician, known for his keen powers of observation and deduction.

Doyle is assisting Bell in his surgery when Graeme Lambert bursts in, pleading with Dr. Bell to help his brother Alan who is on trial for the murder of a dazzling opera star and her lover, an undistinguished municipal clerk. After a dramatic courtroom scene, Lambert is convicted and sentenced to hang in three weeks. With Lambert's cries of innocence ringing in their ears, Bell and Doyle embark on a race against the hangman.

Their investigations involve them in a meeting with Prime Minister Disraeli, lead them in a chase across the roof tops of Edinburgh, and a descent into the thickets of municipal corruption. The murderer and the motive are uncovered in a triumphal final scene.

Aficionados of Sherlock Holmes will recognize immediately that this mystery stars a young Doyle who serves as Dr. Watson to Dr. Joseph Bell. Indeed, in real life, Joe Bell became Doyle's model for his famous sleuth.

This is an exuberant literary work that is supple, graceful and entertaining.

Penguin/Canada /97
Peter Mayer Publishers Inc., The Overlook Press US /98 Champs-Elysees France/02




"Benny Cooperman is back, and better than ever."

- Tony Hillerman

"Benny Cooperman is a lot of fun to hang out with. I'm delighted to see him getting into trouble again."

- Donald Westlake

"Mr. Engel is a born writer, a natural stylist...This is a writer who can bring a character to life in a few lines."

- Ruth Rendell

"Engel can turn a phrase as neatly as Chandler...."

- Julian Symons

Howard Engel is back with his 9th Benny Cooperman novel, and the most lovable and engaging sleuth in crime fiction. Published in some 13 countries and the basis of two, 2-hour films, they continue to captivate readers.

Benny is snug in his bed in sleepy Grantham, the Canadian town across the border from the mean streets of New York State, when three thugs pound him awake and brutally drag him to see the local crime boss Abram Wise.

Someone has made two attempts to kill Wise and the gangster wants Benny to investigate. Wise knows where Benny's parents live and he knows who his girlfriend is. Benny can't refuse.

Threading through Wise's complex life are two ex-wives, two children, and a link with the mysterious death of a retired deputy chief of police. Behind this event lurks the trial, conviction and execution of the second last woman to be hanged in Canada.

Penguin Canada July 1995
Mondadori Italy 1997



"Lively, evasive, Benny somehow seeming in top form and spirits, a neatly complex puzzle ... I thought it was the best Engel."

- Julian Symons

"A polished tale that uses to advantage the things Engel does so well-small city interactions, credible characters, neat plot twists and witty dialogue."

- The Toronto Star

"Engel's wit is as dry as ever"

- Ottawa Sun

The death of an old woman,who had put her estate into the hands of a Grantham city official who starved her to death, puts Benny among a nest of corrupt lawyers, a vat of flakey monarchists, and the intrigues of a TV news station.

Viking/Penguin Can/93
Overlook US/00



"This is a rich book, topical and telling, written with wit and style, remarkable for its deft portraits and its humanity...The real winner is the reader."

London Free Press

Benny's environmental anxieties flower when he is hired to investigate the murder of a trucker who knew too much about his hazardous cargo and a corporate cover-up. "Toxic waste steals my sleep. It makes me nervous. I can feel the ozone layer being peeled away," he says, preferring not to think about it.

Viking/Penguin Can/96
Mondadori Italy




An Unashamed Look at Hangmen, Headsmen, and Their Kind

The executioner as a member of the community has lurked in the nether regions of society's collective mind for hundreds of years. From the hangman to the switch-flipper, they manage a morbid, strange and twisted hold on the imagination.

Lord High Executioner, Howard Engel's first non-fiction book, takes aim at this fascination and produces an informative and witty social history about the men and women who act as our agents of death, and who have done our collective dirty work over the centuries.

Key Porter Can/96




"The expatriate artists and writers who populate Howard Engel's literary mystery of 1920's Paris, are such monsters that the specter of a French Jack the Ripper seems redundant...[Their villainy is] their indifference to the social realities of a Paris they refuse to see, a city of bright lights but overwhelmed by postwar misery and prewar dread and very much afraid of the dark."

-New York Times Book Review Sept/99

"Howard Engel's storytelling skills are firmly in place, immersing the reader in the expatriate rive gauche atmosphere of the 1920's ... Engel's scene-setting is admirable, as are the characterizations."

- Ottawa Citizen

Michael Ward, a young reporter-at-large in literary Paris of 1925, inhabits the sophisticated cafe world of urbane American novelists, avant garde artists, and British beauties wearing titles.

His mentor is expatriate American novelist Jason Waddington, possessed of all the energy, bravado, and ambition of Ernest Hemingway himself.

When Laure, a Parisian with exotic charms and a talent for blackmail is murdered, Michael is ensnared. Was she struck by the serial killer stalking Paris? Or, did one of her illustrious victims seize his chance?

Viking Penguin Can/92
Caminho Portugal
Overlook US/99


Howard Engel, author of eleven novels starring the lovable sleuth Benny Cooperman, is hailed by peers and fans as one of the great mystery writers. He also has written two previous historical mysteries, Murder in Montparnasse set in Hemingway's Paris, and Mr. Doyle and Dr. Bell, starring Arthur Conan Doyle and his mentor, Dr. Joseph Bell.