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383 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 2005
The Most Worshipful Guild of Detectives was founded by Holmes in 1896 to look after the best interests of Britain’s most influential and newsworthy detectives. Membership is strictly controlled but pays big dividends: the pick of the best inquiries of England and Wales, an opportunity to “brainstorm” tricky cases with one’s peers, and an exclusive deal with the notoriously choosy editors of Amazing Crime Stories. The Guild’s legal department frequently brokers TV, movie and merchandising deals, and membership usually sways juries in tricky cases…”This kind of light, intelligent satire can be found on just about every page of this tale.
A controversial punishment came to an end yesterday when Prometheus, creator of mankind and fire-giver, escaped the shackles that bound him to his rock in the Caucasus. Details of the escape are uncertain, but Zeus’ press secretary, Ralph Mercury, was quick to issue a statement declaring that Prometheus’ confinement was purely an “internal god-titan matter” and that having eagles pick out Prometheus’ liver every day, only to have it grow back again at night, was “a reasonable response given the crime.” Joyous supporters of the “Free Prometheus” campaign crowded the dockside at Dover upon the Titan’s arrival, whereupon he was taken into custody pending applications for extradition.By the way, Prometheus turns out to be my favorite supporting character and his interaction in the story is terrific. Here is one of my favorite quotes in which Prometheus was communicating with Jack's infant son:
'You speak baby gibberish?' asked Jack.That should give you a good idea of the tone and flavor of the writing. A few other little gems that I thought were hilarious:
'Fluently. The adult-education center ran a course, and I have a lot of time on my hands.'
'So what did he say?'
'I don't know.'
'I thought you said you spoke gibberish?'
'I do. But your baby doesn't. I think he's speaking either
pre-toddler nonsense, a form of infact burble or an obscure dialect of
gobbledygook. In any event, I can't understand a word he's saying.'
“Since the death by scalding of Mr. Wolff following his ill-fated climb down Little Pig C’s chimney, we at the Nursery Crime Division have been following inquiries that this was not an act of self-defense but a violent and premeditated murder by three individuals who, far from being the innocent victims of wolf-porcine crime, actually sought confrontation and then acted quite beyond what might be described as reasonable self-defense.”
“Modern policing isn’t just about catching criminals, Mary. It’s about good copy and ensuring that cases can be made into top-notch documentaries on the telly. Public approval is the all-important currency these days, and police budgets ebb and flow on the back of circulation and viewing figures.”
“There is a limit to how many lost sheep you could track down, how many illegal straw-into-gold dens you could uncover, how many pied pipers arrived in town trying to extort money from the authorities over pest control and how often Mr. Punch would beat his wife and throw the baby downstairs.”
“Well, did you hear about the time I saved Hansel and Gretel from being eaten alive by a witch?”
“No, I’m afraid I didn’t.”
“Or the time I rescued a hundred children from the Pied Piper of Hamelin?”
“Don’t… think so.”
“What about dealing with serial wife killer Bluebeard?”
“Only when Briggs mentioned it yesterday.”
“How about the time I closed down the illegal straw-into-gold den?”
“Convicted Jill of aggravated assault against Jack?”
“Stopped Mr. Punch throwing the baby downstairs?”
“Must have missed that one.”
“This is my point. I’ve worked hard at the NCD for twenty-six years, trying to bring justice to everyone within my jurisdiction. I deal with most things within the NCD, and I like to think I make a difference. Is any of that remembered? Not a bit of it. I kill a few tall guys and all of a sudden I’m nothing but a giant killer.”
ALIENS BORING, REPORT SHOWS
An official report confirms what most of us have already suspected: that the alien visitors who arrived unexpectedly on the planet four years ago are not particularly bright, nor interesting. The thirteen-page government document describes our interstellar chums as being "dull" and "unable to plan long-term." The report, which has been compiled from citizenship application forms and interview transcripts, paints a picture of a race who are "prone to put high importance on inconsequential minutiae" and are "easily distracted from important issues." On an entirely separate note, the aliens were reported to be merging into human society far better than has been expected-the reason for this is unclear.
-Extract from The Owl, June 4, 2001