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Strange Bodies    by Marcel Theroux order for
Strange Bodies
by Marcel Theroux
Order:  USA  Can
Picador, 2015 (2014)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

We learn in the Preface to Strange Bodies that Dr. Nicholas Slopen will die. His friend Sukie tells us in the first sentence that he 'came back from the dead' when he visited her in her shop. It took a lot of reminiscing on his part for her to believe him, during which he spoke to her about things that no one but her friend and one-time lover would have known. Even though she didn't recognize him at first, she blamed the passage of time. After all, it had been twenty some years ago when last they met, and hadn't her appearance changed as well?

After seeing him she had looked up his obituary online, and she didn't see him again for almost a year. He seemed ill when he reappeared needing a place to stay for a night, and he was dirty and smelly, which made her nervous. She thought maybe he'd gotten into some kind of trouble with the law, so she told him that he could eat and have a bath at her house and she'd give him some clean clothes that her ex-husband had left there, but he couldn't stay. Her book club was meeting that night and he sat near them as they talked. When he passed out and fell to the floor, she called an ambulance, but he died before getting to the hospital. Two months later she found a flash drive hidden in the chair in which he sat that night, and when she plugged it into her computer, she learned what had happened to him.

Nicky's story is fascinating. It starts when a wealthy musician named Hunter Gould claims to be a collector of 'memorabilia associated with famous English literary figures,' but he hadn't acquired anything from Dr. Samuel Johnson, whom he claimed was a favorite of his. Now he had a chance to obtain some letters, and he wanted to make sure that they were real. Nicky was considered an expert on Johnson, so Hunter would pay him a large sum of money to give a professional opinion of their authenticity.

This literary science fiction story about a man who has died twice really caught my attention. I enjoyed the way the story began, with Sukey telling about her two encounters with Nicky after his first death, and the author kept me totally interested in the events that we learn about after she finds the flash drive. The writing contained a surprising amount of humor for a story about a man who had died. For instance, I loved the description of Hunter Gould. He was 'big and toadlike, his face chubby and pugnacious and somehow a bit short of features, like an underdressed Mr. Potato Head.'

Marcel Theroux is a British author, and there were a number of words and phrases that weren't familiar to me, but usually I could figure out their meanings from the context in which they appeared. I loved this thoroughly enjoyable book and was delighted with the surprising and satisfying ending.

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