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Murder at the Museum of Natural History: A Bill Donovan Mystery    by Michael Jahn order for
Murder at the Museum of Natural History
by Michael Jahn
Order:  USA  Can
World Wide Library, 2000 (1994)
Hardcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by G. Hall

Murder at the Museum of Natural History is a Bill Donovan mystery, set in New York City. Lieutenant Donovan is not the typical police officer but rather an interesting, well-educated man very much at home in the Museum. Donovan is eagerly attending the black tie opening of the 'Treasures of the Silk Road' exhibit sponsored by wealthy businessman turned archaeologist Paolo Lucca. The Silk Road treasures of Kublai Khan were found by Lucca in Pamiristan, a fictional country in the vicinity of Afghanistan. Those attending the preview include a varied list of characters: Lucca's much younger wife Katy, a well-known movie star; her two exes; Muslim fundamentalists; and Russian mobsters. When Lucca is murdered during the exhibit preview, Donovan is perfectly positioned to solve the crime.

Jahn's book is definitely written from a male perspective - in dialogue, in outlook on life in general, and on women in particular. Readers used to books by mostly female authors (who tend to focus more on character development and less on plot) will notice the difference. However, the mystery triangle has three corners - character, plot and setting. Very few authors excel in all three aspects. This book, while weaker in characterization, is strong in setting and excellent in plot.

Jahn develops the museum background very well and smoothly inserts fascinating archaeological tid-bits. In addition, he nicely captures the spirit of mid-90's New York City (the hardcover edition was published in 1994). The political situation is eerily similar to the present day. It is the year after the first World Trade Center terrorist attack and Muslim fundamentalists are in charge in Pamiristan, having recently expelled the Russians. When the murder occurs the key suspects are all within the preview area, mostly caught on security cameras. The murder is almost a locked room mystery and there are a limited number of suspects who had access. Donovan is an Edgar award winner and his superb plotting ability makes this a well-done mystery. The reader will be very pleased with the nicely developed and satisfying conclusion.

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