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The Lonely Astronomer
By John Russell Fearn

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The Lonely Astronomer

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The Lonely Astronomer
By John Russell Fearn
Linford Mystery Library: Large Print (2007)
ISBN: 978-1-84617-834-4
Genre: Science Fiction, Mystery

Reviewed by Herbert White - May 21, 2009

Writing as Volsted Gridban, John Russell Fearn's science fiction mystery, The Lonely Astronomer was first published in 1953. This classic tale has been resurrected for a new generation of fans and for those for whom Fearn is an old friend. A complete, unabridged copy of The Lonely Astronomer is now available in large print as part of the Linford Mystery Library. As a point of trivia, Volsted Gridban is a penname that was used both by Fearn and by E.C. Tubb - confusing, isn't it!

This fast-paced adventure story centers upon the death, from strangulation and/or a horrific knock on the head, of Dr. Henry Brunner. Noted detective Adam Quirke is called in to investigate the case and finds much more than he bargains for - including a genetically engineer spider from Mars, and an alien called Sasmo, who claims to be from a planet in the Procyon system. Brunner was an astronomer who worked at the Metropolitan Observatory, which had been originally built in 2190. The story itself begins in 2191, just moments before the murder of this eminent scientist.

In the realm of fictional detectives, I think that Adam Quirke is unique. He is a scientist who specializes in scientific crime and he has his own lab. He uses his scientific skills to solve his cases. In the case of Brunner's murder, finding suspects is easy. There are only four people who had the opportunity to kill Brunner - Monica Adley, an assistant spectrographist, David Calhoun and assistant astronomer, the observatory's janitor, known only as Joe, and the alien Sasmo. While listing the suspects turns out to be easy, solving the case will take all of Quirke's scientific acumen and his own unique reasoning skills.

The Lonely Astronomer is a fun book to read. It is full of nifty scientific gadgets and notions on what the future will hold for science and man's development. Most important, at the heart of this story is a jolly good mystery filled with a host of red herrings, a delightfully eccentric detective, and a bevy of suspects who all had both the opportunity and the means to kill Dr. Brunner. To find out who the real culprit is, and why, all you need do is sit back in your favorite reading chair and enjoy The Lonely Astronomer.

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