I have only read two books in the mystery genre wherein the main character is allegedly on the autistic spectrum. One author denied that the main character had any clearly defined diagnosis and left it up to readers to draw their own conclusions. The second author seemed to have compiled a list of traits and made sure that the character in their book ticked every single box.
The Question of the Missing Head is the first book in what will hopefully be a long running series of mystery novels following the exploits of Samuel Hoenig, a man with Asperger’s who makes a living answering questions. His previous successes lead to a job that asks him where the head of a cryonics lab’s wealthiest customer has disappeared to, which in turn leads to the question of who murdered a doctor at that very lab.
What drew me to this book was actually the interview with author EJ Copperman, which can be found in Mystery Scene magazine. (Sorry, magazine websites tend to avoid putting up their paid content for free for some crazy reason, so I could not provide you a link to the interview in question) A few of his comments actually made me feel like he knew what he was talking about.
Yeah, he has a child with Asperger’s, but having a kid with the disorder doesn’t make someone an expert. What makes someone an expert is their willingness to put aside all of the categorical BS that has been written by the glory seeking shrinks trying to pay off their college debts, and actually learn something about something that is not readily understood.
I’m not sure how much of the character of Samuel Hoenig is based on Copperman’s real life son, but like the fictional character, I was also diagnosed when the word was relatively knew to the psychiatric community. As with most cases, there are a few times when I disagree with something that Samuel does or how he views his diagnosis, but that’s just me projecting my own viewpoints onto the world. (Readers may be interested to know that I didn’t want the diagnosis to begin with, but being fourteen leaves you with very little recourse)
For the most part, however, Samuel is a person that I could identify with in that he is also a largely independent person who deals with the unfair and unrealistic misconceptions of others. In one scene for example, a character questions him as to why he still lives with his mother. When he explains it to her, she does apologize for coming off as insulting, but it’s a scene that I run into all too much in real life and I take my hat off to Copperman for portraying it so well.
The author goes to great lengths to make it clear that Samuel Hoenig is an individual with the diagnosis of Asperger’s and that no two people with Asperger’s are going to have the same traits, the same point of view, or the same advantages or disadvantages. There will be critics of course, but for now, the only criticism I have is that I have to wait far too long for the next book in the series.