Merritt, Ray. Clamour of Crows. Sag Harbor, New York: The Permanent Press, 2016. 304p. ISBN 978-1-57962-442-2. $29.95. Fiction
Jonathan Tucker lives with his dog Nip on 20 acres on Long Island, having left his job with a high-powered law firm three years earlier after his wife and two children were killed in a traffic accident. Now his mentor, a senior partner, asks for help. The firm’s biggest client, billionaire Ben Baum of Ozone Industries, has died in London under suspicious circumstances. A descendent of L. Frank Baum of Wizard of Oz fame, Ben had been obsessed with fantasy, in particular the works of Baum, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Lewis Carroll. Attached to his will, he left behind an enigmatic letter, prefaced by runes and filled with puzzles hinting at forces of evil arrayed against him. Its up to Jonathan and his team to unravel what may be a deadly conspiracy with a host of suspects, each one poised to benefit from Ben’s premature death. Merritt’s fiction debut is a sparkling blend of wit, puzzles, and suspense. The author’s distinct voice is engaging, his characters sharply delineated, and his plot a twisting journey through legal and financial chicanery to a deadly conclusion. Numerous puns based on medieval venery, along with a glimpse into how the superwealthy live, add to the fun. VERDICT Readers may enjoy the kidlit nomenclature—characters include Alice, Charlotte (who spins webs), Dorothy, Eloise, Madeline, Herr Roald Dahlgrens (a “peach of a man”), Frank Dixon (the Hardy Boys), Peter Abelard, and the Baums—and may not mind the sometimes too-evident craft, e.g., characters who “tell their story” at length and dialogue laden with exposition.