Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Morgue Drawer series - Jutta Profijt

I don't often have the freedom to read numerous books in a series back to back these days, but I made time in the case of Jutta Profijt's Morgue Drawer series, which I listened to on audio. I'm going to combine the reviews here because so much of what I loved carried over in each book--without become tiresome, I should add! Unfortunately I haven't been able to get ahold of the second audiobook yet, so that's the only one from the series missing in the review to follow. Hope you enjoy...

Book 1: Morgue Drawer Four

First line: "I hope you'll read this account from top to bottom because it's the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and so--eh, I'm sure you've heard the saying."

Morgue Drawer Four introduces Pascha (formerly known as Sascha) Lerchenberg, a car thief. He's dead due to a fall from a bridge and presently cooling in morgue drawer number four. Martin Gãnsewein is the forensic pathologist who is responsible for Pascha's autopsy. Despite Pascha's physical death, his soul is still hanging around and Martin turns out to be the only human who can hear him.

Once Pascha gets over the issue of his death, he begs Martin to help him prove that his death was not a suicide. He didn't kill himself and he doesn't want to be remembered that way. Pascha believes if he can prove his death was murder, his soul will be at peace and he can pass on. Martin, desperate to have this voice inside his head gone, agrees to help.

So straight-laced, well-educated, upstanding citizen Martin and crude, womanizing, law-breaking Pascha set out to find Pascha's killer. Hilarity, chaos, crime and mystery ensue.

Book 3: Morgue Drawer for Rent

First line: "So if I were going to put a date on when the series of crises at the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Cologne began, it would have to be July twelfth."

Pascha is still very much a part of Martin's life, much to Martin's chagrin. He is trying everything he can to find a way to prevent Pascha from haunting his daily life. Now Martin and his girlfriend, Birgit--who doesn't know about Pascha--are talking about moving in together, but Martin fears Pascha's interference in their lives and seems to be doing everything possible to sabotage the apartment hunting.

Meanwhile on the morgue front, Martin has a new boss who seems dead set on making his life a living hell--as if Pascha wasn't enough--while body parts and whole bodies are disappearing from the morgue.

Book 4: Morgue Drawer: Do Not Enter!

First line: "The Renault Kangoo van was wedged between the narrow piers under the bridge like a boil in a butt crack, but the driver's seat was empty."

As the series presses on, Pascha begins to follow accidents in hopes of finding others trapped like he is between this world and the next. He'd like a friend, someone other than Martin.  He gets more than he bargained for in the fourth installment of the series, however.

An accident leaves a teacher missing and four young children in comas with their souls flittering around while their bodies are in limbo. They attach themselves to Martin and suddenly he's become the babysitter of the undead.

The teacher is being accused of a terrible misdeed in the accident but the children know she was kidnapped. Martin is determined to discover what happened to the teacher but he also has to make sure the children are not far away when the doctors bring them out of their comas or their young fates may be altered for eternity.

Each of the books in this series is creatively fresh. The mystery plots are plausible and Profijt does an excellent job of utilizing her entire cast of colorful characters. The individual books have their own unique guest characters, and they are as dimensional and fun as the regulars. It's actually sad to see those guests leave at the end of an installment.

The Morgue Drawer series is translated from the original German by Erik J. Macki and of course I mentioned that I listened to all three books on audio. They are narrated by Macleod Andrews.  This is truly a team effort here. Jutta Profijt has written a great series, but she's created a protagonist who is snarky and street-wise and he throws a lot of slang--and attitude--around. Macki brings that into English brilliantly and Andrews hits the tone with perfection. Pascha's first words to Martin in Morgue Drawer Four are, "Dude, get your monkey beaters off my balls!" Martin is about to emasculate Pascha in the post-mortem and Pascha hasn't come to terms with his death yet. The word choice is pitch perfect for Pascha and Andrews' desperate yelp of the exchange will convince readers he himself is about to be sliced. This trio is akin to a three-legged stool. If anyone came up short the entire thing would fail, epically. Instead, they simply seem to be floating around with Pascha, on the exact same wavelength.

MacLeod Andrews does an incredible job with this series. From things as simple as Pascha's disinterested "blah, blah, blahs" to his emotional outbursts. You don't just hear Andrews, you feel Pascha. And Profijt has sculpted this character who is simply over-flowing with swagger. Andrews delivers that without over dramatizing it. Since Pascha is a former car thief, he pays a lot of attention to cars, especially Martin's car. Andrews will deliver Pascha's lines about Martin's "trash can on wheels" with complete seriousness, which makes it hysterically funny for the listener.

And Pascha's attitude toward women, especially compared to Martin's. Pascha will rip out something completely sexist and piggish, and Andrews can turn on dime to deliver Martin's rebuke in such a way that listeners will burn from the heat the blush in his face creates. The complete mortification Martin endures when Pascha tries to help him with his romancing of Birgit (a la Cyrano)--in the middle of a private bedroom scene--is so well performed by Andrews that readers will look to make sure they are covered up.

This isn't a series that's heavy in social commentary, although social issues do arise. But the focus tends more toward the relationships, both human to human and human to not-quite-so-human-anymore. A overall humor pervades these novels, but there's an endearing element to them as well, an element readers and listeners can identify with even if they don't hear voices in their heads.

The stars aligned and the perfect combination of creators came together. The result is a wonderfully entertaining--and addictive--mystery series. I can not wait for the next one!

All four books in the Morgue Drawer series are available from AmazonCrossing in paperback and from Brilliance Audio in unabridged audiobook.

Morgue Drawer Four (ISBN: 9781611090321)
audio (ISBN: 9781455876526)
Morgue Drawer Next Door (ISBN: 9781611090406)
audio (ISBN: 9781455876334)
Morgue Drawer for Rent (ISBN: 9781611090420)
audio (ISBN: 9781455876327)
Morgue Drawer: Do Not Enter! (ISBN: 9781477826409)
audio (ISBN: 9781491578773)


le0pard13 January 13, 2015 at 8:34 AM  

Really enjoyed the first book, Jen. So glad you introduced to this :-)

Shelleyrae January 13, 2015 at 10:11 AM  

They sound like fun books!

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