My friend and fellow Cincinnatian, Harry DeMaio, is one of the most prolific writers I know, considering that nine books in his Casebooks of Octavius Bear series have been published since 2015, the tenth is coming in September, and the eleventh is in the works.
Book Nine is The Basket Case, in which a star ostrich basketball player is found dead in a New York City alley. A giraffe is suspected. The giraffe’s team coach calls on Octavius to investigate. No wonder Harry describes this as “Alternative Universe Mysteries for Adult Animal Lovers.”
And the hero is a bear with one paw in the world of Sherlock Holmes. I’ll let Harry explain:
“Octavius is a nine-foot-tall, 1400-pound Kodiak Bear/consulting detective/scientist/inventor/seeker of justice/mega-billionaire owner of Universal Ursine Industries/narcoleptic war hero/gourmet-gourmand/somewhat sedentary and grouchy just on general principles. He is a hybrid character somewhat loosely based on Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe with some characteristics of each but definitely his own bear.
“Octavius, among his many talents and accomplishments, is a brilliant, self-taught practitioner in the wide-ranging fields of biology, physics, ursinology, voodoo, teleology, chemistry, apiculture and oenology as well as a first rate electrical, electronic, structural, marine, aeronautical, mechanical and chemical engineer. He has a few other interesting characteristics such as falling into brief, deep narcoleptic comas – side effects of his successful genetic experiments to eliminate the need for him to hibernate.”
Clearly, Octavius lives in a different universe than we do.
“Here’s the story: About 100,000 years ago, according to scientific experts, a colossal solar flare blasted out from our sun, creating gigantic magnetic storms here on Earth. These highly charged electrical tempests caused startling physical and psychological imbalances in the then-population of our world. The complete nervous systems of some species were totally destroyed. For example, homo sapiens lost all mental and motor capabilities and rapidly became extinct. Less developed species exposed to the radiation were affected differently.
“Four-footed and finned mammals, birds and reptiles suddenly found themselves capable of complex thought, enhanced emotions, self-awareness, social consciousness and the ability to communicate, sometimes orally, sometimes telepathically, often both. Both speech production and speech perception slowly progressed with the evolution of tongues, lips, vocal cords and enhanced ear to brain connections. Many species developed opposable digits, fingers or claws, further accelerating civilized progress.
“Alternate universes play an increasing level of importance in each succeeding book.”
That brings us back to The Basket Case.
“Aside from being based entirely in one location, New York City, and dealing with basketball, Book Nine follows most of the same patterns established in its predecessors with four major exceptions,” Harry says. “Octavius, who was somewhat sedentary in the earlier books, is much more active and directly involved in managing the progress and outcome of the case. The cubs fall in love with Noo Yuck. As I mentioned earlier, alternate universes play an increasing part in the overall structure of these books. Ursula has now become a dominant character.”
Ursula would be the Artificial General Intelligence Unit that has been an integral player in all volumes after Book Six, The Attaché Case.
Other series regulars include:
Maury (Mauritius) Meerkat – sidekick, narrator, detective, and theatrical agent.
Inspector Bruce Wallaroo – Irrepressible but brilliant marsupial; an international law and order genius from Australia; often calls on Octavius and Maury for support.
Bearoness Belinda Béarnaise Bruin Bear (nee Black) – Now wife of Octavius; very rich widow of Bearon Byron Bruin living in Bearmoral Castle in the Shetlands; owner-pilot of the last flying Concorde SST; Gorgeous polar superstar, with the Aquashow, Some Like It Cold.
Arabella and McTavish – Belinda and Octavius’ cubs – mischievous, energetic furballs.
Frau Ilse Schuylkill – Swiss she-wolf; housekeeper-cook; jet pilot and sharpshooter with other very strange and arcane abilities.
The major villain is Imperius Drake, a mad duck with dreams of world (nay! cosmic) conquest. Once a mild-mannered Mandarin Duck, he is now “Moriarty with Wings.” A brilliant but loony anitidae who has developed a serum to make the animal kingdom his slaves, he seeks vengeance for ridicule by the scientific community and the death of his beloved Lee-Li-Li who swallowed all his serum in a vain attempt to stop his madness.
Next up in the series is The Camera Case, in which a movie is being shot at Polar Paradise. An ingenue falls from her suite to her death. Murder? Whodunnit?
Book Eleven, The Würst Case Scenario, will feature artificial food and murder. This series has leghs!
The is available from all good bookstores including Amazon USA, Amazon UK and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository.
Harry’s website is www.octaviusbearslair.com.