[Originally posted April 7, 2006]
Author Michael Hoeye has created an enchanting and reluctant detective in his character, Hermux Tantamoq, the mouse watchmaker. There are three Hermux Tantamoq adventures to date: Time Stops for No Mouse (2000,) The Sands of Time (2002,) and No Time Like Show Time (2004.)
An accomplished watchmaker and clock repair expert, Hermux lives in the town of Pinchester. The area is populated by squirrels, mice, rats, moles, and other small animals, many of whom are among his customers. His orderly life is changed, though, on the morning when Linka Perflinger, elegant and attractive aviatrix and explorer, leaves her watch at his shop to be repaired. Hermux is quite taken with this mouse lady, and as he works on her timepiece, he fantasizes about getting to know her better.
Unfortunately, when the appointed time comes for Linka to retrieve her watch, a rather suspicious rat appears instead to try to retrieve it. Hermux is puzzled, and reluctantly becomes entangled in an effort to find his attractive customer and return her wrist watch to her. Before long he is embroiled in a plot that includes the eccentric cosmetics tycoon, Tucka Mertslin, a sinister plastic surgeon named Mennus, and a ruthlessly wicked crowd of lab rats. Caught in a race against time, he must test his own mettle in order to save Linka Perflinger and, of course, return her property to her.
Hoeye’s stories are told with sharp wit and considerable satire and parody. He certainly has a jaundiced (or at least bloodshot) eye focused on the superficiality of modern human society as he builds the settings in Pinchester and other locations. Few characters are really evil, but many are selfish, shortsighted, or have seriously misplaced values. Of course, Hermux himself is a paragon… or is he? One wonders whether he is sometimes more of a busybody than he is motivated by pure goodness, but in the end things always seem to come right. Readers will recognize real people, more or less, in these rats, voles, and occasional cats.
Hoeye has a particular cleverness with names. He has explained that the unusual character and place names in his stories grew out of a game of anagrams he played with his wife, Martha, one morning in 1997. They drew letters and had one minute to arrange them to spell the name of a character and then describe the character and his motivations. Thus he created Hermux Tantamoq, the ordinary but likable city mouse whose occupation was watchmaker. A few weeks later he began writing the story that would become Time Stops for No Mouse.
Eventually he was daunted by the scope of the task, writing an entire novel. He set it aside for months, only to take it up again when Martha left on a long business trip to Asia. They stayed in touch by e-mail, and he began writing bits of Hermux’s story in his messages in order to avoid the “everything is fine here, hope you are well” banalities. Soon he was sending each chapter to her by e-mail, and she would respond with questions about what was going to happen next. Thus the novel grew until it was ready for final editing and completion.
I recommend Michael Hoeye’s mysteries to readers of all ages, provided they enjoy anthropomorphic characters. Adults may find the occasional cuteness, such as Hermux talking to his pet ladybug, Terfle, a bit too sugary; but they will enjoy the personalities of the villains and eccentrics who come into each tale, and the unusual twists of the plot in which tiny selfish choices by unthinking individuals are clearly shown to have far reaching consequence.
Time Stops for No Mouse: a Hermux Tantamoq Adventure
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2000, ISBN 0-399-23878-6
($16.95 hardcover) Other editions available