The world A.B. Funkhauser draws us into in Heuer, Lost and Found isn’t a familiar one for ninety percent of us. Make that ninety-five. Even if you’re a devotee of Six Feet Under, you’ll step into strange territory when you enter the confines of the Weibigand Brothers Funeral home and the mind of Jurgen Heuer.
To describe almost anything about the plot here is to act the spoiler, but I do have to mention that Heuer is dead, though we don’t realize that for a page or two, and that he’s watching his corporeal substance decompose on his office floor. It’s both intriguing and amusing to observe him experimenting with the freedom and limits of his new form of being and his interaction with his fellow ghosts (one of whom inhabits a lamp). All that is humorous in itself, but important to the plot as well, for each new discovery helps advance the action while we try to figure out what’s going to become of his earthly estate and of the live humans he’s left behind.
Meanwhile, back at the funeral home whose employees eventually–and I do mean eventually–arrives to cart him away, we find an aging establishment on the skids filled with quirky (sometimes savage) characters. Each of these folks has a mission of some sort to fulfill, and all of them work hard to manipulate the others to help them. Even the Rat. Yep. Rat is an important character. The novel is a yeasty mix of plot and people, and Funkhauser’s zesty prose keeps you smiling even through the most gruesome scenes.
And some of them are truly gruesome. Few of us are acquainted with the details of embalming (Funkhauser is a funeral director herself), especially on a desiccated corpse, and even fewer of us are anxious to find out. Yet, I never averted my eyes or skipped a page, so well are the details integrated into action and character. If there is a flaw with Heuer, it’s that there are a great many players and moving parts, and sometimes they tumble over each other so fast that confusion ensues. But that didn’t stop me from surfing on and enjoying it all. Funkhauser has a sequel, Scooter Nation, coming out in March, and I plan to get right in line to buy it. You should, too. After you read Heuer, of course.