On the Shelf Review – Adirondack Enigma

Contrary to what most people who know me might believe, I do, on rare occasion, read a book that has nothing to do with Cthulhu, Lovecraft, or magic.  My most recent title is Adirondack Enigma by Cheri Farnsworth, an author of several paranormal and regional history books.  I found this on my long drive back from Plattsburgh a few weeks ago at a roadside tourist shop, and my reading was only interrupted when I accidentally left it with a friend in Albany.

In 1882, a mysterious gentleman named Henry Debosnys appeared in the small Adirondack town of Essex.  After a whirlwind courtship, he married local widow Elizabeth Wells, but it soon became evident that he had done so for the money.   On August 1 of that year, the couple left on a picnic outing from which only Henry returned.  He was quickly arrested, tried, and executed, in the sort of drama that has played out innumerable times over the years.

What sets this trial apart was the alleged criminal, Henry Debosnys, himself.  He later insisted that this was a pseudonym, and that giving out his real name would merely put his family to shame.  It might be seen as a common dodge, but Debosnys was not a common man.  He proved himself to be an author and poet of some ability who spoke six languages and was covered with mysterious tattoos.  He linked himself with two previous marriages, in both of which the wife had died shortly afterward under mysterious circumstances.  He gave a detailed history of himself, filled with specific details about travels and military service, along with other documents in a cipher that has never been cracked.  Farnsworth has done an amazing job of covering not only the trial, but in presenting original facsimiles of Debosny’s original documents to bring us into the mystery.

And then, Farnsworth tells us that Debosnys’ detailed life history does look plausible, based on some Google searches she’s run.  She’s got another book to write, you know, and she’d best get on with that.

I’m serious.  I think I actually said, “Oh, come on!” when I reached that point.  That’s it?  No contacting the archives in Lisbon, near which Debosnys said he was born?  No followup with historical sources, or contacting experts in the field, to see how his story holds up?  Not even an email or two?  Nothing?

I am not one to criticize the practices of other authors.  Wait, who am I kidding?  I do that all the time.  I can only say, with regard to this, that if I wrote a book that ended in this manner, I would use part of the advance to rent a dunking booth for myself so my readers could get some satisfaction.

In the end, Adirondack Enigma is a really great half of a book.  I can only hope that Farnsworth or someone else will, someday, release the other half.  I’m sure it’s going to be wonderful.

Published in: on July 14, 2011 at 10:36 am  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. … Either that or the opportunity to write the second half has been left open to others… for example, a seasoned researcher from, say, somewhere in New York State with an eye for mysteries, a taste for the otherworldly, and, I dunno… a name like Dan Harms or something?

    Not that you don’t have enough on your plate…but still…

    • Exactly! Go, Dan! 🙂

      • I’ve got too much on my plate, but I put in a request to the National Archives in Lisbon about French boys born in Belem on his supposed date of birth.

  2. Hi, Mr. Harms. Thank you for the review. I’m glad you enjoyed most of the book (just as I enjoyed most of the review). I hoped to make it clear in the book that I had presented all that I could possibly find regarding Mr. Debosnys and leave it to my readers to try to solve the mystery of who he was. That’s why we advertised “Who will be the first to crack the Debosnys code?” It was felt that part of the enjoyment would be deciphering the cryptograms and being the first to do so. In fact, other readers have told me they were determined to be the first and some have sent me their detailed theories.

    Regarding the dunking booth suggestion, sadly, the publisher for “Adirondack Enigma” does not offer advances with which I might have rented a dunking booth to dunk myself. 🙂 And the other contractual deadline I had while I was simultaneously writing “Adirondack Enigma” and working full-time, was for “Alphabet Killer: The True Story of the Double Initial Murders.” The killer(s) who raped and murdered three little girls in the Rochester, N.Y. area has yet to be identified, but the cases are open and active and there was an urgency to get the book out there quickly to generate more leads, which it has.

    Perhaps when I’m able to retire from my day job, and I’m not writing on the side as a hobby, as I am now, I’ll be able to devote more time to resolving the area’s unsolved murders and mysteries; but there are some books, like “Adirondack Enigma,” in which half the fun for the readers is figuring it out themselves. I only wish that I had chosen my words regarding “other books to write” more carefully.

    Best regards,

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