This is a very strange book: from the characters’ names to the metaphysical theories, the story is at times funny, at times engaging, and at times totally confusing. It is a murder mystery – if the reader can follow the plot line.
The protagonist is an insurance adjuster named Ded (Dedaelus) Smith. His own story is enough to confuse the reader right from the beginning. He is sort of a lost soul trying to find himself, since his divorce from his wife Harriet. Since his divorce, he has spent virtually all of his time flying from job to job and has built up his relationship with policemen while working out whether insurance claims should be paid.
Ded is on a plane to San Francisco, when a dead body is found in one of the plane’s toilets. The detective called in happens to be a friend who asks Ded to sit in on the interviews of passengers. Thus the plot begins.
The deceased is one Ickey Jerusalem, the self-described “”Poet Laureate”” of San Francisco. What is initially believed to be a suicide turns into a murder investigation. Who killed Jerusalem? His lover, blind Beulah Vala; his chauffeur, Adam Ghostflea; Tharmas Luvah, his business manager; Bacon Urizon, his lawyer; Dr.Bromion Ulro, a physician; Robert N. William, the flight purser – or is it someone else?
As you can see by the names, this is NOT your everyday murder mystery. I found this book confusing, sometimes bogged down in nonsensical quasi-religious theories – and yet I found myself hanging in until the very end. The Agatha Christie type ending – where the detective wraps it all up – makes the read worthwhile.