Old Ways in the New World

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9780312110383: Old Ways in the New World

Only Richard Conroy, who has already brought us two chronicles of life behind the walls of the Smithsonian Institution (The India Exhibition and Mr. Smithson's Bones), could do justice to the chaos that ensues when that venerable museum, "The Nation's Attic," joins in the bicentennial celebration.
The plan is to invite countries from all over the world to be represented by artists, dancers, singers, craftspeople, and practitioners of archaic and arcane rituals. (There's no point in wondering how one would classify the German team of rock climbers, brewers, and Schuplatte dancers.)
Since Henry Scruggs is on indefinite loan to the Smithsonian from the State Department, the shepherding of all these people falls to him. Which means he must abandon his leisurely teas and his halfhearted pursuit of colleague Dreamy Weekes and keep an eye on the guests.
But one man can only do so much. After all, the murder of the ethnomusicologist from Aganga has no connection to the presence in Washington of such as the Hereditary Moote of the K'ng-Gui and his retinue, including pregnant third wife Polly Esther. On the other hand, the rare tropical insects that multiply and eat everything made of organic material did arrive in the grain the K'ng-Gui brought as food.
But Henry's woe is our entertainment, and never has Conroy been more entertaining than in his personal bicentennial celebration - a cause for celebration for us all.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

Accustomed as he is to zany goings-on at the Smithsonian, beleaguered foreign-affairs officer Henry Scruggs (Mr. Smithson's Bones, 1993, etc.) meets his match when he hosts 37 members of the K'ng-Gui tribe for the Bicentennial Folklore Festival. His guests make themselves at home by building a fire on an airport runway, bringing crates of forbidden bugs and grass into the country, and urinating en masse on anyone who just says no. Meantime, Henry's getting unexpected help with pestilential African musicologist Cedric Mahute, who's married Lolita-ish Bitsy Cross in order to clinch his green card: Somebody obligingly kills Cedric, freezes him, and plants his body where the K'ng-Gui are sure to find and eat it. There'll be many more adventures--the birth of a talismanically six-fingered infant, a cooking fire that rages through the museum, the escape of the insatiable cloth-eating devil bugs, who chomp their way through DC--before Henry, rescued from protective custody by his sometime lover Phoebe Casey, is ready to sit down and unmask the murderer. A bargain for connoisseurs of comic mysteries: Beneath the knockabout farce is a byzantine puzzle guaranteed to leave you both baffled and itchy. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

This third, often slapstick, Smithsonian Institution mystery featuring Henry Scruggs, on loan there from Foreign Service, substitutes a string of cheap cracks and pratfalls for plot. In 1976, 37 members of the K'ng-Gui tribe, who resemble the Bushmen of Botswana, arrive in the nation's capital to dance at the Great Bicentennial Folk Festival on the mall. They have brought with them their ancestor bugs, objects of worship whose entry into the U.S. Scruggs unwittingly facilitates. Scruggs, doing his best to accommodate the visitors, offends them nevertheless and suffers their traditional retaliation: they urinate on him. The bugs, once admitted, prove voracious, devouring the original Star-Spangled Banner, George Washington's tent and even the reams of paper that Washington bureaucrats require in order to perform their jobs (in triplicate). Meanwhile, beleagured tea-loving, sex-obsessed Henry must solve two murders and stop the invasion of the devil bugs. Readers who like the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy may enjoy this successor to Mr. Smithson's Bones.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Richard Timothy Conroy
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