Most of George Hebert’s body has gone up in smoke. Although the once notorious artist’s death has all the appearance of Spontaneous Human Combustion, Inspector Boggs approaches the case as he would any suspicious death. The bizarre circumstances and the whiff of an old scandal lures arcane researcher Wilbur Osterley to the investigation. Boggs enlists Osterley’s services as amateur sleuth in untangling a mystery that exposes a Pandora’s box of secrets that go back decades.
Set at the close of Prohibition, Roast begins with the mysterious death of George Hebert, an artist famous for his darkly erotic etchings. Is his death an anomaly, weird suicide or elaborate murder?
The investigation goes from the quiet neighborhood of Merryacres to the funeral parlor run by Hebert’s cousin Morgan Merton. Wilbur Osterley and his librarian friend Katya posing as mourners, go in disguise to the Merton Funeral Chapel whose clientele boasts a conspicuous number of gangland bosses. From there Wilbur and Katya visit a cemetery for the grandiose send-off of a corrupt judge. They crash the wake at a speakeasy where they collect key information. Other stops along the trail include the mansion of a powerful crime lord, return forays to the funeral home for evidence from both living and dead, and a final fateful trip to the Merton’s remote warehouse where funerary supplies are stored.
There are gangsters and undertakers, speakeasies and libraries. Bootleggers re-tool for post-prohibition operations. There is a desecrating insult, a traumatic abduction and plots of revenge. There is convenient death, desired death and pathetic death. Destinies cross, re-cross and come together at last in a final startling revelation.