Habitat for Human Remains, by Scott A. Lerner: A Creepy Old Mansion with a Legacy of Murder

habitatMirror, mirror on the wall, who will be the next you maul?

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Habitat for Human Remains ($15.95, 256 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-627-4), by Scott A. Lerner, is the fifth work of urban fantasy in a series featuring Samuel Roberts, small-town attorney and part-time nemesis of the forces of evil, and his computer/weapons/horror movie-geek friend Bob. The series began with Cocaine Zombies and continued with Ruler of Demons, The Fraternity of the Soul Eater, and The Wiccan Witch of the Midwest. In an effort to clear Sam’s mentally ill client from a murder charge, Sam and Bob delve into the rich and gory history of a local haunted house.

5 Stars: “Filled with terror and horrifying details that jump off the page, this story is one this reader soon won’t forget. It’s filled with intrigue and even though you want to hide your eyes or look away, you don’t. Evil is around every corner, and the “Frost Home” is the perfect setting for this suspense-filled thriller.” Read more….

—Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews

5 Stars: “An urban fantasy tale that fits right in with The Dresden Files, the Eric Carter series, and the Iron Druid Chronicles. A locked room mystery worthy of Sherlock Holmes, flavored with the spooky elements of Grimm and The X-Files. I love that Samuel and Bob are very nondescript characters rather than sexy, young (looking) characters. I like that too, mind, but it’s nice to see average-looking characters as the main ones. Between the two, they reminded me a lot of the Lone Gunmen conspiracy group from the The X-Files. There is great use of dialogue in the story, and each person has distinct accents and inflections, making them much easier to bring to life in the mind’s eye.” Read more….

— J. Aislynn d Merricksson for Readers’ Favorite Reviews

Cocaine Zombies won a Bronze medal in the 2012 IPPY Awards, mystery category.

This series has received enthusiastic praise from readers and critics:

The Wiccan Witch of the Midwest: “A fun, quick, and hard-to-put-down Halloween story. I recommend it to all urban fantasy lovers who look for a plot that will hook you from the start, engaging characters, and a twist that will surprise the reader.” —Reader Views

The Fraternity of the Soul Eater: “Not only is this an interesting plot full of twists and turns, but Lerner’s characters, Sam and Bob, are witty and endearing.”  —The News-Gazette

Ruler of Demons doesn’t feel like a horror story, but there’s strong tension and entertaining banter throughout the book. It’s the only novel about demons, mutilation, and the apocalypse that can potentially leave a smile on the reader’s face.” —The New York Journal of Books

Cocaine Zombies:  “Lerner has crafted a gripping tale, rife with colorful characters, to create a minor masterpiece of modern fiction.” —Don Gerard, Former Mayor of Champaign, Illinois

For the forces of evil, Sam Roberts is catnip. Even during periods of calm, Sam knows that evil is just biding its time before challenging him again. So when he is asked to defend a wealthy shut-in charged with murder, he is suspicious. Why is the largest and wealthiest law firm in town hiring an outside attorney who is a sole practitioner to represent Mr. Blake May?

Sam’s client resides in the sublimely creepy Frost Home, a “haunted” mansion given a wide berth by the residents of Champaign, Illinois. The house has been engulfed in rumors of death, missing children, and mystery since before the Civil War. Blake May is accused of not only murdering his girlfriend but decimating the remains until they look like marinara. But the agoraphobic middle-aged man rarely, if ever, left his rooms. If he indeed killed Heather, why can’t the police find a murder weapon? Everyone seems to want Blake declared insane rather than acquitted.

Sam and his buddy Bob Sizemore know that Heather’s grizzly fate can’t be blamed on something as mundane as murder. There is a force at work in the house, and it seems to emanate from the mirror hung in the room where the remains of the body were found. Can Sam and Bob end the Frost Home’s eerie legacy of evil?

Says the author, “I write books primarily to entertain my readers. At the same time I like to dig beneath the surface of society. Habitat for Human Remains brings in some of the history of Champaign County and the State of Illinois. Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War play a role in the origins of the mansion known as the Frost Home. So does the Native American Chief Black Hawk. Magic versus science, our treatment of the mentally ill, all these themes are woven in and add depth to the story for readers who are looking for it.”

Author and attorney Scott A. Lerner resides in Champaign, Illinois. He obtained his undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and went on to obtain his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign. He is currently a sole practitioner in Champaign, Illinois. The majority of his law practice focuses on the fields of Criminal law and Family Law. Mr. Lerner lives with his wife, their two children, and their cat Fern. Lerner collects unusual antiques and enjoys gardening, traveling, reading fiction and going to the movies. Click here to find Scott online.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

Tiny versions of characters from Dr. Who, Star Trek, and Star Wars stared down at me. I guessed that the characters I could not recognize were from less popular movies, anime, and comic books.

There were props as well, hundreds of them. Some had tags from Hollywood prop houses; others were made for mass consumption. This was a collection that any science fiction geek would truly envy. “Geek” was probably an understatement. To say that Mr. May was a bit of a nerd would be like saying Fonzie is a bit cool. Mr. May was a nerd’s nerd. Perhaps the king of all nerds.

Bob interrupted my thoughts. “Do you have any idea what this shit is worth? There is not an action figure here that would sell for less than a hundred dollars. The movie props alone are worth twenty to fifty thousand. Not a one of them would go for less than a grand. Some of the toys from the fifties, the robots and ray guns—fucking priceless.”

“I have never seen you so excited.”

“Do you see that light saber and the cricket gun from Men in Black? The label says they were ‘screen used.’ How do you put a price on that? Dude, I am telling you, this is the holy grail of collectables.”

“Should I step out? Give you and the room some time alone?”

He did a little twirl, arms spread, as if he were a model presenting the contents at a trade show. “I’m just telling you, this is the big leagues.”

I was keeping an eye out for anything that might have been used as a murder weapon. Although, the police would have taken away anything obvious. There were loads of futuristic weapons: sonic screwdrivers, blasters, ray guns, phasers, and light sabers—none of which appeared to be functional.

There was a club from The Planet of the Apes, but it was made out of a harmless rubber. There was a Klingon bat’leth, but the blade was lightweight and unsharpened. There were also two curved knifes from one of the Riddick movies, but they were created for display rather than use.

When we left the room, I felt dizzy and disoriented. It was like going back in time. The transition from mid-nineteenth century home to science fiction room was jarring. This experience may not have helped me solve a murder mystery, but it told me quite a bit about my client.

Mr. May’s shut-in status might have had less to do with his agoraphobia and more to do with simply having no reason to leave the house. Bob had already indicated he would be glad to stay here. What was the point of leaving? He had everything he needed. In this space alone, he had a kitchen, a bathroom, and a laundry room, and more square footage than most houses. He was certainly strange, but nothing I saw seemed to peg him as the homicidal type—whatever that means.

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