The Humbugs Diet

The Mercury Press, 2007 - 176 pages

The Keter Gardens Retirement Home, an upscale retirement home on the banks of the Hudson river in Yonkers, New York has a problem. The state-funded charity cases who are occupying rooms that could be leased at far more profitable rates don’t seem to be freeing up those rooms as quickly as the owners would like. When the elderly Booger Rooney is found dead in the courtyard of the Gardens, the police decree his defenestration a suicide. But Claire, a fellow resident of the Home, does not agree; she launches her own investigation. This may not be a good idea, considering her reputation within the institution as a troublemaker with a penchant for pre-dawn operatic exercise, smoking and drinking, and a certain bluntness of tongue. What Claire discovers is more than widespread indifference toward the elderly and political corruption. The trail becomes a mystery littered with a bizarre variety of ritual murders. The story is told from the peculiar and misanthropic voice of the man in the room next to Claire’s, Rotuf Mazal, an ex-cop with his own secrets. The Humbugs Diet is both a sometimes heart-wrenchingly humourous reflection on the social and psychological realities in the inevitable process of aging and death, and a breathless whodunit.

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"Claire, a troublemaking resident at the Keter Gardens Retirement Home in Yonkers, N.Y., travels with a brick in her bag and her money inside her blouse. Or so says retired cop-with-a-past Rotuf Mazal, a resident in the next room, who narrates The Humbugs Diet.

A fellow resident, the elderly Booger Rooney, finishes his lunch of chicken pie, (five cubes of chicken, nine cubes of carrots and a dozen number 2 peas,) returns to his room and jumps out the window to the rock garden below. 

Between her operatic vocalizations, her drinking and her smoking, Claire pronounces that Booger’s death was no suicide. He was murdered so his subsidized room-with-a view could be leased to a full-fee-paying senior. Claire sets out to prove it with the help of colleague Lorraine Tardiff, a woman who has budgeted 865 days until her demise. What they discover leads them far beyond a simple murder,  into a maze of elder neglect and political sleaze.

With a poetic caress and a philosophically caustic voice, Majzels spins a story that is a mystery to the last page as well as a humorous, yet intensive, social commentary on aging, death and societal ignorance.

The Humbugs Diet is witty, insightful and a satisfying challenge."

---Don Graves. March 1, 2008