Professor Launches Third Sequel of Comical Mystery

January 23, 2011

Professor Launches Third Sequel of Comical Mystery


VALDOSTA -- Thousands of people have spent the night with Dr. J. Michael Orenduff - well, with one of his books, that is.

The adjunct professor of philosophy in the Honors Program has released the third in a series of novels that chronicle the thrilling adventures of Hubert Schuze, a quirky thief of rare pots who treasures philosophy along his path of moral ambiguity. "The Pot Thief Who Studied Einstein," released in early December, weaves an intricate plot through comical circumstances and murderous events. The title has been nominated for the 2011 Left Coast Crime Award, which will be given to four authors of humorous mysteries at the national convention in March.

"Maybe it was the chance for an easy $2,500. Or maybe it was the chance to examine a treasure trove of Anasazi pots that prompted Hubie Schuze to be blindfolded and chauffeured to meet a reclusive collector looking for a confidential appraisal," the plot description details. "Hubie's devil-may-care attitude fades fast when he finds three of his own Anasazi copies among the genuine antiquities. Worse, when the driver drops him back home, what he doesn't find are the 25 crisp hundred dollar bills the collector gave him. But the longer he pursues his missing appraisal fee, the more tangled he becomes in the collector's shadowy life."

The Flavors of New Mexico

The series is set in New Mexico, where Orenduff said he grew up "so close to the Rio Grande that he could Frisbee a flour tortilla into Mexico from his backyard;" and where he married his high school sweetheart, Dr. Lai Chew Orenduff, a noted art historian and author who also teaches at Valdosta State. Orenduff said staging the books in his home state has enabled him to relive and share the flavors of the Land of Enchantment - quite literally, as he includes several dishes and cooking methods in each novel. His unpretentious characters and playful, yet provocative, writing amount to a quick and engaging read.

"First, perfect heroes are for comic books; real protagonists need a little moral ambiguity. Pot hunting is a vice that fits with the New Mexico setting. Second, the pot-hunting debate provides the framework for the philosophical issues I slip in on the unsuspecting reader," said Orenduff, who has served as a college president at the University of Maine at Farmington, The American University in Bulgaria, New Mexico State University, and Bermuda College. "The Pot Thief books are humorous murder mysteries, but they explore serious philosophical issues of culture and ethnicity."

Critics Salute the Fun, Engaging Read

The first book in the series, "The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras," was launched in 2009 to win the New Mexico Book of the Year Award. The Kindle version won the "Eppie" as eBook Mystery of the Year. The second edition, "The Pot Thief Who Studied Ptolemy," won Fiction Book of the Year from the Public Safety Writers' Association. At its launch in Albuquerque last year, the book set the all-time sales record for a single event at Treasure House Books. Orenduff is working on his fourth and fifth books, "The Pot Thief Who Studied Escoffier, "expected to release in March, and "The Pot Thief Who Studied D.H. Lawrence." Orenduff donates copies of his books to Valdosta State University's Odum Library.

Read more about The Pot Thief series at Orenduff's website, E-mail him at

From the critics:

"The dialogue is fresh and witty, reminiscent of sparkling Thirties screwball comedies with Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn bouncing off each others' energy and zinging home tart observations. The wry Hubert makes the perfect foil for insouciant Susannah." -- Lou Allin, author of "Man Corn Murders"

"'The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras' has all the components of a great read -- an intricate plot, quirky characters, crackling dialog, and a surprise ending. What's more, Orenduff successfully captures the essence of New Mexico through humor, romance, and even a little philosophical musing. New Mexico's rich history, people, food, and landscape come alive on its pages. But, while Orenduff's account is authentic, this book leaves you wanting more of New Mexico, and the only way to remedy that is to come see for yourself." -- Bill Richardson, Governor of New Mexico

"Orenduff is a master of his craft. He pulls you in by a thread and masterfully winds the story around his characters. Prepare for a sleepless night. I couldn't put it down." -- Marie Romero Cash, author of "Tortilla Chronicles"