The Hydrogen Murder


Hydrogen Cover

By Camille Minichino

On her fifty-fifth birthday physicist Gloria Lamerino makes a U-turn: she cleans out her Berkeley, California condo and her physics lab, signs for a retirement bonus, and flies east to her hometown of Revere, just outside Boston. Back in the city she left thirty years ago, Gloria moves into an apartment above her friends' funeral home and drives their hand-me-down Cadillacs. When she signs on with the local police as a consultant in science-related crimes, she thinks the most exciting thing about it will be testifying as an expert witness. But Gloria finds challenges she doesn't expect: the murder of Eric Bensen, a physicist she knew in California; the re-appearance of Peter Mastrone, an old boyfriend; and an unprecedented feeling of attraction to Matt Gennaro, the homicide detective who's in charge of the Bensen murder investigation. Although she hates to acknowledge the possibility of shady dealings among her peers, Gloria is forced to admit that Eric's murder may be related to fraud in the scientific community. If Eric was planning to expose a cover-up, she can't rule out high-tech suspects—the lecherous project director for the ground-breaking hydrogen research Eric was working on when he was murdered, the young female colleague determined to climb the corporate ladder on the strength of the team's findings, and the apparently saintly post-doc who may have a grudge of another kind against Eric. And if rumors are true about Eric's love life, his wife and alleged girlfriend must be added to the list of suspects. Gloria is so successful at overcoming her timidity and confronting the suspects in Eric's murder investigation that her own life is threatened. Her friends try to convince her to abandon her work on the case, but she uses newly acquired assertiveness techniques and old stand-by scientific reasoning skills to meet her contract deadline in a spectacular way. Gloria uncovers fraudulent scientific data, solves Eric's murder, and engages in her first physical combat, all in the same week. She also has her first date in decades and makes progress in deciding what she wants to be when she grows up.


From: Booklist / December 15, 1997
*Minichino, Camille. The Hydrogen Murder.
Dec. 1997. 185p. Avalon, 401 LaFayette St., New York, NY 10003, $17.95 (0-8034-9268-5).

After retiring from teaching, fiftysomething physics professor Gloria Lamerino becomes a scientific consultant to the police department in her suburban Boston hometown. When Eric Bensen, a young physicist, is found murdered in his lab, Detective Sergeant Matt Gennaro asks Lamerino to determine whether the death was related to Bensen's research on hydrogen and superconductivity. Despite threats and a break-in at her apartment--made doubly spooky because Lamerino lives above a friend's funeral home--the scientist turned sleuth doggedly investigates, uncovering fraudulent dealings by members of Bensens research team. This first novel in a new series is a real find. Not only does author Minichino, herself a physicist, clearly explain the scientific concepts relating to hydrogen and superconductivity, but she also offers a tightly constructed mystery with appealing, sympathetic characters. And her Boston ambience holds its own with that of Parker, Tapply, Higgins, et al. There are numerous physician/medical examiner sleuths at the moment; now there's a physicist on the beat, too, and a very good one. Minichino is currently working on The Helium Murder, the next in the series. Watch for it. -John Rowen

From: The Revere Journal, December 24, 1997
Former resident writes mystery set in Revere
By Stephen F. Olivieri Journal Staff

A graduate student conducting groundbreaking hydrogen research was fatally shot at his Charger Street lab... Well ... not in reality, but in a new mystery novel by a former Revere resident. Camille Minichino, a California physicist, has written "The Hydrogen Murder," a book set in the streets of the city she grew up in. It's all here in her book - St.Anthony's Church, Kelly's, the Journal, the Lincoln School, Wonderland Ballroom and the Shirley Avenue police substation. The mystery's crime solver is Gloria Lamerino, a physicist who grew up in Revere and moved to California after the death of her fiance. After retiring from her California lab, Lamerino decides to come back to Revere and moves into an apartment above a funeral home on the corner of Revere and Tuttle Streets. Lamerino is hired as a consultant for the Revere police on science-related crimes. Her expertise is put to the test when a graduate student, who is also her former colleague, is murdered early one morning at his lab on Charger Street. Was the victim about to expose a fraudulent science experiment? Did his messed-up personal life play a part in his death? Those are the questions Lamerino and the Revere Police Department hope to answer. In addition to being a mystery novel, "The Hydrogen Murder" is a romance. The heroine falls for the Revere police sergeant who heads the murder investigation. Minichino's Revere is true to life. The author comes back to the East Coast a couple of times a year, and she has driven through Revere to check street names and take pictures. "I love the city and I hope that came through," she said. There are some small items that are not factually accurate. In the book, the Columbus Day Parade starts at St. Anthony's Church and goes to the beach. (It actually starts at the Chelsea line on Broadway and goes up Revere Street to the church). In one scene, Lamerino, has a cappuccino in a Starbucks - yes, a Starbucks - near the Chelsea/Revere line. There's a half-dozen Dunkin' Donuts in Revere, but no Starbucks. Of course, Minichino's story is fiction and not a history of Revere. Minichino also invents several fictional restaurants in Revere, although her heroine's favorite place to grab something to eat is not fictional - Luberto's. The author and the her heroine have a lot in common. Both Italian-Americans grew up in Revere and graduated from Revere High School. Lamerino, 55, is a 1958 graduate of Revere High; Minichino, 60, is a 1954 graduate. "I thought (Lamerino) might be a little more appealing if she wasn't 60 yet," Minichino said of the age difference. Both have a Ph.D. in physics and moved to California. The big difference is that Lamerino moved back to Revere, while Minichino only visits friends and relatives here. Minichino does think about moving back to the Boston area. "It's a wish I have," she said. "(My husband) doesn't think he could take the winters.'' Unlike Lamerino, who pines after Sergeant Matt Gennaro, Minichino is married to Richard Rufer. Minichino said there is one other difference between her and her heroine: "She's more together than I am." Minichino is a part-time editor at the same lab she has worked at since she moved to California in 1975. Her physics career has included teaching and research. Teaching science literacy to non-technical people has been a lifelong mission for Minichino. Her mystery novels are one vehicle for doing that. "I want people to think science is friendly," she said. The former Revere resident has two more books ready for publication - "The Helium Murder" and "The Lithium Murder." (Hydrogen, Helium, and Lithium are the first three elements, respectively, in the periodic table.) The new books feature Lamerino and are set in Revere. "The Hydrogen Murder" was published by Avalon Books of New York. It costs $17.95 and can be ordered by calling 1-800-223-5251.

From: East Bay Express, February 27, 1998
An Unconventional Woman
by Laura Hagar

... San Leandro mystery writer Camille Minichino came of age in a small, working-class town in New England. Unlike most nice Italian girls in her hometown of Revere, Massachusetts, Minichino grew up to become a nuclear physicist. Now retired from her job at Lawrence Livermore Lab, the sixty-year-old Minichino has started a new career as a mystery writer. Despite her rather late start in publishing, one would hesitate to call her a slow starter. Her first book, The Hydrogen Murder (Avalon), came out in January. Her second, The Helium Murder, is due out in May. Her third book, The Lithium Murder, is already at the publishers', and she's hard at work on her fourth, The Beryllium Murder. (She's working her way down the periodic table. Only a hundred or so more elements to go!) Minichino's witty; wisecracking sleuth Gloria Lamerino is a middle-aged physicist who, like her creator, feels torn hetween two coasts. In the first book, Lamerino, a former employee of a Northern California laboratory; moves back to Revere and goes to work as a scientific consultant for the local police department where she explains the intricacies of metallic hydrogen and superconductivity to science-phobic detectives. As a longtime science educator, Minichino is particularly sensitive to how intimidated most people are by any discussion of science or higher mathematics. One of the great charms of The Hydrogen Murder is the expert and painless way in which Minichino slips in the necessary scientific explanations. "As a scientist, I have heard my whole life that science is hard, that science is boring, that science is only for geniuses. You know, there's that saying, 'You don't have to be a rocket scientist...' and what people mean by this is that whatever they're talking about is easy compared to rocket science, which they assume is the hardest thing going. But compared to history or literature-where you're dealing with the unpredictabilities of the human mind-rocket science is relatively easy. It's just basic physics-you push down and you go up-with a little bit of chemistry mixed in. I've always tried to counteract the idea that scientists are some special breed of people with some kind of special brain." Minichino traces her own interest in science to the early mathematics training she received from her father, a carpenter with almost no formal education. "My father was very good at arithmetic-which you have to be as a carpenter-and he taught me how to do that. It was like a game. He'd say, 'How long do you think this room is?' and we'd all guess and then we'd measure. And then we'd figure out how many tiles we'd need. I loved it. It was a way to play with my father. But it was also laying the foundations for understanding math and eventually science. Then, when I was in high school, I had a wonderful woman math teacher. She really latched onto me because, by that time, I was the only girl in the room. It's odd, but at the time I didn't notice that I was the only girl, or if I did it wasn't a big deal because I was already really confident of my math skills. It was too late for anyone to tell me that I couldn't do it, because, thanks to that early training with my father, I already knew that I could." Minichino's detective Gloria Lamerino comes from a similar background. She's also close in age to her creator-55 to Minichino's 60. But Gloria Lamerino isn't anyone's idea of a senior citizen. She is certainly not a tea-party sleuth in the mold of Agatha Chnstie's decorous Miss Marple. She even has a romance in the works with a sad-eyed Italian detective. I did that deliberately," Minichino says. "I just turned sixty. It doesn't seem old to me. The word senior keeps getting pushed ahead. Inside, I don't feel any different than I did when I was younger. I just wanted a protagonist to reflect that."

From: Gothic Journal, February/March,1998
The Hydrogen Murder Camille Minichino (Avalon)

Setting: North of Boston and Revere, Massachusetts, present day As Eric Bensen is going through the program of the Hydrogen project, a familiar person walks into the lab and murders him. He was within months of finishing his doctorate and becoming famous due to his team's discoveries with metallic hydrogen. This is the opening scene of a unique murder mystery. After living in California for 31 years, Gloria Lamerino returns to Revere. She left Revere suddenly, at age 24, when her fiancé was killed in an accident. Her reappearance raises eyebrows, especially when she joins forces with mild-mannered Sargeant Matt Gennaro to solve the Hydrogen murder. Gloria lives on the third floor of a funeral home with her doting best friend Rose while she slowly gets back into an intimate community life. Her life is filled with giving science lectures in schools, developing lesson plans for scientific projects, and working with the police for scientific consultations in their investigations. She is soon involved in this murder mystery where the suspects are her col-leagues. Other secondary characters incude her old boyfriend Peter, who tries to keep her out of danger while wooing her back into his arms. Rose knows her best friend well and wants her to find a nice man. Matt shows little emotion, but he urgently pleads with her to be careful throughout the investigation. In the back of her mind, the voice of Gloria's mother, Josephine, complains about her daughter's many shortcomings. With this cast of characters, Gloria is bound to solve this case. Gloria is lovable, smart, funny, and wonderfully quirky. She wears pins with every outfit, is drawn to danger, and lends a colorful view to each situation. The author paints an intimate portrait of Gloria's new life and her impressions of those around her. In life-and-death situations, she is an action-heroine. The writing style also details every-day life and provides a shock when the reader least expects it. The attention to detail enhances a pleasant narrative voice. For the scientifically challenged, this novel is exciting. For the scientifically gifted, this novel is exciting. The idea of creating a series of mysteries based on the table of elements is innovative. Readers will love following Gloria on her sleuthing journeys. This is a mild yet riveting murder mystery that will satisfy mystery addicts and draw in newcomers to the genre. The plot leads the reader through the discoveries and questions of a classic murder mystery. The reader will try to solve the mystery him/herself and will be surprised by the ending. Every one is a suspect and has a skeleton or two in the closet. Readers will look forward to solving The Helium Mystery. ISII.N 0-8034-9268-5, 185 pp., $17.95 (hardcover), Mystery, December 1997 -Patience H Smilk

From: Marina Times, July, 1998

The Mystery Shelf by Alicia Berberich
The Hydrogen Murder by Camille Minichino

I always wondered why I had to memorize the Periodic Table of Elements in my high school chemistry class. I thought it was just another way the nuns could torture us under the guise of science. Now some twenty-odd years later (with more years later than years prior) I can see that someone has put this knowledge to good use: Camille Minichino. She has taken the Kinsey Malone Alphabet Mystery Series concept and added a scientific overlay. Science was always a mystery to me and I much prefer the fictional variety when it comes to mysteries but Minichino has managed to make the science understandable, and even enjoyable. The Hydrogen Murder, hydrogen being the first element of the periodic table, is a tightly written mystery that introduces a colorful cast of characters whom I look forward to getting to know better. The protagonist, fifty-five year old Dr. Gloria Lamerino, has recently returned to her roots in the Boston area after working for the last twenty-five years as a physicist at UC Berkeley. She is torn between settling in Revere, MA or to returning to her friends in the Bay Area. At the rate that scientists are turning up dead in Revere, I'm surprised she doesn't high tail it back West, but a certain police sergeant has caught her eye. She has signed up as a scientific consultant for the police department in Revere and starts working on a case right away. Gloria has some ghosts that haunt her, including her mother, Josephine, who, even though she has been dead for many years, still plays a big part in Gloria's life, and an old boyfriend who was murdered. She is lives above her friend's mortuary and drives one of their cars, which takes a certain personality. The book opens with a prologue that allows the reader see the murder occur without revealing the murderer. Mystery writers always debate the effectiveness of prologues. I for one enjoy them because they create an opportunity to meet the victim and to establish an emotional connection prior to the inevitable. The prologue can show us the direction of the story so we have some background while we get to know the characters. Minichino uses this technique effectively to present the murder victim and the background right up front. She then can take her time to introduce the characters and build their relationships. I for one enjoy them because they create an opportunity to meet the victim and to establish an emotional connection prior to the inevitable. The prologue can show us the direction of the story so we have some background while we get to know the characters. Minichino uses this technique effectively to present the murder victim and the background right up front. She then can take her time to introduce the characters and build their relationships. The story involves a physicist, Eric Bensen, who is working on a project that will greatly impact his lab's work and their future contracts and funding. He discovered fraudulent data in the hydrogen research and was having a moral dilemma: whether to withdraw the paper the group had submitted to the leading journal, or to remain quiet. Someone else made the decision forEric by murdering him. Dr. Gloria Lamerino is called in to assist the police. Gloria is unsure how to pursue a relationship with Sergeant Matt Gennaro, since they are now workingtogether. Plus, an old friend of Gloria's, who seems to have been waiting for her return all these years, is determined to win her affection. I look forward to many more encounters with the Periodic Table of Elements Mystery Series gang. I know that Camille Minichino certainly has her work cut out for her with over 100 elements to go! The Helium Murder should be available by the time you read this. If you would like to experience Dr, Minichino's humor in person, she is on the physics staff at UC Berkeley Extension.