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Literature / The Hermux Tantamoq Adventures

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The Hermux Tantamoq Adventures, written by Michael Hoeye, are a series of children's detective novels set in a Mouse World version of a modern-day city. The title character Hermux Tantamoq is a mild-mannered mouse watchmaker and Amateur Sleuth who solves his cases with the help of his pet ladybug Terfle, his love interest Linka Perflinger, his mentor Mirrin Stentrill, and various colorful and endearing friends. His recurring adversary is his neighbor: a vain, self-centered cosmetics tycoon named Tucka Mertslin, whose moneymaking schemes and bad taste in men often land Hermux on her bad side.

There are four books, all idiosyncratically named with titles referring to time:

  1. Time Stops for No Mouse (1999)
  2. The Sands of Time (2001)
  3. No Time Like Show Time (2004)
  4. Time to Smell The Roses (2007)

This series provides examples of:

  • Ace Pilot: Linka Perflinger—adventuress, daredevil and aviatrix.
  • The Beautiful Elite: A lot of page time is spent in this World of Mammals' equivalent of high society, with classy, glamorous rodents & other mammals featured in detail. Their main city, Pinchester, is clearly modelled on New York City, particularly Manhattan and the Upper East Side. note 
  • Blind Seer: Mirrin Stentrill, a blind painter, sees visions of cats but is unable to paint them. After she regains her sight, exhibiting the paintings of these cats causes a citywide scandal.
  • Body Horror: The U-Babe 2000. It's an automatic plastic surgery machine that's meant to turn a person into a perfect specimen of their species and gender... but when something goes wrong, it really goes wrong!
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Killium Wollar never studied a whit in his life but still gets good grades, and refuses to get a job if he can help it. He largely coasts on what he presumes is his "natural genius".
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Hermux takes three books to admit to Linka how he feels.
  • Career-Ending Injury: It's not a "serious" injury per se, but Nurella Pinch's thick fur (especially her head fur/hair) falls out, forcing her to leave show business. (Her baldness proves her identity when she appears in court in No Time like Show Time.)
  • Carnivore Confusion: Mice are mostly herbivores, but not exclusive. They can be pretty versatile with food, and in the real (human) world they're known to eat insects and worms.
    • Non-mammals are also exploited for various other resources than food. Rare parakeets, for instance, are slaughtered for their feathers, the way mammals are killed for their fur in the real world.
    • Terfle the ladybug herself lives in a cage much like pet birds would in the human world, and in the third book, one gerbil also has a pet cricket on a leash, evoking human celebrities with small pet dogs.
  • Cats Are Mean: Their extinct civilisation—clearly an Ancient Egypt analogue—enslaved mice.
  • Character Development:
    • Hermux learns to be more assertive and more aware of the beauty around him.
    • Linka learns to never get caught in a trap without backup.
    • Androse DeRosenquill learns to appreciate his family.
    • Tucka seems to get worse with every book; she goes from merely a nuisance who sometimes even helps Hermux (such as when she hires him to restore the mechanical mouse dancer) to an active accessory to murder. She's also become more cynical in regards to her love life: in The Sands of Time, she was eager to marry Hinkum, and seemed genuinely hurt and upset when she found out the truth; in the later books, she uses men for her own interests alone.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The crimped penny from the Noddems' grandfather clock, the crumbs in Hermux's pocket, Linka's ring ... it is a detective series after all.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Terfle's drawing skills, as well as her hypnotism routine (which she uses to distract the Big Bad of the third book), as well as her and Hermux both being good at card games (which Hermux uses to win his money back from an overcharging flying-squirrel messenger in the same book).
  • Costume Porn: The author was once a fashion photographer. It shows.
  • Crazy-Prepared: When organizing her adventures, Linka makes lists of everything, including the lists.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Mousetraps. Mutant killer bees. Nailed into a crate of rocks and pushed into a river. Thankfully none of them actually happen. Except for Termind the parrot's death—he is strangled and stuffed with sawdust, making him a real ventriloquist's dummy. Which his owner Gilden Binter has no skill at operating.
    • Hard to say if it's cruel or death per se, but it's certainly unusual—drinking the very potent antiaging serum from the moon plant in the first book will rapidly and entirely deage a person ā€¦ potentially turning them all the way back into egg cells, as Dr Mennus learns the hard way.
  • Dance of Romance: Subverted by Tucka and Hinkum's tango number at the museum opening. Firstly, one is only using the other for nefarious purposes; secondly, the swarm of decorative living flies gets shaken off her dress and Hilarity Ensues.
  • Deadly Euphemism: Ventriloquist apprentice Magner Wooliun (alias Corpius Crounce) claims to the police he was cleaning Gilden Binter's puppet—but as said puppet is a living parrot and Binter is a fraud, it's quite clear to the reader what he actually means. Especially when Hermux finds this out the next day the hard way.
  • Derailing Love Interests: Turfip Dandiffer, who seems like a very nice if absentminded professor at first, but later tells Linka to more or less Stay in the Kitchen.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Mice have speciesist prejudices against other rodents, and in The Sands of Time, mouse-supremacist movements regularly harass chipmunks like Birch as well as his "chipmunk-loving" mouse friends—including Hermux's parents; a very clear analogue to racist white humans targeting black activism and their white allies in the 1950s and 1960s. Meanwhile, Hinkum, the Big Bad, even appropriates all scientific and technological discoveries in this world as the work of his own ancestors and claims the glorious mythic past is an all-mouse effort—a typical political device used by Real Life Fascists, dictators and other megalomaniac leaders.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Turfip wants Linka to sell her beloved airplane and become the perfect hostess to advance his academic career. Linka is not happy about this, and neither is Hermux.
  • Distressed Damsel: Linka in the first book, but later on, she proves more than capable of looking after herself. She keeps a sharpened ring for escape situations and even kills a scorpion one-to-one. Slightly parodied with Beulith Varmint in book 3, who keeps getting set up as a potential victim (complete with Nip Setchley as her would-be Knight in Shining Armor), but always ends up unharmed.
  • Dulcinea Effect: After just one meeting, Hermux is ready to risk his life and reputation to rescue Linka.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Former movie star Nurella Pinch is first mentioned in the first book as an unfortunate victim of Dr Mennus' beauty procedures and thus had to retire from show business and become a recluse, but she only reappears under her actual name in the third book to defend the Varmint theatre from Tucka's attempts to buy it out. She also appears in the same book very early on under an assumed name—as Glissin, the costumer. (Ex-husband and action-movie director Brinx Lotelle is also mentioned in passing in the same breath as Nurella in the first book and likewise is more focused on in the third.)
  • "Eureka!" Moment: When Hermux (with Terfle's help) realises the giant cake made to welcome back Nurella Pinch, along with all the other sweets and snacks that came with it, would make a perfect set design for her show.
  • Fantastic Racism: The various species of rodent have several stereotypic ideas about each other. Even Hermux is influenced by this at first, calling chipmunks "a clownish lot" and not believing a mole could be a Mad Scientist. He grows out of it eventually. Others don't—the villain of the second book is even working with unsubtly-labelled "mouse supremacists", many of whom are behind the harassment of non-mouse rodents including chipmunks like Birch, as well as his mouse sympathisers.
    • Animal Jingoism: Ancient cats despised and enslaved mice, in what is basically a "Egyptians enslaving Hebrews" meets "cats killing/eating mice" dynamic.
  • Fantasy World Map: Some editions of the books show a map of this World of Funny Animals, and its coastline is quite clearly inspired by the North American East Coast. The Gulf of Tretch, for one, seems clearly modelled on the Real Life Gulf of Mexico.
  • Feuding Families: The feud's primarily a business rivalry, but the Jeckels and the DeRosenquills, on opposite sides of Thorny End's "Wars of the Roses" (i.e. competitors in the rose-growing industry), count as this. The DeRosenquills eventually won however.
  • Follow in My Footsteps:
    • Hermux, who inherited his watchmaking business from his father.
    • Androse DeRosenquill, who is searching desperately for his lost son so he can take over the family perfume business.
  • Food Porn: Hermux loves his small everyday pleasures, including donuts, coffee and especially cheese.
  • Fountain of Youth: Literally the In-Universe term given to the moon plant unearthed by the Dandiffer expedition with the help of Teulabonari's indigenous Nerran (chinchilla) communities—just eating its leaves will rejuvenate fur and energise the body, and the Nerrans themselves have made a tradition and ritual of distilling its antiaging serum and gargling it in significant ceremonies to stay ageless (but not drinking it—it's too powerful for that, as it can completely deage the unwitting drinker into babyhood or even further).
  • Freudian Excuse: Tucka explains away her massive vanity and attention-seeking as a result of being looked down on by her wealthier cousin as a child. Mennus implies that he's suffered from discrimination for being a mole.
  • G-Rated Drug: Tucka uses bee venom to puff up her lips, Botox-style, and appears to become addicted to it over the course of the fourth book.
    "Oh, mama! That's hot!"
  • He Knows Too Much: Likely how Dr Jervutz was murdered in the first book—it seems he found out Dr Mennus is after the rejuvenating plant samples dug up by the Dandiffer expedition. Jervutz thus tries to warn Dr Dandiffer about this but is killed before he can do so.
  • Heroic BSoD: Hermux, briefly, when his beloved pet Terfle disappears.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Tucka, to a newspaper columnist as she's angling for an interview.
    Tucka: If there's one thing I can't stand, it's hypocrisy. Incidentally, you're looking lovely tonight, have you lost weight?
  • I Have No Son!: Androse to his second son, for living in a hippie commune and refusing to take over the family business.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Terfle of all people, after a nightmare. Except in her case, it's just water.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy:
    • Hermux, in regards to Linka.
    • Birch: when he found out he'd been declared legally dead, he decides to stay away from Pinchester in the hope that Mirrin would find happiness with someone else.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Fashionable: In the fourth book, Tucka gives Killium Wollar a thorough makeover. He's uncomfortable at first, but soon comes to appreciate the luxury.
  • Interspecies Romance:
    • Mirrin (a mouse) and Birch (a chipmunk). It gets treated more or less like an interracial romance would have been in 1960's America, with Birch being the minority. At one point, when Birch suggests that Mirrin might be happier with someone of her own kind, she tells him:
      Mirrin: I've never found anyone of my own kind. Except you.
    • King Ka-Narsh-Pah (a cat) and the dancer (a mouse), in spite of interference from his Evil Chancellor.
  • Intrepid Reporter: In the first book, Pup Schoonagliffen. Who also happens to be the alter ego of Dr Hiril Mennus, though it's never clear which is the "default" personality.
  • It Has Been an Honor: Hermux, Linka and Birch in the cave with the dynamite.
  • It's All About Me: Tucka. At one point she claims not to have noticed two mice inside a mousetrap, screaming at her for help, were in danger. She's probably right.
  • Jerkass: Brinx, who abandoned Nurella when she lost her beauty.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Tucka's ending in the first book—she gets herself trapped and drastically remodelled in the U-Babe cosmetic surgery machine.
  • Live Mink Coat: Flies, in this case; Tucka wears an entire dress of living flies in The Sands of Time—and (for better or worse) they're not even tied down that tightly, so that a single dramatic dance movement shakes them all off.
  • Love at First Sight:
    • Hermux and Linka
    • Nip and Beulith
    • Possibly Tucka and Hinkum, on her side at least.
  • Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: Tucka's lovers all turn out to be bad guys. Justified given how shallow she is; all she looks for are charm, good looks and a willingness to go along with her less than savory schemes.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father:
    • Subverted in the third book, as the child in question never does find out.
    • Played straight in the fourth book with the DeRosenquills.
  • Mad Artist: The public's perception of Mirrin Stentrill after she exhibits a series of horrifying (to the public) cat paintings.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Dr Mennus in the first book, Dr Wollar in the fourth.
  • Master of Disguise: Corpius Crounce ... if that's even his real name. He uses several aliases and can modify his appearance and mannerisms quite smoothly, putting hair plugs in his ears, making himself dishevelled to look humble in some cases but then dressing up and slicking his fur back for others.
  • Meaningful Name: A vain dormouse socialite named Skimpy Dormay; a playboy named Flurty Palin; a timid secretary named Blanda Nergup; a loud and volatile theatre director named Fluster Varmint; a villain named Hiril Mennus (sounds like "menace") ... the list goes on.
  • Metrosexual: Rink Firsheen, a flamboyant architect who is Tucka's protege.
  • Mighty Whitey: Or rather Mighty Mouse. Turfip Dandiffer, who trades things like radios and army knives for the "primitive" Nerran tribe's deepest secrets. (They're chinchillas.)
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: In the first book, Linka's abduction → Conspiracy to get the Fountain of Youth plant and its antiaging compounds, and silencing (i.e. murdering) anyone in the way
  • Missing Mom/Disappeared Dad:
  • Mr. Fixit: Hermux loves being a watchmaker.
  • Must Have Caffeine: Hermux.
    "It was one thing to be all alone and facing certain death or worse (...) and it was another thing to be expected to do it without coffee."
  • Narm Charm: Discussed in-universe. When Mirrin takes Hermux to see a tragic opera, they agree that the story is ridiculous but the music still makes them cry.
  • New Old Flame: Mirrin and Birch, who met in college, meet again forty years later and find they're as deeply in love as ever.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Terfle. In the beginning, she seems to be an ordinary pet, but by the fourth book, she can draw portraits, design stage sets, give Hermux fashion advice, act as diplomat to a swarm of angry bees, and even get her own point of view narration in some chapters.
  • Offing the Offspring: Thankfully averted, but the third book came scarily close—Corpius Crounce nearly killed Beulith, his own daughter, with a falling spotlight. In his defence, he didn't know.
  • Paparazzi: Moozella Corkin, who purposely presents a plain front so as to showcase her colorful subjects, especially Tucka.
  • Police Are Useless: The police rat Hermux talks to in book 1 is largely unhelpful. First Hermux tries to report Linka's abduction, but the cop says it can't count as a kidnapping because the only clear information, from what Hermux has told him, is that she got into a limo, and she didn't even look like she was struggling. Later when Hermux tries to report the break-in at his flat (as a burglary), the same cop flatly tells him it doesn't count if nothing appeared to be stolen, and doesn't offer much even in reassurance over Terfle's disappearance. (Even when Hermux tries to report that he knows who's behind the murder the police are currently investigating, the cop just cuts him off.)
  • Psychopathic Man Child: Killium, a lazy genius who plays vicious pranks just to keep from getting bored.
  • Red Herring: When Hermux tails the shady-looking rat who showed up demanding Linka's watch in the first book, he follows the rat into a building that includes an office for an organisation called "Aviators Anonymous". Naturally Hermux thinks this is where the rat went, what with Linka being an aviatrix and all—but it has nothing to do with the case he's following. Instead, said rat goes into an office called "Automated Laboratory Equipment", which builds specialised machinery for Dr Mennus' experiments.
  • Renaissance Mouse: Hermux. Besides being a watchmaker (and therefore, an engineer, to an extent), he is by turns an amateur archaeologist, a set designer for a stage show, and an Amateur Sleuth.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Birch never set out to fake his death. Only after he'd already been reported dead did he realize it might be a good idea to leave it that way.
  • Retro Universe: Ironically for a series centred around a watchmaker, and setting aside the fact that the series takes place in a human-free World of Mammals—the time setting of the series is never specified. Although they use human terms for measurements of time, no years are ever specified, with all historical dates reckoned from the present (e.g. "n years ago").
    • Regarding technological development, the closest human analogue is tricky to place, but technology appears to have reached the equivalent of 1930sā€“1960s human levels. Communications technologies have largely not advanced beyond telephones, telegraphs, and film; airplanes (such as Linka's) are vaguely implied to be analogous to pre-1950s human planes, and television sets are rarely mentioned (though they exist—Linka has one at home), let alone computers. The one exception may be the U-Babe cosmetic surgery machine in the first book, which is operated from some sort of computer panel, but it is treated as being ahead of its time.
    • Meanwhile, what little is mentioned of social attitudes roughly parallel mid-20th-century social views in the human world—the most obvious being the isolated cases of Fantastic Racism (i.e., speciesist prejudices held by mice against moles, chipmunks, etc.), similar to American racism in the 1950sā€“1960s.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Terfle. How can you not want to cuddle her after reading these books?
  • Save the Villain: Hermux is very chivalrous towards Tucka, sometimes with comic results: for instance, trying to save her from a mugger who was really a paid actor during an avant-garde dinner theatre show. These embarrassing events inevitably make her despise him even more. Even when he actually saves her life, she is shockingly ungrateful.
  • Scary Scorpions: And huge, too. Linka, Hermux, and Birch have to face off against a gigantic scorpion in the depths of an ancient cat palace in the desert.
  • Self Made Woman: Tucka is very proud of being one, as opposed to the heiresses from old families who look down their noses at her. It's one of the few points in her favor, actually.
  • Serial Escalation: Inverted. The mysteries and adventures get more mundane (if no less colorful) after the second book.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely:
    • Birch, a rare male example.
    • Inverted Trope, Linka actually looks better without elaborate clothes or makeup.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Tucka's favorite type of boy toy. Killium becomes one after his makeover, Hinkum and Corpius come by it naturally.
  • Shipper on Deck:
    • Mirrin, for Hermux/Linka.
    • Hermux returns the favor by shipping Mirrin/Birch.
    • Hermux also ships Nip/Beulith.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Tucka very easily talks a judge who's a close friend of hers into holding a hearing to legally transfer the Varmint theatre into her control. All she has to do is promise him support for re-election (judges here, apparently, are elected).
  • Sinister Shades: Dr Mennus wears them all the time.
  • The Svengali: What Crounce thinks Nurella Pinch is to Beulith—training her as a replacement star whom she can control.
  • That Mouse Is Dead: Invoked by Glissin (though she does get better and reassumes that old persona, at least for one night):
    "Nurella Pinch is gone. She was a character I played."
  • The Reveal: Several people during the series are not who they say they are, sometimes with shocking results:
    • In Book 1, Intrepid Reporter mole Pup Schoonagliffen is none other than Dr Hiril Mennus in disguise... or maybe it's the other way around, no one can say. Also, apparently, the secretary Blanda Nergup was just an alias for Ortolina Perriflot all this time.
    • In Book 3, Glissin, the costume designer and best friend to Beulith's deceased mother Beulene, is none other than the reclusive celebrity, Nurella Pinch... and Beulith's biological mother, on top of that.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: Invoked, lampshaded and parodied. Tucka and Rink sneer at anyone who doesn't share this point of view, especially Hermux, who cannot understand why Tucka's remodeling of his cozy lobby into a fake urban crime scene, or the "mugging" at the Varmint Theatre, or Rink's minimalistic stage designs, are supposed to be true art. On the other hand, Mirrin's cat paintings—for which she provides a perfectly reasonable explanation—are treated as horrifying and incomprehensible by the entire town. (Think a mouse version of the Mad Artists Ardois-Bonnot or Henry Wilcox from "The Call of Cthulhu", with cats as the resident Eldritch Abominations.)
  • True Beauty Is on the Inside: A lot of the first book is taken up with the question of beauty: What defines it? What is it worth? Hermux sincerely believes in this trope: In accordance with Mirrin's advice, he writes thank-you notes to the universe in his journal eery night for the things he finds beautiful, and they are either ordinary things (food, landscapes) or abstract things like friendship, love, etc. Tucka, of course, believes the very opposite: she puts her beauty "on the outside, where it belongs" and is insufferable as a result.
  • White-Dwarf Starlet: Nurella Pinch, at least until she came out of hiding as Glissin the costumer and returned to the stage for the Varmint Theatre's silver-anniversary special.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Literally in the first book. Dr Mennus keeps them as security at the Last Resort.
  • World of Mammals: Most of the sapient species in this world are various kinds of mammals—various rodents, carnivores like otters and cats, insectivores like hedgehogs and shrews, etc., though there are the occasional sapient bird exceptions. Most nonmammal species like birds, reptiles and insects fulfil many of the niches that mammalian pets—and prey animals—fill in the Real Life human world.
  • Vanity License Plate: The limo that kidnaps Linka in the first book has a plate that reads "2URHLTH". Pup traces this to Dr Mennus.
  • Zany Scheme: Nip Setchley comes up with a lot of these; the last one he was pushing was a six-trailer motel on wheels, but it failed when a family of lemmings crashed it over a cliff.