Only Richard Conroy, who has already brought us two chronicles of life behind the walls of the Smithsonian Institution (The India Exhibition and Mr. Smithson's Bones), could do justice to the chaos that ensues when that venerable museum, "The Nation's Attic," joins in the bicentennial celebration.
The plan is to invite countries from all over the world to be represented by artists, dancers, singers, craftspeople, and practitioners of archaic and arcane rituals. (There's no point in wondering how one would classify the German team of rock climbers, brewers, and Schuplatte dancers.)
Since Henry Scruggs is on indefinite loan to the Smithsonian from the State Department, the shepherding of all these people falls to him. Which means he must abandon his leisurely teas and his halfhearted pursuit of colleague Dreamy Weekes and keep an eye on the guests.
But one man can only do so much. After all, the murder of the ethnomusicologist from Aganga has no connection to the presence in Washington of such as the Hereditary Moote of the K'ng-Gui and his retinue, including pregnant third wife Polly Esther. On the other hand, the rare tropical insects that multiply and eat everything made of organic material did arrive in the grain the K'ng-Gui brought as food.
But Henry's woe is our entertainment, and never has Conroy been more entertaining than in his personal bicentennial celebration - a cause for celebration for us all.