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I'm looking for a short story featuring a bumbling human private investigator and his hyper-competent space-alien sidekick. In the story, it's noted that where most intelligent species have evolved from predators, the sidekick's species evolved from scavengers. This comes up when the sidekick refers to a dead body as a "corpus delectable", and then needs to clarify that this wasn't established by tasting.

Google searches are hitting a dead end, because there's a non-science-fiction murder mystery that uses that phrase as the title.

This would have been published in a science-fiction magazine, probably Analog, in the 1980s or 1990s.

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  • there was a tv series, with Mandy Patimkin playing an alien detective. it could have been alien nation or a spin off.
    – releseabe
    Commented Feb 24, 2023 at 0:36
  • This would be an excellent idea to spin off the MIB universe.
    – jxh
    Commented Feb 24, 2023 at 20:23

2 Answers 2

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This is probably "Garbage In, Garbage Out" (1995) by Grey Rollins, published as far as ISFDb knows, only in Analog, December 1995 (vol 115, issue 14).

"Dead body? What do you mean, dead body?"

"One from which life has departed, you idiot! A stiff! A carcass! A corpus delectable!"

Martin's face twisted in horror. "Corpus delectable? You didn't! You wouldn't dare!"

"Martin," I said.

"I mean, it's bad enough—"

"Martin!"

"And if the relatives heard you talking about how their dearly beloved had tasted"

"Martin!"

Victor, the alien, has "six-inch legs" and a very long, prehensile tongue:

Desperate to get his attention, I unfurled two or three feet of my tongue, reached through the open window and slapped him across the face several times in quick succession

And he is a scavenger, as you recall:

Like the corpse, I am an extraterrestrial, albeit of a different species. The climate of my home world is two or three notches above what humans call tropical. My species evolved as scavengers on the forest floor, eating the remains of both plant and animal matter even as it decayed.

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You're thinking of Grey Rollin's "Martin and Victor" stories published in Analog from 1990 to 2004 - in particular the December 1995 story "Garbage In, Garbage Out"

This review of one of them has this description of the series

"On the Tip of My Tongue" by Grey Rollins is part of a series featuring about Martin Crofts, private detective, and his partner Victor. Victor is an alien of unknown origin, as well as the brains of the team, and the story is told from his point of view. With the rent already overdue, Martin and Victor are glad to have a client at last, one Deems Warden of Liquitrans Incorporated, who suspects his partner, Evan Bartles, of stealing sensitive material from him.

This excerpt of "Garbage In, Garbage Out" includes the phrase "Corpus delectable."

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