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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Book Six

Our sixth book this year is The Bookman's Wake, by John Dunning. This is the follow-up to his first mystery. Once again we are treated to the adventures of former cop Cliff Janeway in the world of books.

Where the first mystery had its focus on scouting books, this one delves into the finer aspects of making books: designing, printing, and binding as an art. Two legendary printers set out to produce a perfect edition of Poe's The Raven, but desire and jealousy interfere, starting a chain of events over many years that will end when Janeway solves the mystery. Through much of the novel he is searching for either a woman or a book, and the crime is always in the background. Book lovers do it between the covers, and once again Janeway lives up to this maxim. Inevitably there are murders, and Janeway finds ample opportunity to go beyond the boundaries of law once again, certain he must do so else the woman, the book, and the killer all elude the proper authorities. He absolves himself by making friends with the tough cop who is on his tail, and giving him some pointers on dealing in fine books.

To us, the mystery is again second rate, and hardly straightforward. What delights is the passages dealing with books, and the descriptions of how it feels to discover a fine book in a pile of junk, and what makes certain books works of art, desirable more as objects than for their content. Through it all he acquires more fine volumes, and earns himself a handsome finder's fee for putting the owner of a most desirable collection in contact with a buyer of inexhaustible financial resources. One would have to work extremely hard to be unable to earn a living selling books with the amount of ready capital Janeway ends up with. What this book needs is a disclaimer at the beginning: "The success of this book dealer is exceptional; your results may vary." Ours very vary.

We give it three (out of five) pipefuls.


  1. I was just saying to my husband the other day I wanted to read these John Dunning books sometime but we couldn't remember what was the first book. I see it is Booked to Die. Now I know where to start and now I know also not to have too high expectations.

  2. I have just started the third, so there is something to keep me reading, it's just not high literature.