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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Book Three

After several people suggested reading the John Dunning mysteries featuring a book-selling cop, we began to search. We found the third book first, and refused to begin reading until we had found the other two. Well, Readers, we can tell you with assurance that Santa is a bookman. A couple weeks ago he dropped off the last one I needed--the first in the series--and that is now the third book we've read this year.

Booked To Die covers the typical landscape of the murder mystery. Cliff Janeway is a Denver police officer with a passion for books. What makes this novel different is the insight into the book world, specifically the workings of a bookscout. Janeway gets himself into trouble, quits the law-and-order business, and indulges his passion in the book-selling business.

Of course, this doesn't stop him from continuing his murder investigation. For us, this is the point of disbelief that must be accepted on faith: that such a great former cop would, and could, go on doing things--some illegal--in the name of finding a murderer. This was an easy read that was laid out almost perfectly, so far as the introduction of characters, the black moment, and the denoument. One of the highlights is the banter between the bookdealers Seals and Neff. And we were ready to extend a job offer to Janeway's first employee, Miss Pride, whose natural abilities, eagerness to learn, and red hair made her eminently qualified.

What a wonderful booktown Denver must be. Unfortunately, here in the middle of a cornfield, there aren't enough book custodians, and too many book consumers. The good days are when one of the outnumbered true book lovers--the ones who populate Dunning's novel, who want something of quality and durability, and are not afraid to pay for it--comes in, and we have something new they haven't seen before. Those who agonize over how much they can spend on a book they truly want, because it means they will have that much less to spend on food for the week, are preferrable to those who purchase a handful of paperbacks as their form of popcorn and a movie. But we have to make a living, and so we work with the opportunities we have. The trade-off is the murder rate among booklovers is much lower here.

We don't often read mysteries, so are not familiar with the most desirable ingredients that go to make a good one. Dunning's book has received high praise. What kept us reading was the setting and background of books. It's purely business, but if one enjoys such things, one would probably find this book of interest.

We give it three (out of four) pipefuls.

1 comment:

  1. John Dunning is a terrific guy.I met him at my writers group. He and his wife had Old Algonquin Bookstore in East Denver for some time. His Old Time radio show was a riot to listen to on car trips to the mountains. He is as charming as Cliff Janeway, and a great bookman.