By John Dunning



352pp/$21.00/April 1995

The Bookman's Wake
Cover by Corsillo/Manzone

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

The Bookman's Wake is John Dunning's second mystery novel the focuses on the exploits of Cliff Janeway, a former Denver police officer. Following his departure from the police force, Janeway has become a used bookseller and his primary interest is maintaining and running his shop, although there is still a significant portion of him that is a policeman, and he uses those skills to his advantage when making his way through the book world.

Eleanor Rigby is a young girl who is in trouble with the law. Following a break in and attempted robbery in New Mexico, where she was accused of firing a gun at the homeowners, she fled to Seattle to disappear. Unfortunately for her, former Denver cop Cliff Janeway has been hired to travel to Seattle to escort her back to New Mexico by whatever means is necessary. Janeway was hired for the job because Rigby was trying to steal a book that experts claim was never published and Janeway has gone into the rare book business since leaving the police force.

Janeway's compassion for the girl only grows when she discovers that her family had professional connections with Darryl Grayson, the publisher whose book isn't supposed to exist. What should have been a routine bounty hunting trip turns into much more as Janeway attempt to track down any information he can about Grayson, opening up potential mysteries that have been ignored for more than two decades. At the same time, he must protect Eleanor from ruthless people who think she may have the priceless, if it exists book.

Although the book's focus is on Janeway's attempts to figure out what, exactly, is going on in the book world and the various relationships he comes across, Dunning includes a healthy amount of criminality and violence, threatening both Janeway and Eleanor, with Janeway finding himself getting in the way of the Seattle police when a murder investigation overlaps with his own sleuthing. In all of this, Janeway also has time to connect with two experts, the man who wrote the bibliography of Grayson Press and the woman who wrote the biography of the Grayson brothers, and believes that their deaths when their workshop burned down may not have been entirely accidental.

While Dunning spent a good portion of Janeway's first outing, Booked to Die discussing the strange world of book scouts, in The Bookman's Wake, he introduces the reader to the realm of extremely limited, handmade editions. Dunning portrays the field in an almost magical manner, portraying Grayson as a master craftsman who could spend months trying to get the smallest detail right. His descriptons lovingly open up a new world which is at odds with the rainy Seattle Janeway is navigating through and the violence

Janeway finds himself simultaneously working to figure out the story of the Grayson's press, the incidents from the 1960s, and a variety of crimes, up to and including murder, that are linked to them. It means Dunning has a lot of balls to keep in the air along with the various strands that connect them to each other. He does so in a manner which is at the same time satisfactory, but slightly confusing given the multitude of moving parts to the story that he must deal with. Some of the instances are not quite neatly tied up, although the main points all come out to a conclusion that leaves the reader and Janeway ready to move on to the next adventure.

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