Booked To Die introduced me to three things. The elegant prose of John Dunning, the world of the book scout, and his character, Cliff Janeway. The book was first published in 1992. Book prices in this post would be 1992 prices.
Cliff Janeway is a Denver homicide detective. The murder of a book scout sends him down a path that changes his life.
A book scout prowls book sales, estate sales, second hand stores, and such, looking for that rare first edition book that he can pick up cheaply and resell for a good sum. It’s a hard life because true finds are few and far between.
Robert Westfall, known locally as Bobby the Bookscout, looked like a homeless person. He eked out a bare living finding first edition books. He was found murdered. While checking out his apartment, Janeway finds fifteen high quality first editions that he conservatively estimates at a worth of three thousand dollars
Where had Bobby found such a valuable stash? Was it responsible for his death?
Janeway has a suspect, a creepy character named Jackie Newton. In pursuit of Newton, Janeway goes a bit far and it costs him his badge.
He then uses his savings to open a rare book store and continues to search for evidence against Newton on the side. Dead bodies start to turn up and more rare, quality first editions start coming out of the woodwork. So to speak.
Janeway believes that a fantastic collection is out there somewhere and a murderer is after it. Janeway goes after it also.
It all makes for a nifty little mystery. Booked To Die was the first of a series which has been a bit up and down. The Bookman’s Wake is another superior entry.
It might be time for new readers of mysteries to check out the first two anyway. The prose is smoothly written.
A forgotten Friday book indeed.