In Nero Wolfe Award-winner Dunning's third literate entry in his Cliff Janeway series (after Booked to Die and The Bookman's Wake), 90-ish Josephine Gallant persuades the former Denver cop turned antiquarian bookseller to try to recover a rare collection of the works of Richard Burton, "the explorer, not the actor," that once belonged to her grandfather, a faithful traveling companion of Burton. Eager to fulfill his pledge to Ms. Gallant, who expires soon after their meeting, Janeway begins an investigation that takes him to a seedy used bookshop and other strange haunts in Baltimore, where he runs into a shady writer and a gang of thugs who are obviously looking for the same literary treasures. Midway through the often rambling narrative, a flashback to 1860 steps up the pace when Burton undertakes a possible espionage mission to the South for the British prime minister and encounters Captain Abner Doubleday, who solicits his advice on the defense of Fort Sumter. Two well-intentioned women join Janeway for the final search through historic Charleston, with the inevitable romantic interludes. Too many extraneous characters and some tedious dialogue slow the action, but the book-collecting background is sure to appeal to a wide range of mystery readers. (Mar. 9) FYI: Dunning's last novel was Two O'Clock, Eastern Wartime (2001), about old-time radio. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Cop-turned-bookseller Cliff Janeway (Booked To Die; The Bookman's Wake) unwittingly instigates a dangerous search when he purchases a rare book at auction. Apparently, the owners of a Baltimore bookshop long ago swindled a dying old lady's family out of some valuable books by Richard Burton, the famous explorer/ adventurer. One has surfaced-bought by Janeway-so now the whereabouts of the others becomes paramount. Janeway's search for the missing collection soon ties a murder in Denver to thugs and shady dealers in Baltimore. Fascinating highlights of Burton's life, glimpses into the book trade, a human protagonist, and crisp prose commend this to all collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/03.] Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.