Review: The Dirty Book Murder: an Antiquarian Book Mystery, by Thomas Shawyer

About the book The Dirty Book Murder: an Antiquarian Book Mystery The Dirty Book Murder

Publisher: Alibi (May 6, 2014)
Sold by: Random House LLC

In this smart, fast-paced mystery debut, Thomas Shawver introduces a charming, unlikely hero from the rarefied world of antique books.

Book merchant Michael Bevan arrives at the Kansas City auction house hoping to uncover some hidden literary gold. Though the auction ad had mentioned erotica, Michael is amazed to find lovely Japanese Shunga scrolls and a first edition of a novel by French author Colette with an inscription by Ernest Hemingway. This one item alone could fetch a small fortune in the right market.

As Michael and fellow dealer Gareth Hughes are warming up for battle, a stranger comes out of nowhere and outbids them—to the tune of sixty grand. But Gareth is unwilling to leave the auction house empty-handed, so he steals two volumes, including the Colette novel. When Gareth is found dead the next day, Michael quickly becomes the prime suspect: Not only had the pair been tossed out of a bar mid-fistfight the night before, but there is evidence from Michael’s shop at the crime scene.

Now the attorney-turned-bookman must find out who wanted the Colette so badly that they would kill for it—and frame Michael. Desperate to stay out of police custody, Michael follows the murderer’s trail into the wealthiest echelons of the city, where power and influence meet corruption—and mystery and eroticism are perverted by pure evil. Unfortunately for Michael, one dead book dealer is only the opening chapter in a terrifying tale of high culture and lowlifes.

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About the author, Thomas Shawyer

Thomas Shawver is a former marine officer, lawyer, and journalist with American City Business Journals. An avid rugby player and international traveler, Shawver owned Bloomsday Books, an antiquarian bookstore in Kansas City.

My Thoughts

I stayed up all night reading The Dirty Book Murder, not because I’d forgotten that I was supposed to review it, but because it was that good. It opens a bit slowly, with main character Michael Bevan going to an auction because there’s some rare Japanese erotica he might want for his used bookstore, but very quickly turns into a fast-paced neo-noire murder mystery replete with mobsters, movie stars, and an estranged daughter.

It’s also got enough literary references, references, I might add, that are relevant to the plot, to make any bibliophile want to start tracking the various times Collette, Hemingway, and others are invoked by characters in the story.

And then there’s a hint of romance, though this book is in no way a love story, unless it’s a love of reading and literature, and the preservation thereof.

Author Shawyer shares a few traits (per his bio) with his main character, but he manages to do so in a way that is very much “write what you know,” and not at all “annoying author insertion.”

This book should appeal to both those who like their mysteries a little bit cerebral, but it should also be great for those who were raised on hard-boiled detective novels, as there’s a bit a both.

Goes well with Shepherd’s pie and Irish beer.

TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a virtual tour sponsored by TLC Book Tours. For more information, and the complete list of tour stops, click HERE.