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.

Buy, read, and discuss:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Goodreads

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.

Review: The Reckless Engineer by Jac Wright

About the author, Jac Wright

(taken from the author’s website, with permission)
Jac Wright is a poet published in literary magazines, a published author, and an electronics engineer educated at Stanford, University College London, and Cambridge who lives and works in England. Jac studied English literature from the early age of three, developing an intense love for poetry, drama, and writing in Trinity College Speech & Drama classes taken afternoons and Saturdays for fourteen years, and in subsequent creative writing classes taken during the university years. A published poet, Jac’s first passion was for literary fiction and poetry writing as well as for the dramatic arts. You will find these influences in the poetic imagery and prose, the dramatic scene setting, and the deep character creation.

These passions – for poetry, drama, literary fiction, and electronic engineering – have all been lovingly combined to create the first book in the literary suspense series, The Reckless Engineer. There are millions of professionals in high tech corporate environments who work in thousands of cities in the US, the UK, and the world such as engineers, technicians, technical managers, investment bankers, and corporate lawyers. High drama, power struggles, and human interest stories play out in the arena every day. Yet there are hardly any books that tell their stories; there are not many books that they can identify with. Jac feels compelled to tell their stories in The Reckless Engineer series.

Jac also writes the literary short fiction series, Summerset Tales, in which he explores characters struggling against their passions and social circumstances in the semi-fictional region of contemporary England called Summerset, partly the region that Thomas Hardy called Wessex. Some of the tales have an added element of suspense similar to Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. The collection is published as individual tales in the tradition of Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers and Thomas Hardy’s Wessex Tales. The first tale, The Closet, accompanies the author’s first full-length literary suspense title, The Reckless Engineer.

Connect with Jac

Website: Jac Wright Books
Facebook: Jac Wright Books
Twitter: @JacWrightBooks

My Thoughts

When author Jac Wright asked me if I’d feature his book, The Reckless Engineer here at Bibliotica, I thought, “A mystery with an engineer as the sleuth? Interesting.” Because I’m married to an engineer, I know too well the way their brains grab onto a problem, and never let go until a solution is found. At times, I’ve felt like I was married to some weird stoic-farmboy amalgam of Data, Spock, Geordi, and Scotty, except that MY beloved engineer is a total Hufflepuff.

My point is that Jac Wright, an engineer himself, captures this personality perfectly with his lead character, Jeremy, who is called in to help a (married) friend whose lover is murdered.

Jac blends a distinctly English (with a bit of Scottish thrown in for flavor) criminal procedural with scenes that take place in a seaside town (Portsmouth) and, at times, I was as engaged with wanting to explore the town as I was with the story.

But of course, the story comes first, and in The Reckless Engineer Wright gives us dialogue that feels real, a plot that is wonderfully elegant, and characters that are both complex and interesting. In doing so, he gives us a new kind of geek detective, one who has a incredible amount of knowledge and information stored in his head, and knows just how to effectively, if somewhat reluctantly, tap into it in order to solve a crime.

I would happily read more of Jeremy’s adventures, and am eager to explore Jac Wright’s other work, as well.

Goes well with proper fish and chips and lager.