Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2005 Issue

The Bookseller as Anti-Hero

Ninth

Johnny Depp and Frank Langella in "The Ninth Gate." Directed by Roman Polanski. Occult thriller, 1999.


Now, I have to admit that although I came to the book expecting little, I secretly hoped for a whole lot more because of the bookish topic and author. However, other than offering some arbitrary (and now out of date) rare book prices here and there, and weaving in aspects of the seedy book scouting business, and the business venue, there isn't much here to interest a rare book seller or collector who also enjoys mysteries. I would characterize the writing more as a thinly plotted crime novel, with a bit of mystery, and a lot of arbitrary violence. Janeway's kidnapping, assault and near killing of Jackie Newton, for example, is irrelevant to the plot, and only brings into question Janeway's own judgment and anger-management issues. The thrown-in sex is dull, and there are barely enough book tidbits to justify Booked's title. More power to Dunning for selling multiple editions and more than one book (I hope and assume his writing has improved over time), but this first Janeway novel is very weak, and I frankly had to force even the half of my brain that was working to read it all.

Maybe it's the heat. Maybe I'm too impatient. Maybe I was hoping that a bookstore-based mystery would be more interesting. It didn't hold a candle to "The Ninth Gate" which I would hardly categorize as one of the world's great movies. Maybe it's the angst of K2 in the book barn .... In any case, I'm going to leave the rest of the Janeway series to some braver soul. Booked to Die is not a good mystery, nor is it a good crime novel. While it says a lot about book hunting and book lust, it has almost nothing to say about books, not even in an air conditioned room, chilled white wine at the ready. For an escape, with intelligence, plot and character, give me Elizabeth George any time.

Rare Book Monthly

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