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The Bookman’s Promise by John Dunning (PWBR00155)

Picture of a frog reading a book while sitting on a lilypad with transparent background

Plot or Premise

Cover: The Bookman's Promise by John Dunning

Janeway decides to use his finder’s fee from the Grayson affair (book #2) to buy one amazing book, paying almost $30K for it at auction. The mystery is about the origins of the book itself, but more about the author himself, an explorer named Richard Burton (not the actor).

What I Liked

After buying the book, Janeway is contacted by an old woman who claims the book was hers once upon a time and subsequently stolen. Janeway believes her, and involves some other people in the story, one of whom ends up dead. There’s a killer chasing the book and it leads all the way to the same places the explorer visited in the American South before the US Civil War. Seedy bookdealers, a biographer with a familiar monkey on his back, a family friend with a similar but slightly different monkey. Everyone wants the book, the history, the story, and to own a piece of history.

What I Didn’t Like

There is a lot of exposition in the story. Some of it comes from a woman who did research using hypnosis and tape recordings to recover lost memories, and while it works as a plot device, it could have just as easily been done earlier in the woman’s life and without as much page time. In addition, there is a flashback to the people in the Burton story (just before the US Civil War), which happens about the 40% mark and runs about 10-15% of the novel. It’s engaging in the first person, but makes for another really long exposition. Finally, the action scene at the end seems more like out of a cheap action movie, and it takes a LONG time to get to the actual action.

The Bottom Line

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