The Bookman's Wake: A Mystery With Cliff Janeway

by John Dunning

Hardcover, 1995




Charles Scribner's Sons (1995), Edition: 1st, 350 pages


Denver cop-turned-bookdealer Cliff Janeway is lured by an enterprising fellow ex-policeman into going to Seattle to bring back a fugitive wanted for assault, burglary, and the possible theft of a priceless edition of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven." The bail jumper turns out to be a vulnerable young woman calling herself Eleanor Rigby, who is also a gifted book finder. Janeway is intrigued by the woman -- and by the deadly history surrounding the rare volume. Hunted by people willing to kill for the antique tome, a terrified Eleanor escapes and disappears. To find her -- and save her -- Janeway must unravel the secrets of the book's past and its mysterious maker, for only then can he stop the hand of death from turning another page....

User reviews

LibraryThing member Lman
Again here’s one for us, for the dedicated book devotee – a second enthralling chapter in Denver ex-detective Cliff Janeway’s illuminating world of the bibliophile. At the same fast-paced, high-octane level as his first, John Dunning delivers another intriguing murder-mystery; embroiling our book-loving Cliff, in this instance, in the little-known sphere surrounding the peculiar vagaries of the printing, binding and publishing of rare first-editions.

So highly-prized and priced, so sought after and obsessively-hunted, is one small publishing house with a master book designer – The Grayson Press - that someone is killing off all identified owners of these precious works; in particular the pressing, twenty years previous, of The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe. Initially unbeknownst to Janeway, he becomes enmeshed in this torrid tale when, against his better judgement, he is contracted, for a tidy sum, by a former police colleague to collect bond-skip, Eleanor Rigby, from rain-soaked Seattle; the girl charged around the alleged theft of one of these book. Primarily interested due to the book angle, Janeway’s cop-radar is elevated to extreme danger when Eleanor is kidnapped out from under him and her trail continually uncovers a plethora of dead bodies, demonstrably linked to Grayson Press. And as Cliff Janeway attempts to liberate Eleanor from what he perceives as a life-threatening situation, he is drawn inexorably into the tangled web of the Grayson brothers and their ignominious legacy.

This really was an absorbing story in so many ways. Against the suitably miserable climate of sodden Seattle Janeway is allowed to slowly and shrewdly unveil the dismal truths behind this altogether sad and sorry tale. Reading more as an intelligent analysis of the foibles of the bibliophile-addict rather than a mere crime novel, in this book John Dunning cleverly captures the essence of any book aficionado’s delight, with a distinctive appreciation and elucidation of this world. But the noticeable pleasure materialises fully within an essence purposely-built into the story-line; opinions, as such, concerning the many layers of book appreciation, an utter delight: “Why is a book the only gift that the giver feels free and often compelled to deface before giving?"
And interspersed with absolute wit: ”You see anything?” Eleanor asked from the far corner.
“Four computer books, two copies of
The Joy of Sex, and five million Stephen King derivatives.”
She sighed. “Put ‘em all together and what’ve you got?”
“Desk-top breeding by vampires.”

Altogether this book worked for me on numerous levels. Again, I learnt so much. The ‘whodunit’ was dense enough to retain interest; the why and the wherefore, at times, mesmerising. But, to my mind, it is to the true book-enthusiast that the author connects effortlessly with. There is an adherence, a belief, behind this tale, seamlessly in accord with the actions of Janeway’s well-crafted character, which resonates impeccably with the thoughts of like-minded readers. On balance, you can take the detective out of the police force, but you can’t take the detective, or the bibliophile, out of Cliff Janeway. Nor would you want to. It’s a rather complementary, and very entertaining, correlation after all!

(July 15, 2009)
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LibraryThing member richardderus
Superb, suspenseful mystery, and one helluva ride through Seattle. Janeway gets my vote for most underutilized sleuth by an author. Five books?! Finally a sleuth worthy of a ten-book decade, and we get hal;f that in 14 years. Waah, poor mystery lovin' me.
LibraryThing member meerka
Very engaging book delving into the realm of book bindery/printing. Found all the background educational and exciting. To design your own type face for a single book!
LibraryThing member azurelion
Booked to Die was great; this one almost is, but it didn't quite make it. The noir atmosphere has been retained from the first book and is superb. The problem is the plot itself; the premise is odd, I think, and not as strong as I like to see in a good mystery novel. Still, it's a page-turner, and the story of the Grayson Press was so fascinating I wish it were real. Definitely worth reading, even if it can't top the original.… (more)
LibraryThing member mtnmamma
Marvelous series about books
LibraryThing member tsisler
The Cliff Janeway series has quickly become my favorite detective series. This is the second book in the series, although I haven't been reading them in order. (I've found that reading these books in order isn't necessary for the plot lines, nor does it detract from the enjoyment of the books). This series is more of an intellecutal detective series. I love exploring the world of rare books and seeing/feeling the passion of the characters for book collecting. Although Janeway seems eager to form sexual relations, the scenes are brief and are handled well. This book left me feeling exhilirated and wanting more Janeway and more collectible books!… (more)
LibraryThing member trav
This is the second title in Dunning's 'book detective' series. It was good in that it gave you more background and development of Cliff Janeway. But it just didn't have the deep bookish qualities that I loved about the first one.

However Dunning makes up for some of this by peppering the story with all kinds of "print history" and tid-bits about printing presses, old folios, fine press collecting, etc. It was fun to learn about all that.

This is a good book if you like Poe and all the mystery that surrounded his life and writings and if you like reading about printing, in general.
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LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
This is a mystery that makes the reader think. There are multiple players and it takes awhile before Janeway is able to rearrange all the pieces into something that makes sense. I enjoyed seeing Janeway acting the cop again, gathering the clues and making the connections.
LibraryThing member CloggieDownunder
The Bookman’s Wake is the second in John Dunning’s Cliff Janeway series. Cliff is approached by a former colleague from the Denver PD to bring back a skip from Seattle. The only reason he agrees is that he’ll be paid $5000 and there’s a book angle: the skip, Eleanor Rigby, has stolen a rare edition of Poe’s The Raven, published by the famous and now deceased Darryl Grayson. Of course, nothing is as it seems: Eleanor is being stalked by a dark figure and Cliff soon realises he is really meant to find the elusive book. After he manages to “lose” Eleanor on his way to the airport, he joins forces with Trish Aandahl, the journalist who chronicled the life if the Grayson brothers after their deaths in a printery fire, which seemed suspicious at the time, to try to track down Eleanor and solve the mystery surrounding the Graysons and their books. Filled with fascinating tidbits about book publishing, book scouting, book binding and what makes a book rare and valuable, this novel has a great plot with plenty of twists, as well as some interesting characters and realistic dialogue. This was a great read and I look forward to the next in the series, The Bookman’s Promise.… (more)
LibraryThing member catsinstacks
I did not like this book as much as other people. Just could not sink my teeth into it.
LibraryThing member KarenRinn
I hesitated between 3 and 4 stars but went with a 3 because overall this is a very interesting read but with flaws! Dunning is a bit didactic at times when he focuses too long on the rare book trade and production of books. While interesting, it detracted from the plot. Elenore disappears too easily from the action as well, and becomes an afterthought.… (more)
LibraryThing member BookConcierge
# 2 in the Cliff Janeway Mystery Series ... and I am completely hooked! Will definitely keep reading this series.
LibraryThing member LeonardGMokos
John Dunning was for many years a used book dealer in Denver, Colorado. His protagonist is a police detective who was once a finder and seller of rare books. The appeal - the unique hook used here - is that you will be taken not only on a mystery story, but an exploration of the book trade. Not the internet thing we have now, where you want it, you click it, you got it. Nooo... Once upon a time, somehow almost yesterday, you had to go Outside and Search for stuff. Yeah, like the animals. If you were interested in getting a book, you had to leave your house, however tentatively, and comb through Bookstores (buildings that sold actual books, usually cluttered, a bit smelly in a nice way). For this, I can recommend what is otherwise a competent mystery written by a book lover for book lovers. Specifically, if you're the kind of person who loves to burrow, mole like, all day in used book stores, drooling, delighted, oblivious to the time, something of that comes across within this novel and therefore, you might find something to enjoy in it. I did. And the killer is – haha, just playing with you.… (more)
LibraryThing member BraveKelso
Decent work.
LibraryThing member MikeRhode
I enjoyed this enough to buy it twice. Copy went into the Little Free Library of Alcova Heights, was snagged immediately by Goodreads friend Anne.
LibraryThing member soniaandree
This second book in the Cliff Janeway series is as good as, if not better, the first one. As a rare books salesman and an ex-cop, Cliff Janeway is once again led on to pursue an investigation in the book world, for one of the rarest book in the world, 'The Raven' by E.A. Poe, published by Grayson Press. The search for it leads to murders, mayhem, elusive women and family secrets being unveiled. The action is fast-paced, more so than the first one, and, while we take female characters at face value (or think of them as 'honest'), their secrets can create chaos. I highly recommend this second Opus, it's a great Summer read.… (more)
LibraryThing member polywogg
An excellent mystery, with a little too much backstory in places.
Cliff gets offered a bounty-hunter job by a low-life ex-cop PI-wannabe and he is all prepared to say no -- except the skip's name is Eleanor Rigby and she is running out on a burglary charge, after breaking and entering to steal a rare book. Cliff is hooked.
The story takes awhile to get going, and the opening prologue refers to a 20-year-old killing spree so you know there's a story buried somewhere, all tied to the rare book. The book covers the history of a slightly-mad printer/publisher who created Grayson Press, a creator of fabulous beautiful books in limited runs up until he died in a fire that destroyed the company. And some books that he may or may not have published before the fire. Truly rare birds. Add in some characters like the sleazy PI, Eleanor herself, a biographer with a monkey on his back, and a reporter with the same monkey, and Janeway has some fun. There are two scenes where the life of the book scout comes alive, one spending a day in Seattle's book biz looking for books and one where some biographical info of Grayson's turns up. You feel almost breathless, just as Janeway does. And somewhere in the midst of all of it is a serial murderer.
The story lags in a few places, including complicated personal stories around the Grayson biographical info, and an extra action scene or two that are unwarranted simply because they do nothing to advance the story. The final wrap-up is a bit too formulaic in delivering some action, but it gets the job done.
I received no compensation, not even a free copy, in exchange for this review. I am not personal friends with the author, nor do I follow him on social media.
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LibraryThing member susandennis
The very GOOD sequel to Booked to Die For. Fascinating information about book collecting wrapped into a good mystery story.
LibraryThing member clue
Cliff Janeway is a former Denver cop turned antiquarian bookseller. The mystery in this, the second in the series, revolves around the defunct Grayson Press, a small press that published limited editions. The owner was a brilliant book designer who even designed and made his own type. The press became defunct when he died in a fire twenty years before the book begins. Now Grayson's beautiful limited editions are extremely valuable. The most valuable being his edition of [The Raven]. When a Grayson book is stolen from a home in Taos, the young woman charged with theft and attempted murder fails to show up in court. When she's found in Seattle, Janeway gets involved by accepting the job to escort her back to Taos. It didn't turn out to be the simple job he expected.

John Dunning was an antiquarian book dealer in Denver for many years. His knowledge of the collectible book business is evident as is his knowledge of how a small press making limited editions works. Unfortunately those two things cause the greatest flaws with the book, he goes into excruciating detail that isn't really necessary to the plot and tires, even bores the most interested reader. I liked the complex mystery and the characters are well done as is the setting. And yes, I really do like the collectible book business angle, I would just like stronger editing.
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