Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Booked to Die

I read Booked to Die by John Dunning for the "Something About Me" Reading Challenge. It is about a policeman, Cliff Janeway, who loves books. He spends a lot of time in the old and rare bookstores and knows some of the store owners and bookscouts. When a bookscout gets murdered, he thinks it fits the M.O. of his arch-enemy, whom Janeway knows has committed many atrocities, but the evidence is never quite enough to nail him. Janeway goes after his rival with a vengeance, and something happens between them that causes Janeway to give up his badge and become a bookman himself. He gets himself a store and an employee, and immerses himself in the booking business. But the unsolved murder of the bookscout is never far from his mind. Ultimately, events transpire that cause him to decide to solve the crime himself. I really enjoyed the novel. Mystery is one of the genres I read regularly, so it was right up my alley.

What I liked:
I found the whole old and rare book business fascinating. It made me want to go right out to the thrift shops and see if I could find a rare item myself. I didn't, but I wanted to. It made me wonder about the autographed first edition book I just bought in a junk store when we were on vacation. I hadn't even noticed that when I bought it, but I looked at it and the few others I had purchased there while reading this novel. But I never heard of the author, and apparently no one on the Internet had either, and he's still alive and teaching college somewhere in California. So nothing there. From now on, though, I will always look for a little nugget on the bookshelves in a thrift store or at a garage sale.

I liked Janeway's mixed-up political outlook. I think the self-contadicting nature of it is common to many of us. Here's what he says about it:
Today I'm a mess of contradictory political views. I believe in human rights: I liked Jimmy Carter for that reason alone, though I later came to believe that he had sold out his own cause in the game of pure politics. I think the Miranda ruling has generally been good, though the public will never know what a pain it can be to work with. I believe in due process, but enough is enough: I'm a fan of just and swift execution where vicious killers are concerned. It's just ridiculous to keep a guy like Ted Bundy on death row for ten years. I don't believe it when psychologists tell me the death penalty doesn't deter - take a look at kidnapping statistics in the 1930s, when it was made a capital crime after the murder of the Lindburgh baby, before you start to argue with me. I think justice started collapsing under its own weight when they let shrinks into the courtroom. The plain fact is, for some murderers, I just don't care whether they were incapable of reason, were whipped as children for wetting the bed, or had a mother who bayed at the moon. Gacy, Bundy, Manson, Speck - you'll never make me believe the world is a better place with that quartet alive and kicking. I hate abortion, but I'd never pass a law telling a woman she couldn't have one. I believe in the ERA, find it hard to understand why two hundred years after the Bill of Rights we're still arguing about rights for half our people. I like black people, some of them a lot. I supported busing when it was necessary and would again, but there's something about affirmative action that leaves me cold. You can't take away one man's rights and give them to another, even in a good cause.

What I didn't like:
There wasn't really anything in particular I didn't like.

Overall, it was a good read. It might have been fun to have had Pinky, Janeway's employee, or Ruby, another store owner, or both as the crime-solving sidekicks. It would have allowed the reader to get to know those characters better, exposed us to more of Pinky's sense of humor, which I liked, and allowed for an interesting twist that I can't get into because it may give something away. I liked the book, and if anyone is considering reading it, I'd say go ahead, you'll probably enjoy it.