The Bookman’s Tale

Charlie Lovett, Author
Charlie Lovett. Viking, $27.95 (354p) ISBN 978-0-670-02647-0
Ebook - 457 pages - 978-1-921961-51-9
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-14-312538-9
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Lovett’s debut is a century-spanning web of literary mystery that ensnares American Peter Byerly, a rare bookseller. Living abroad in the months after the death of his wife Amanda, Peter is mystified to discover a watercolor uncannily resembling her—especially since it’s from the Victorian era. Vowing to learn more about the obscure artist—“B.B.”—Peter stumbles into the argument about the authorship of Shakespeare’s work, which might contain a link to the mysterious painter. “The mystery of the watercolor’s origins felt deeply personal and Peter could already feel curiosity and grief melding into obsession.” Lovett’s novel skips in time to various periods in Peter’s life, and even before it, extending as far back as 1592 when Shakespeare and his cohorts haunted taverns, and to 1879 when folios of his plays became prized possessions. As Peter continues his sleuthing, he finds himself a potential suspect in a murder investigation and a “hundred-and-thirty-year-old scandal” with “the most valuable relic in the history of English literature” at its core. Although the discussion of the provenance of Shakespeare’s plays will appeal to bibliophiles, the frequent flashbacks to bygone days interrupt the narrative flow. In addition, the characters’ dialogue, while full of passion for letters, is wooden and uninspired. Agent: David Gernert, the Gernert Agency. (June)
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