cover image The Book of the Most Precious Substance

The Book of the Most Precious Substance

Sara Gran. Dreamland, $18.95 trade paper (322p) ISBN 978-0-578-94709-9

Former novelist Lily Albrecht, the narrator of this mesmerizing biblio-mystery from Gran (Marigold), now makes her living as a rare book dealer in the wake of a shattering personal tragedy. At a Manhattan book fair, she’s approached by Shyman, a fellow book dealer who has “a shadow in his face, a hollow echo in his laugh, that let you know he’d rather be around books than people.” Shyman asks her help in finding The Book of the Most Precious Substances, an extremely scarce 17th-century manual on sex magic, for a client. The handwritten volume promises sexual ecstasy and unlimited power to those who can complete its five steps, and some of the world’s wealthiest people are desperate to get their hands on it. Lily enlists the help of her friend Lucas Markson, a rare books archivist and librarian, and their quest takes them from New York to Los Angeles, New Orleans, Munich, and Paris. As they soon discover, many of the people looking for the book seem to end up dead, and Lily herself begins to feel that the strange book is pulling her into its embrace. Gran perfectly captures the eccentric world of antiquarian bookselling while portraying a profound and magical reckoning with loss and the possibility of going on. She has outdone herself. (Feb.)