cover image An Honest Living

An Honest Living

Dwyer Murphy. Viking, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-0-593-48924-6

The New York attorney who narrates Murphy’s uneven debut—who is unnamed but hints he has a name similar to the author’s—gave up a career with a prestigious law firm to make an honest living in a solo practice doing odd jobs, contract work, and document reviews, but his earnings have been slim of late. Then a wealthy woman calling herself Anna Rennick approaches him, claiming that her much older estranged husband, a former antiquarian book dealer, is stealing rare books from her library. The narrator can’t resist her $10,000 fee as well as a potential bonus if he can catch her husband offering any of her books for sale. Something about the case bothers him, but he manages “to put it out of mind” and he winds it up with little effort. The trouble begins when the real Anna Rennick shows up, threatening to sue. Murphy, the editor-in-chief of CrimeReads, writes with authority about the New York book world and literary references abound, from Edith Wharton to Cormac McCarthy, but the novel’s digressive first half drags and the plot never picks up much speed. This is destined to amuse a niche audience at best. Agent: Duvall Osteen, Aragi. (July)