cover image Death of a Bookseller

Death of a Bookseller

Alice Slater. Scarlet, $26.95 (368p) ISBN 978-1-61316-377-1

Brogan Roach and Laura Bunting—the narrators of Slater’s bleak debut—meet when the new manager of the failing London bookstore branch at which caustic Roach has long worked hires chipper Laura to boost sales. The women are like oil and water: Roach wears only black and is obsessed with true crime, while Laura sports colorful berets and thinks true crime is “tacky, exploitative crap.” But when Roach learns that Laura writes poetry about murder victims because her mother fell prey to a notorious serial killer, Roach starts stalking Laura, desperate to convince her they share a “dark connection.” The harder Roach tries, the more her misguided actions repulse and terrify Laura, locking the two in a dangerous downward spiral that threatens mutual destruction. Roach and Laura alternate chapters, their first-person-present accounts imparting tension and urgency. Both characters feel a bit cartoonish in their melodrama, but on balance, Slater delivers a twisty exploration of society’s fascination with the macabre. Fans of Simone St. James’s The Book of Cold Cases, take note. Agent: Caroline Eisenmann, Frances Goldin Literary. (Apr.)