cover image Death of a Bookseller

Death of a Bookseller

Bernard Farmer. Poisoned Pen, $14.99 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-7282-6772-2

First published in 1956, this outstanding biblio-mystery from Farmer (1902–1964) opens with a chance encounter on a Middlesex road between Sgt. Jack Wigan, a policeman, and Michael Fisk, a rare book seller. The inebriated Fisk has been celebrating the find of a lifetime: John Keats’s own inscribed copy of his poem Endymion. Fisk disabuses the sergeant of the idea that book collecting is a placid occupation, observing, “There are men and even women who would cheerfully kill me to get what I have found today.” The two become friends, and Fisk instructs Wigan, who’s looking for a new hobby, on the fine points of book collecting. Then Wigan arrives at Fisk’s house one day to discover that he has been fatally stabbed in his library, a blood-spattered book about raising the dead beside him; the Keats volume has disappeared. Wigan plunges into investigating the murder, exploring whether the occult tome’s presence next to the corpse was just coincidence. Farmer vividly evokes the rare book trade without sidetracking the central question of whodunit. Those who treasure books won’t want to miss this reissue in the British Library Crime Classics series. (Mar.)