Death of a Bookseller: the instant Sunday Times bestseller! The debut suspense thriller of 2023 that you don't want to miss!
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I felt Alice’s exploration of grief, and depression and mental health is an excellent piece of writing. Sensitive but raw. It could have so easily strayed into the unbelievable, the fantasy, the spoof, the caricature. But it just sits on the right side. It’s never too much. Completely believable.
Sometimes Roach sounds like such an insufferable not-like-other-girls, sometimes Laura sounds like a tryhard London literary type – there are points where both of them will make you roll your eyes. Yet as dark as Roach’s story gets, it’s hard not to extend compassion to her, because the narrative is always extending compassion to her too. It’s the same thing with Laura: she’s often an absolute mess, and we see how her behaviour parallels Roach’s in ways she’d no doubt be reluctant to admit – but we get why. If at first it seems clear that Roach is the dark and Laura the light, somewhere along the line both characters are painted such similar shades of grey that they blend and bleed into each other.a collaborator of the detective, suddenly disappears and Wigan doesn't care too much about what might have happened to him ... not seeing him, he thinks he will wait a few more days to look for him, even though he knows that the situation could be dangerous ... and then in reality he doesn't even look for the man! There's a lot to fear in this world, but when something goes bump in the night, it isn't ghosts that haunt me."
The writing style is odd and simplistic, but not calculatedly so. It reminded me of the narration of Edgar Lustgarten's Scotland Yard true crime series shown on British TV years ago, a sort of flat pseudojournalese . The plot, concerning the murder of a bookman, also manages to drag in witchcraft, spiritualism and psychology, all very unconvincing and dull. And as curiosity blooms into morbid obsession, Roach becomes determined to be a part of Laura’s story – whether Laura wants her in it or not. As with others, I found the occult theme a bit off putting, but I can only assume that this too, along with the insights into police and justice procedures, and the seamier side of the book trade, may be a lesser known aspect of the time that Farmer had personal experience of.
When I first saw this book, I was excited. I was so thankful I got the arc from Netgalley! Like WOW, this book sounded so good. And the cover? Chefs kiss. Truly pulled me in. The synopsis explains that there is a girl named Roach (interesting name) who is into true crime (love a good mystery) and meets a girl named Laura and she feels intrigued by her. She soon realizes there is more to Laura than meets the eye... DUN DUN DUNNNNN
Also, though it is nice that the detective in question finds external collaborators...well, there are some chapters where the protagonist does nothing or almost nothing and it is the others who carry out the real detective work. When Roach spots a copy of I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer in Laura's bag, she thinks she's found something of a soulmate in her fellow employee. Laura, it turns out, is actually disgusted by true crime, and is not overly fond of Roach. Despite their common interest in true crime, Laura keeps her distance from Roach, resisting the other woman’s overtures of friendship. Undeterred, Roach learns everything she can about her new colleague, eventually uncovering Laura’s traumatic family history. When Roach realizes that she may have come across her very own true crime story, interest swiftly blooms into a dangerous obsession. The plot itself is fine, though with that weird occult thread that is a bit jarring at points. Happily, however, the villain is human, as is the motive. I don’t think it’s fair-play, but the race against time aspect makes it feel like a cross between a mystery and a thriller, so that didn’t bother me. Overall, it’s not of the quality of the best mystery novels in either writing or plotting, but Wigan is an appealing character, the look at the book trade gives it an added interest and its very oddity gives it a kind of unique charm. Well worthy of its place in the BL’s Crime Classics series, and recommended as something a little different from the usual run. 4½ stars for me, so rounded up.A dark masterpiece of grief and obsession. It will work its way under your skin like a splinter and stay there.”
Eventually someone is accused, tried, and found guilty of the murder, but Wigan is sure they have got the wrong man. Since the penalty for murder was then death by hanging he only has a limited time to find the real murderer. There are many suspects and much intrigue. The world of buying and selling books was apparently fraught with danger as large sums of cash traded hands. I gave 3 stars because Wigan is a pleasant main role character and the mystery, on the whole, is interesting since there are several suspicious characters and until the end you can't guess who really could be the murderer. With an uncanny ability to say the wrong thing (and genuinely just creep everyone out with her laser like fixation on death) Roach is a bit of a loner, which she seems perfectly happy about until Laura joins the branch, a model employee who manages to charm everyone around her. Including Roach, who, after hearing one of Laura’s poems at a mic night (in which she aims to honour the victims of violent crime instead of dehumanising them) believes she has found a kindred spirit and becomes obsessed with the idea of their friendship.This is a study of crossing boundaries into obsession with a deliciously dark seam of true crime and snappy dialogue. The cover is incredible and I think sums up this thriller so well. An excellent read. Farmer does a great job of recreating the mania and tension that grips the committed runners and collectors as they elbow each other out of the way while searching through piles of newly arrived books. Aside from his detective novels, Farmer also wrote a biography of GA Henty, so it comes as no surprise that many of the bookish conversations Wigan becomes involved in concern the collecting of Henty’s books.