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Book Review - The Sign Of The Book by John Dunning

Category Book Reviews
Some years back, my local librarian alerted me to John Dunning and his Cliff Janeway series.  I liked them a lot, but unfortunately he doesn't write often.  Somehow the 2005 The Sign Of The Book got past me, and I picked it up.  Very good read...

Cliff Janeway is a book dealer in Denver who retired from the police force to pursue his passion.  His partner, Erin D'Angelo, is a practicing lawyer and his partner in the store.  She asks him to do her a favor...  A former best friend of hers is accused of murdering her husband in a small Colorado town called Paradise.  Her and the friend had a falling out over the affair and subsequent marriage to Erin's flame years ago.  The friend wants Erin to represent her, but Erin's not sure she can get over the affair (nor does she even know if she wants to).  She sends Janeway up to sniff around and get a feel for the situation.  It doesn't hurt that the dead husband had a large collection of books, and Janeway discovers that they are all signed copies worth considerably more than one might think.  At first, the woman is claiming she shot the husband, but it looks really suspicious.  Turns out she's covering up for the mute son they adopted.  She says that Jerry, the son, shot the husband, and she wanted to protect him.  Both Janeway and D'Angelo work with a local detective to investigate the case and turn up a large amount of local corruption and shadowy activity by the dead guy.  But just when it looks like justice was served and all is well, the case gets completely flipped on its ear...

Taking out the book angle of the series, I'd still like the story and writing.  Janeway is an ace cop who listens to his gut, takes no flack from anyone, and isn't afraid to play outside the lines.  But as a book lover, the whole book dealer element adds a lot of attraction.  And since the author really *is* a bookseller, there's a ring of authenticity that you normally don't get with this type of series.  A fast, enjoyable read, and a series I'd recommend to anyone looking for a good crime mystery...


Gravatar Image1 - I just finished reading The Sign of the Book tonight (I wait for them to come out in mass market. For some reason, THIS mass market is an inch taller than the previous three in the series. What's up with that? I was a huge Dunning fan for the first two books, exchanged emails with the author and everything. I sort of hung in there through The Bookman's Promise, and most of Sign, as things got more and more cliche hardboiled cop/detective and less and less, well, bookish. But I'm sorry to say, the wrap-up on this book was just poor. Very untidy indeed, with things not making sense, huge issues that were set up through much of the book (yes, the whole BOOK angle to this story for one!) were just dropped. It was like the publisher had given him a wordcount he had to live by, or a cutthroat deadline, so he just speed-wrote his way through the wrapup of everything. I was sorely disappointed. Unfortunately, the blurb at the back of Sign, giving us a sneak peak at the next book, The BookWoman's Last Fling gave little promise of anything better to come. Oh, I'll get the mass market when it comes out, just to complete the set. But it may be the case that this Janeway idea is one that has simply run out of gas.

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Thomas "Duffbert" Duff

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