Review

The Bookman's Promise: A Cliff Janeway Novel

by John Dunning



After an eight-year hiatus, author and antiques book collector John
Dunning has returned Cliff Janeway --- the tough guy, Denver ex-cop
turned bookstore owner and hero of two prior novels, BOOKED TO DIE
and THE BOOKMAN'S WAKE --- to his fans.

Janeway is plunged into a new mystery when Josephine Gallant, a
frail and dying old woman, is brought to his shop. She had heard
Janeway on a radio interview about a rare first edition he had
acquired by 19th century explorer Richard Francis Burton. She
contends that the book is rightfully hers and was part of a vast
collection of her grandfather's. The collection mysteriously
disappeared shortly after her grandfather's death, and she has
always suspected that a crooked Baltimore bookstore dealer was
responsible. None of the books had surfaced in almost 80 years, but
she is certain Janeway's new acquisition was part of that
collection.

She tells Janeway and the people with whom she is staying that her
grandfather traveled the American South with Burton for three
months just before the outbreak of the Civil War and that Burton
kept a journal of that expedition, which he left with her
grandfather. She owns only one pristine book from the entire
collection, for which Janeway offers her $25,000. On her deathbed
she gives it to Janeway with two stipulations: that he split the
value with her hosts and that he will promise to track down the
journal and the rest of Burton's writings, which she claims were
her birthright.

After a friend is murdered and another's life is threatened over
the possible existence of this collection, Janeway's promise leads
him to Baltimore and South Carolina in search of the missing
journal. Janeway collects two women and encounters a large cast of
colorful characters in the search. Was Burton a British spy or did
he play some role in the early part of the American Civil War? What
was the connection between the unscrupulous Baltimore bookstore
owners and their current owners? Is one of his female companions
somehow involved with the murder?

Janeway combines his antiques collector knowledge with his muscular
tough guy cop persona in hot pursuit of the ultimate dream of every
book collector: the undiscovered handwritten copy of a prolific and
famous author.

THE BOOKMAN'S PROMISE is part book collector's paradise, filled
with Dunning's unquestioned knowledge of musty book dens and
collector's facts, and part mystery buff's delight as his sleuthing
skills go on the hunt for clues that span a century. He reveals
Burton's mysterious journey through a flashback to Gallant's
grandfather's narrative of the trip. The narrative method used is a
little tricky, but it manages to overcome incredulity with a
fascinating exploration of a time and place long lost.

Reviewed by Roz Shea on January 21, 2011

The Bookman's Promise: A Cliff Janeway Novel
by John Dunning

  • Publication Date: January 25, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Mass Market Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Star
  • ISBN-10: 0743476298
  • ISBN-13: 9780743476294