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The Bookman's Promise: A Cliff Janeway Novel [Mass Market Paperback]

John Dunning
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 25 2005 Cliff Janeway Novels
Cliff Janeway is back! "The Bookman's Promise" marks the eagerly awaited return of Denver bookman-author John Dunning and the award-winning crime novel series that helped to turn the nation on to first-edition book collecting. First, it was "Booked to Die, " then "The Bookman's Wake." Now John Dunning fans, old and new, will rejoice in "The Bookman's Promise, " a richly nuanced new Janeway novel that juxtaposes past and present as Denver ex-cop and bookman Cliff Janeway searches for a book and a killer. The quest begins when an old woman, Josephine Gallant, learns that Janeway has recently bought at auction a signed first edition by the legendary nineteenth-century explorer Richard Francis Burton. The book is a true classic, telling of Burton's journey (disguised as a Muslim) to the forbidden holy cities of Mecca and Medina. The Boston auction house was a distinguished and trustworthy firm, but provenance is sometimes murky and Josephine says the book is rightfully hers. She believes that her grandfather, who was living in Baltimore more than eighty years ago, had a fabulous collection of Burton material, including a handwritten journal allegedly detailing Burton's undercover trip deep into the troubled American South in 1860. Josephine remembers the books from her childhood, but everything mysteriously disappeared shortly after her grandfather's death. With little time left in her own life, Josephine begs for Janeway's promise: he must find her grandfather's collection. It's a virtually impossible task, Janeway suspects, as the books will no doubt have been sold and separated over the years, but how can he say no to a dying woman? It seems that her grandfather, Charlie Warren, traveled south with Burton in the spring of 1860, just before the Civil War began. Was Burton a spy for Britain? What happened during the three months in Burton's travels for which there are no records? How did Charlie acquire his unique collection of Burton books? What will the journal, if it exists, reveal? When a friend is murdered, possibly because of a Burton book, Janeway knows he must find the answers. Someone today is willing to kill to keep the secrets of the past, and Janeway's search will lead him east: To Baltimore, to a Pulitzer Prize-winning author with a very stuffed shirt, and to a pair of unorthodox booksellers. It reaches a fiery conclusion at Fort Sumter off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina. What's more, a young lawyer, Erin d'Angelo, and ex-librarian Koko Bujak, have their own reasons for wanting to find the journal. But can Janeway trust them? Rich with the insider's information on rare and collectible books that has made John Dunning famous, and with meticulously researched detail about a mesmerizing figure who may have played an unrecognized role in our Civil War, "The Bookman's Promise" is riveting entertainment from an extraordinarily gifted author who is as unique and special as the books he so clearly loves.

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From Publishers Weekly

In Nero Wolfe Award winner Dunning's third literate entry in his Cliff Janeway series (after Booked to Die and The Bookman's Wake), 90-ish Josephine Gallant persuades the former Denver cop turned antiquarian bookseller to try to recover a rare collection of the works of Richard Burton, "the explorer, not the actor," that once belonged to her grandfather, a faithful traveling companion of Burton. Eager to fulfill his pledge to Ms. Gallant, who expires soon after their meeting, Janeway begins an investigation that takes him to a seedy used bookshop and other strange haunts in Baltimore, where he runs into a shady writer and a gang of thugs who are obviously looking for the same literary treasures. Midway through the often rambling narrative, a flashback to 1860 steps up the pace when Burton undertakes a possible espionage mission to the South for the British prime minister and encounters Captain Abner Doubleday, who solicits his advice on the defense of Fort Sumter. Two well-intentioned women join Janeway for the final search through historic Charleston, with the inevitable romantic interludes. Too many extraneous characters and some tedious dialogue slow the action, but the book-collecting background is sure to appeal to a wide range of mystery readers.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

It's been eight long years since the last Cliff Janeway mystery, starring Denver's only tough-guy antiquarian bookseller. The former homicide cop is thrilled with his purchase of a first edition by nineteenth-century explorer Richard Burton, but the book brings more grief than it does pleasure. After an elderly woman arrives in Janeway's store claiming that the Burton belongs to her, our bibliophile-sleuth finds himself in the middle of a nasty feud between book collectors that stretches back generations and culminates with an all-stops-out climax at Fort Sumter off the coast of Charleston. The text jumps between Janeway's search for answers and the story of Burton's undocumented trip to America just before the Civil War. Is there, Janeway is determined to discover, an unpublished journal that documents the explorer's whereabouts during his so-called lost years? Devoted fans of this series have been craving a new installment, and they won't be a bit disappointed by this compelling mix of hard-boiled action and exquisitely musty book lore. Like Jonathan Gash's Lovejoy series starring the rough-hewn Cockney antiques dealer, the Janeway novels avoid the wussy, Masterpiece Theatre-like decorum that too often sinks bibliophile crime stories. Along with plenty of muscle-flexing, there's also enough sex here to remind us that the antiquarian's life can still be robust. The combination of Burton the adventurer-author and Janeway the cop-bookseller is a match made in crime-fiction heaven. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A Disappointment May 27 2004
Some years ago, a bookseller told me that John Dunning had decided not to continue the Cliff Janeway series. I was really sorry, because I had so enjoyed the two Janeway novels. Thus when I saw the announcement of "Bookman's Promise," I was thrilled. I ordered the book and read it at once.
What a disappointment. Gone are the details of the rare book world that made "Booked to Die" so fascinating; gone is the careful delineation of Janeway's initially-complex character.
In their place is a superficial tough-guy private eye caper, complete with scumbag gangsters (in the rare book world, mind you), macho posturing, and that annoying rapid-fire repartee without which private dicks are apparently not allowed to beat up crooks.
According to the bookjacket, Dunning is working on Cliff Janeway #4. But I doubt I'll be reading it, now that Cliff has become just another Spenser clone. I'd suggest that Dunning and Parker collaborate on a cross-over, except that the characters would probably do nothing but trade smart remarks while they punch the crap out of each other.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Mr. Dunning Gives The Reader a Cliffhanger May 26 2004
Cliff Janeway is back with a fury. Mr. Dunning begins this novel in 1987 in Denver, the home of Janeway's bookstore. Then the policeman-turned-bookseller travels to Baltimore, Charleston and then back to Denver in his quest to find the murderer of Denise Ralston, who Janeway believes was murdered because the assailant thought she had a rare book by Sir Richard Burton, the l9th Century English writer, not the 20th Century actor, as Dunning would say. To paraphrase Faulker, "once a cop, always a cop" as Janeway's sleuthing skills come back to him. He sets about to solve the several mysteries here in a deliberate, meticulous fashion. As we have come to expect from Dunning's two previous novels, Janeway's relationship with a woman he pursues is rocky. And THE BOOKMAN'S PROMISE ends on a cliffhanger!
This novel flows more easily than the first two mysteries, I thought; apparently Mr. Dunning has found his stride. The reader learns a lot about Richard Burton; and for those who want to know more about this interesting individual, the author gives a list for further reading at the end of the book.
I must say I missed all the referenes to book publishers and first editions and prices that were so entertaining in the first two books of this series and for the most part are absent here, although Mr. Dunning does make a couple of digs at St. Martin's Press.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The perilous world of old books May 23 2004
When ex-cop turned bookman Cliff Janeway takes a giant step into serious collecting, his $30,000 purchase of a volume by British explorer Richard Burton lands him in a quagmire of fraud, theft and, ultimately, murder.
This third in the series (years after "Booked to Die," and "The Bookman's Wake") is set in 1987, before the Internet made book searching easier, if not cleaner. The background booklore should fascinate anyone who likes books - from the searching of bibliographies and dusty shelves to the small world of serious collectors and occasional shady operators.
Janeway's acquisition puts him in an awkward position between the two when a frail old lady shows up claiming that his inscribed Burton book is part of her grandfather Warren's collection, stolen, or at least fraudulently sold, after his death. Further, Mrs. Gallant claims that Burton and Charlie Warren became friends and toured the south before the Civil War.
Her proof - an equally pristine Burton volume with a similar inscription - is hardly conclusive, but Janeway promises to pursue the matter. A brutal murder follows on the heels of the old lady's death and sends Janeway to Gallant's hometown of Baltimore, to an old bookstore with a sleazy reputation and to a woman who uses hypnotism to take oral histories from people like Mrs. Gallant.
Which leads to a somewhat awkward flashback-like section in which Charlie Warren (through the taped medium of Mrs. Gallant) tells the story of his trip with Richard Burton and how Burton helped start the war. Armed with this knowledge, Janeway speeds things along and is soon mixing it up with arrogant academics, thugs, arsonists and murderers. And exchanging wisecracks and romantic sparks with a possibly untrustworthy lawyer.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Dunning's a new favorite May 17 2004
By Chuck
This was my first Cliff Janeway novel and I'm very satisfied with this book. I'm recommending this one to all my friends who like me enjoy a good mystery with a bit of romance and some historical details thrown in. At first I was skeptical of the whole rare book dealer idea, but Janeway is so much more as an ex-cop with connections to the police department. Cliff's the guy you hope is in your corner when trouble starts brewing. When a friend gets blamed for a crime that he couldn't have committed, Janeway intercedes on his behalf in such an entertaining way. He's a man of honor too, when an elderly lady provides proof that the rare edition he's recently purchased by Sir Richard Burton may have belonged to her grandfather and presents Janeway with another book with a similar inscription inside to his, he makes her a promise. Hence the bookman's promise. A promise made to a dying lady to investigate the disappearance of her grandfather's collection. Charlie Warren, the lady's grandfather, apparently befriended Sir Richard Burton here in America and became his traveling companion for a time. Upon his death a large book house from Baltimore owned by shady dealers supposedly purchased the entire collection at an unheard of price. Now years later the book house is still owned by the decendants of these characters and seem to be carrying on the family tradition of underhanded deals. Also in Baltimore another person, Koko, who befriended the dying lady while a resident in a local nursing home, has information critical to Cliff's search for the truth. After encountering ruffians of the book dealers, Cliff and Koko travel to Charleston, SC where it's believed that Sir Richard Burton and Charlie Warren stayed for awhile. Read more ›
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Another favourite of mine.
The Janeway series is just wonderful. Really glad I stumbled on it in a used book store. Wish there were more of them. Only 5 to date.
Published on May 11 2011 by Stewie
5.0 out of 5 stars Bookish but not too
Perhaps it was because I was expecting a disaster--after all, an ex-cop turned antique book dealer! Come on! Read more
Published on June 20 2004 by "dobset2899frk"
4.0 out of 5 stars Our hardboiled book dealer strikes again ...
The third "bookman's" novel finds Cliff Janeway chasing high-end collectibles by the explorer Richard Burton. Read more
Published on May 22 2004 by Ellen Etc.
3.0 out of 5 stars Janeway Jinxed
I loved the first two Bookman novels. Booked to Die is absolutely fantastic, and The Bookman's Wake is labyrinthine and vastly enjoyable. So what went wrong? Read more
Published on May 7 2004 by R. Mitra, mystery author
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth the wait
The newest Janeway thriller -- the first in almost a decade -- finds the bookman chasing mysteries in two centuries -- and both are winners. Read more
Published on April 29 2004 by Michael Schau
4.0 out of 5 stars Janeway's a loveable lug
The BOOKMAN'S PROMISE is an unusual mystery in a lot of ways. Although the lead character will remind you of Travis McGee in respect to his physical prowess and verbal dexterity,... Read more
Published on April 14 2004 by Dave Schwinghammer
5.0 out of 5 stars I hope the next installment comes much quicker this time...
This is a book I've looked forward to for a long time, and I wasn't disappointed. The Bookman's Promise by John Dunning is a continuation of the Cliff Janeway series, and I really... Read more
Published on April 12 2004 by Thomas Duff
5.0 out of 5 stars I just loved it . . just loved it!
Perhaps it was because I was expecting a disaster--after all, an ex-cop turned antique book dealer! Come on! Read more
Published on April 7 2004
3.0 out of 5 stars dissapointed
Really enjoyed the first 2 Jameway books a lot!!
This latest story was not up to snuff. I could see no reason at all for the Burton fling in the south, and I wanted it to... Read more
Published on March 31 2004 by Terry J. Pratt
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