Review: The Dirty Book Murder by Thomas Shawver + Giveaway

dirty book murder by thomas shawverFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: mystery
Series: Antiquarian Book Mystery #1
Length: 220 pages
Publisher: Random House Alibi
Date Released: May 6, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

Book merchant Michael Bevan arrives at the Kansas City auction house hoping to uncover some hidden literary gold. Though the auction ad had mentioned erotica, Michael is amazed to find lovely Japanese Shunga scrolls and a first edition of a novel by French author Colette with an inscription by Ernest Hemingway. This one item alone could fetch a small fortune in the right market.

As Michael and fellow dealer Gareth Hughes are warming up for battle, a stranger comes out of nowhere and outbids them—to the tune of sixty grand. But Gareth is unwilling to leave the auction house empty-handed, so he steals two volumes, including the Colette novel. When Gareth is found dead the next day, Michael quickly becomes the prime suspect: Not only had the pair been tossed out of a bar mid-fistfight the night before, but there is evidence from Michael’s shop at the crime scene.

Now the attorney-turned-bookman must find out who wanted the Colette so badly that they would kill for it—and frame Michael. Desperate to stay out of police custody, Michael follows the murderer’s trail into the wealthiest echelons of the city, where power and influence meet corruption—and mystery and eroticism are perverted by pure evil. Unfortunately for Michael, one dead book dealer is only the opening chapter in a terrifying tale of high culture and lowlifes.

My Review:

Dirty books, dirty politics, dirty money. Interesting isn’t it, that one doesn’t think about the same kind of “dirty” in those three instances. But in this mystery, they all lead to the same place and the same dirty people.


Kansas City bookman Michael Bevan has a used book store that keeps him mostly out of trouble. And Michael needs to be kept out of trouble, because he let himself into much too much of it when he was the lawyer for most of the shady operators in town. Sampling too much of the illegal merchandise on offer got him disbarred. The relatively straight and narrow is easier to keep to at the bookstore, and he’s found his calling.

But he discovers that bookselling can be way more interesting, and dangerous, than he ever imagined. He has hopes of getting into the antique book trade by scooping up a single lot of rare erotica at an auction. Instead, the big collection of “dirty books” starts him down a crazy trail to solving a series of murders and saving his daughter’s life.

Along the way, Bevan is accused of murdering one of his rivals, and discovers that his adult daughter is using drugs. Also that she’s never forgiven him for her mother’s death in an auto accident.

His life only gets messier when he gets involved with a local reporter who may either be one of the criminals, one of the investigators, or both.

The worst part is that the murder has nothing to do with dirt in the books. It’s all to do with the dirty secrets about the rich and powerful in town that is hidden within the books. Secrets that are worth killing for.

Escape Rating B: Anyone who enjoyed John Dunning’s Bookman series will enjoy The Dirty Book Murder. The concept is similar, a used book dealer with an interesting past finds himself investigating crimes that involve rare books.

Booklovers will find The Dirty Book Murder a treat. It’s possible that we’ve all wanted to own a bookstore at one time or another, and this is a terrific introduction into the work involved in buying, selling, and trying to keep your head above water. It’s a precarious living at the best of times, which these are not, even without the murder.

The story gets into both the provenance of a couple of very particular, and valuable books, but the murder is about the secrets that someone hid inside one of those books. It’s all about dirty blackmail material. Enough to bring down some careers.

There are some very thick plot-strands in this story; who framed Michael for the first murder, who wants the blackmail material, and who is the murder. As bodies start piling up, there seems to be more than one.

Michael is interesting but not always a sympathetic character. We know he didn’t do it, but that doesn’t make him a terrific guy. He seems to have screwed up a lot in his life, and is barely keeping it together. He has lots of acquaintances but no one is close.

The ultimate villain (and there definitely is one) is pretty much batshit-crazy. This particular person turning out to be the prime mover of events seemed a bit over the top.

But following Michael’s journey from mostly uninvolved bystander in life to someone who has been forced to care, and makes it count, makes for a solid mystery.

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews.


This tour includes a Rafflecopter giveaway for a Grand Prize of a $30 egiftcard to the ebook retailer of the winner’s choice, and a First Prize Mystery Prize Pack of three mystery mass market paperbacks!

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2 thoughts on “Review: The Dirty Book Murder by Thomas Shawver + Giveaway

  1. I know I’ve daydreamed about having my own bookstore but thankfully my dreams certainly never involved a murder happening there!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour. I’m glad you enjoyed this book overall.

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