Readers blessed with excellent memories may recall I mentioned Bradford Morrow’s The Forger’s Daughter in a November preview. I put up my hand but for some reason wasn’t sent a copy then I noticed its precursor on NetGalley. Not my favourite way to read but by this time I was all primed and ready for what sounded like an entertaining bookselling mystery. Set in the rare book world, Morrow’s novel follows a forger whose beloved’s brother has been murdered in a particularly grisly way.
Adam Diehl miraculously survives being wacked over the head before having his hands chopped off but only for a few days. His sister is distraught. Orphaned as children, they were very close, sharing a love of books – Meghan running a small bookshop, Adam collecting rare volumes and possibly dabbling in a little forgery or at least that’s what Meghan’s lover Will has surmised. Will excels in calligraphy, enhancing the value of rare editions by adding beautifully wrought inscriptions and autographs. He’s a reformed character after being caught and convicted, generously bailed out by a dealer who stood by him despite having been sold several pieces of Will’s work. When the police fail to solve Adam’s murder, Will sets about his own investigations all of which point him at one man with whom he becomes embroiled in a cat and mouse game which may well lead him back into his old ways.
You’re a Sherlock Holmes man, must drive you up the wall that there aren’t his kind around these days to make things right
Morrow narrates this enjoyable literary whodunnit through Will, a pleasingly unreliable narrator as you might expect from a man who’s made his living from pulling the wool over a multitude of eyes. Morrow has a great line in chapter openers while throwing in some teasing cliff hangers at their ends now and again. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s writing is Will’s favourite, both to read and to forge, and the great detective’s spectre hovers over the novel. As ever this is a spoiler-free zone, always tricky with crime novels, but suffice to say I enjoyed recalling the clues liberally scattered through the narrative.
A satisfying, undemanding way to while away a few reading hours, The Forgers is the kind of novel I’m happy to read electronically, something that I’ve resisted until our current predicament made print editions harder to come by. Good old-fashioned storytelling works reasonably well in this format for me but when it comes to reading for the joy of writing, there’s no substitute for paper. Any other readers turned to ebooks over the pandemic and if so, are you now a convert or do you find them wanting?
Grove Press UK: London 97816118546020 256 pages Paperback (Read via NetGalley)