Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Booklovers' Mystery Series - Julie Kaewert

I found this series via LibraryThing, the best readers' site on the web. Period. I managed to find all the books of the series via BookMooch or *very* cheap online. I read them all over about 2 weeks this fall, so it's a little murky now.

The series basically boils down so:
Alex Plumtree inherits the multi-generation London-based book publishing company that allows a pretty comfy lifestyle. He's close to his Father's business partner and his old college roommate's widow. Bad things ensue of varying bibliophilic endeavors.

The first one was pretty uneven. The second was not very good, but better than the first (as I recall). I accidentally picked up the fifth installment instead of #3 for one last go--- and it was pretty good! Kaewert's writing improves and the story is better paced. There are a couple plot holes that are left open and one with a bonus character whose involvement with the villain is never explained.

The main romance element that runs through the series is ridiculous and feels forced in every book, but in #5 it gets an over the top explanation that works in context. Almost. Also in #5 Ed Maggs is a main character! I enjoyed it and went back to #3 with much less dread, and happily finished the series.

For me, one of the most important element to a bibliomystery is the biblio-element. It can't simply be the McGuffin. It's gotta be *real*. This is where Kaewert did a good job. The biblioness is deep and very real. And each book deals with a different element of the bibliosphere-- fine printing, fine binding, collecting, incunabula, book collector societies, publishing, Bloomsbury, mysterious authorship, Pepys, etc. Julie Kaewert is a fellow bibliophile and I can certainly gloss over the few rough patches in the series to spend some time in this fun world where typography is a matter of life and death.

So all-in-all, the stories were good, and pretty enjoyable. This isn't complicated stuff, but it was fun bed time reading for this bibliophile. Kaewert's website reports a potential Plumtree prequel and perhaps even a new series. I'll certainly watch for them.


Chris said...

I read this series when I first began to fall in love with book collecting and enjoyed it very much. I do have to say that in my (albeit short) career as an antiquarian bookseller I have yet to experience any Alex Plumtree-like escapades involving criminals and explosives. I really enjoyed the series. You're one of a few others I know who have even heard of it. Recommended reading for all bibliophiles!

keeline said...

I have just two of these volumes (#4-Untitled, #6-Uncataloged). Since they are not the first volumes, and I wonder if it is important for this series, I have not made a point of reading them yet. When I sampled one of the ones I have I had a hard time getting absorbed by it. Based on this post that promises that they do indeed have some "booklore", I will try to round out the collection and read them.

At the moment my bibliomystery reading is the Marianne Macdonald Dido Hoare series. I am presently reading #6-Die Once. As I was unsure about these, I bought them cheaply on Amazon and have a mix of nice copies, x-lib hardcovers, and even a paperback. I found #4-Road Kill to be a bit slow because it has a bare minimum of booklore in it. #5-Blood Lies was better and the present volume #6 is looking good so far.

To me, the whole point of having a bibliomystery is the booklore. I do buy the three major US paperback series which are still in active production (Booktown by "Barrett", Haunted Bookshop by "Kimberly", and Bibliophile by "Carlisle"). Of them, the Carlisle books do the best with the booklore aspect. I like the idea of the Barrett books but sometimes the reader has to wonder just where does she get all of her books? Is it a new or used shop? Why is there nothing about the difficulty of finding books, identifying them, dealing with condition, pricing, etc.? The Kimberly books with a hardboiled ghost are perhaps the most unusual of the three. Of course the Dunning books are the standard against which others are measured in my mind.