The Bookwoman's Last Fling (Cliff Janeway Series #5)

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Overview

In another enthralling bestseller by "master yarn spinner" (Chicago Sun-Times) John Dunning, rare book dealer and relentless private eye Cliff Janeway unravels a deadly plot marked by stolen classics and stable secrets.

When wealthy horse trainer H. R. Geiger dies, Denver bookman Cliff Janeway encounters the legacy of the man's wife, Candice, a true bookwoman who left behind an assortment of rare first-edition children's books. Sent to assess the collection, Janeway soon finds ...

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The Bookwoman's Last Fling (Cliff Janeway Series #5)

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Overview

In another enthralling bestseller by "master yarn spinner" (Chicago Sun-Times) John Dunning, rare book dealer and relentless private eye Cliff Janeway unravels a deadly plot marked by stolen classics and stable secrets.

When wealthy horse trainer H. R. Geiger dies, Denver bookman Cliff Janeway encounters the legacy of the man's wife, Candice, a true bookwoman who left behind an assortment of rare first-edition children's books. Sent to assess the collection, Janeway soon finds that several titles are missing, replaced by cheap reprints — while other hugely expensive pieces remain. Why would a thief take one priceless book and leave an equally valuable volume on the shelf? Suspecting foul play, Janeway follows the trail of Candice's shadowy past to California's Golden Gate and Santa Anita racetracks, where he signs on as a racehorse hot walker. Eavesdropping on the chatter among the hands, he doesn't like what he hears. And when he goes to the house where Candice died to look for answers, Janeway finds much more than he bargained for.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Ex-homicide cop Cliff Janeway would love to settle down to a quiet life as a rare-book dealer, but murder keeps obstructing his way. In The Bookwoman's Last Fling, he travels to Idaho at the invitation of wealthy horse trainer H. R. Geiger, who has gathered an unrivaled collection of pristine children's classics. But before Janeway can finish appraising this bookseller's dream, the life of the equestrian-minded bibliophile is snuffed out. To catch the culprit, our intrepid (if involuntary) detective gallops off to races at Golden Gate Fields and Santa Anita Park.
From the Publisher
"Dunning scores another triumph.... Sure to lure Dick Francis fans." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Terrific dialogue and some very nice writing.... A mystery that races to the beat of horses' hooves." — Rocky Mountain News

"An exhilarating adventure that makes book-collecting seem as exciting as horseracing." — The New York Times

Marilyn Stasio
Cliff Janeway, the Denver dealer and "book cop" who keeps the pages turning in this smart series, is tipped off to the nut in question when he's hired to appraise a collection of rare juvenile fiction belonging to a woman who may have been murdered by whoever made off with her Beatrix Potters. A tough man in the action scenes, Janeway becomes as tender as a lamb when he's holding "Winnie the Pooh" in his big mitts.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Bestseller Dunning scores another triumph with his fifth mystery (after 2005's The Sign of the Book) to feature Cliff Janeway, a former homicide detective who has found a second career as an antiquarian book dealer but who hasn't quite lost his taste for police work. Janeway receives an invitation from wealthy horse trainer H.R. Geiger to come to Idaho to appraise his book collection, but by the time Janeway arrives, his host is dead. He winds up tracking down some rare volumes that have vanished and probing the decades-old death of Geiger's wife, a wealthy heiress who collected valuable juvenile fiction. When a fresh body turns up and Janeway himself almost falls victim to a killer, the bibliophile detective finds that his decision to pursue the truth puts him at odds with his longstanding significant other. Dunning's exceptional gifts at plotting and characterization should help win him many new readers, while the horse-racing angle is sure to lure Dick Francis fans. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416523390
  • Publisher: Pocket Books
  • Publication date: 3/27/2007
  • Series: Cliff Janeway Series , #5
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 528
  • Product dimensions: 7.44 (w) x 10.90 (h) x 1.15 (d)

Meet the Author

John Dunning has revealed some of book collecting's most shocking secrets in his bestselling series of crime novels featuring Cliff Janeway: Booked to Die, which won the prestigious Nero Wolfe award; The Bookman's Wake, a New York Times Notable Book of 1995; and the New York Times and Book Sense bestsellers The Bookman's Promise, The Sign of the Book, and The Bookwoman's Last Fling. He is also the author of the Edgar Award-nominated Deadline, The Holland Suggestions, and Two O'Clock, Eastern Wartime. An expert on rare and collectible books, he owned the Old Algonquin Bookstore in Denver for many years. He is also an expert on American radio history, authoring On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. He lives in Denver, Colorado.
Visit his website at www.oldalgonquin.com.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

The morning was angry but I was cool. The rain rolled in from the west like a harbinger of some vast evil brewing but I had the man's money in my bank account, it was mine, he couldn't get it back unless I went nuts and decided to give it to him, and that made me cool. I had followed his orders almost to the letter, varying them just enough to satisfy my own persnickety nature. Long before the first faint light broke through the black clouds, I got up, dressed, got out of my motel room, and drove out toward the edge of town.

I found the all-night diner without a hitch; parked at the side and sat in my cold car with the motor idling. I was early. I had been told to come at five o'clock, no more or less, but I tend to ignore advice like that, especially when it comes with an attitude. I waited ten minutes and the appointed hour came and went. I could sense his presence off to my left beyond the parking lot: If I looked hard at that patch of darkness I could make out the vaguest shape of a car or truck, a vehicle of some kind in a small grove of trees. At five-oh-five by the clock in my car I got out and went inside. The waiter took my order, a slam-bang something with eggs and pancakes: enough cholesterol to power the whole state of Idaho. I consoled myself. I seldom eat like that anymore unless I am on the road, and apparently I am one of the lucky ones: I have great genes and my so-called good cholesterol readings are always sensational. No matter how much fat I eat, my system burns it. To my knowledge, no one in my family tree has ever died of a heart attack, which only means that I have a fine opportunity to be the first one.

The waiter tried to make the cook understand what I wanted through a serious language barrier. The cook looked illegal as hell: he spoke a kind of Spanglish through the window and the waiter struggled with that. I sat through two cups of coffee and no one came out of the lot beyond parking. My breakfast was surprisingly tasty and hot; I ate it slowly and looked up occasionally for some sign of life in the parking lot. When I looked at my watch again, it was five-thirty. The man was half an hour late.

I stretched out my legs and waited some more. If he didn't come at all it was truly his loss. I had five thousand of his American big ones and that usually guaranteed good faith. I could buy a fairly nice book with that. It was my rock-bottom minimum these days, the least it took for a stranger like him to get me off my dead ass in Denver and on the road to some distant locale. I got the money up front for just such contingencies as this one: a client with guff to match my own. That's one thing people had said about Harold Ray Geiger in all the newspaper accounts I had read of his life and death. He was abrupt, and so was the guy who had called me.

Geiger's man was also mysterious, enigmatic to a fault. He had sent me a cashier's check, so I still didn't know his full name. "My name is Willis," he had said on the phone. "I am Mr. Geiger's representative in Idaho." Normally I wouldn't touch a job like this: I certainly wouldn't leave home and make such a drive without knowing certain salient details. What had sold me on the case were the books. Geiger had died last month with a vast library of great first editions, the estate had a problem with them, and that was partly what I did now. I seldom did appraisal work: I found that boring and there were others who could do it faster and at least as well. There can be huge differences between honest appraisers and I tend to be too condition-conscious for people who, for reasons of their own, want their appraisals high. But I would help recover stolen books, I would try to unravel a delicate book mystery, I would do things, and not always for money, that got me out in the sunshine, away from my bookstore in Denver and into another man's world. It all depended on the man, and the voice on the phone seemed to belong to a five-grand kind of guy.

Six o'clock came and went. I rolled with it, prepared to sit here half the morning. The man deserved no less than that for five thousand dollars.

At some point I saw the truck move out of the shadows and bump its way into the parking lot. It was one of those big bastards with wheels half the size of Rhode Island. The sky was still quite dark and the rain drummed relentlessly on the roof of the truck. I could see his knuckles gripping the wheel — nothing of his face yet, just that white-knuckle grip beyond the glass. I knew he had a clear look at me through the windshield, and at one point I smiled at him and tried to look pleasant. But I had a come-if-you-want-to, don't-if-you-don't attitude of my own. The ball was in his court.

Eventually he must have realized this, for I saw the unmistakable signs of life. A light went on in the truck and a man in a hat and dark glasses materialized. He climbed down and came inside.

"You Janeway?"

I recognized his voice from that cryptic phone call a week ago. I said, "Yep. And you would perhaps be representing the estate of Mr. Harold Ray Geiger?"

"I'm Willis. I was Mr. Geiger's right-hand man for more than thirty years."

He sat in the booth and sent up a signal for coffee. He didn't offer his hand and I didn't try to take it. There was another moment when I might have taken it by force, but then he had moved both hands into his lap and I figured groping around between his legs might cast us both in a bad light. From the kitchen the Mexican cook was watching us.

The mystery man sat sipping his coffee.

"Do you have a first name, Mr. Willis?"

"Yes, I have a first name." He said this with dripping sarcasm, a tone you use with a moron if you are that kind of guy. Already I didn't like him; we were off to a bad start.

"Should I try to guess it? You look like somebody named Clyde, or maybe Junior."

I said this in a spirit of lighthearted banter, I hoped, but he bristled. "My first name doesn't matter. I am the man who will either take you out to Mr. Geiger's ranch or leave you to wonder for the rest of your life what this might have been."

Now it was my turn to stifle a laugh.

"Are you making light of this?" I sensed a blink behind his dark shades. "Are you trying to annoy me?"

"Actually, Mr. Willis, I was starting to think it was the other way around."

"You've got a helluva nerve, coming out here with an attitude."

"I wasn't aware I had one."

"Keep it up and you can just climb right back in that car and get the hell out of here."

I stared at him for a long moment. I was suddenly glad I had been paid by cashier's check: his money was now firmly in my bank.

"I want it established right from the start," he said: "You are working for me. You will appraise Mr. Geiger's books and do it ASAP. If it turns out that books are missing and lost forever, I want you to give me a document to that effect, something that will satisfy God, the executor of Mr. Geiger's will, and any other interested party who happens to ask. Is that clear enough?"

"I wasn't told I had to satisfy God as well as all those other people."

"I am not paying you for that kind of wiseass commentary. I was told you are a reliable professional and that's what I want from you. That's all I want."

"Well, let's see if I understand it so far. You want me to look at some books. Supposedly there are some missing titles. I'm to give you a written appraisal and do it on the quickstep. I'm to tell you what's missing based on your assertion that these missing books were ever there in the first place. I'm to do all this in a cheerless environment; I'm not allowed to ever crack a joke or even smile once in a while for comic relief. Twice a day you send a gnome up with bread and water and he hands it to me through the bars. I get to go pee occasionally, as long as I don't abuse this privilege; otherwise it's pucker-up-and-hold-it time. Is that about it?"

"I don't like your attitude."

"We've already established that." I slipped into my Popeye voice. "But I yam what I yam, Mr. Willis. That's what you get for your money, which by the way isn't all that great. And it's looking less great the more we talk."

"Then leave," he said in an I dare you tone.

I slid out of the booth, picked up the check, and started toward the counter. I sensed his disbelief as I paid the tab and sidled back to the booth to leave the waiter a tip.

"Thanks for the call. Give my regards to Idaho Falls."

I was halfway across the parking lot when I heard the door open. He said my name, just "Janeway," and I stopped and turned politely.

"What are you, crazy? You haven't even heard what this is about."

"Believe me, I would still love to be told."

"Then stop acting so goddam superior."

"It's not an act, Clyde. I don't have any act. This may surprise you, but I have lived all these years without any of Mr. Geiger's money. I've gotten wherever I am with no help at all from you guys, and I'm willing to bet I can go the rest of the way on my own as well. I do appreciate the business, however."

"Wait a minute."

We looked at each other.

"What do you think, I brought you out here just for the hell of it?"

"I have no idea why you do what you do. If you want to talk, let's go. Your five grand has already bought you that privilege."

He stood there for another moment as if, with enough time, he could reclaim some of the high ground he had lost. "You're a slick piece of change, aren't you?"

"Yes, sir, I am. I may not be much of many things, but I am slick. Two things before we go. First take off those glasses, please. I like to see who I'm talking to."

He took them off slowly, and in that act the authority passed all the way from him to me. His eyes were gray, like a timber wolf or a very old man.

"Thank you. Now tell me, please, who you are. Is Willis your first name or last?"

"Last."

"What's your first?"

He stared at me for a long moment. Then he said, "Junior." I swear he did, and that confession made the whole trip worthwhile. Copyright ©2006 by John Dunning

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 10 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2008

    Disappointing compared to previous Janeway novels

    I was so excited to read the latest John Dunning book -- but was so disappointed. BORING pretty much sums it up. I actually read to page 300 and couldn't go any further. I just can't believe this was John Dunning -- all his other Cliff Janeway books were so good. I have them all on my shelf! :'

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2007

    Good, but not his best

    I have read all the books in the Cliff Janeway series and enjoyed them all. For some reason, this didn't grab me quite like the previous installments. I think that Janeway leaving home and hearth 'and business and relationship' for an indefinite period to work in the stables without any leads strained the credability of the story and I also had issues with the resolution and wrap-up. Fortunately, Dunning is talented enough to still make it a good read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2006

    I sure hope so

    Last fling is appropriate here. This book is a story of Janeway working at the track and mucking around (no pun intended) for an endless amount of pages. We throw in a killer, a mention of a rare book here or there, and on on on. This book is BORING and not worth your time. It will takes lots of patience to finish it. Save your money.....

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 3, 2014

    being a horse owner at one time I found this book compelling and

    being a horse owner at one time I found this book compelling and accurate, thanks for a page turner. can't wait for the next in the series

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2006

    Wonderful Mystery

    Cliff Janeway had me guessing until the end. Loved all the information on book collecting and horse racing. Can't wait until his new book comes out. Didn't want to put the book down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2006

    A Return to Form

    John Dunning¿s The Bookwoman¿s Last Fling is a much better novel than last year¿s The Sign of the Book. Cliff Janeway is a sleuth who reminds you of Lew Archer. He is hired to appraise a book collection and finds the case grows to include horse racing and murders old and new. Cliff takes a job in the racing world to find out more about some of the suspects and almost loses his life. Dunning writes about the racing world in the style of Dick Francis and throws in info about the world of book collectors.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Great mystery

    Former homicide police detective Cliff Janeway, now a bookstore owner is always on the lookout for a rare and precious book. Junior Willis asks Cliff to authenticate and appraise the book collection of the late Harold Ray Geiger Cliff leaps at the chance because he wants to see first hand the collection. When he does he notices that later editions were substituted for rare books and that his client has only half the collection as Geiger¿s daughter Sharon owns the rest. Cliff is in heaven when he gets to see what she possesses.------------- Sharon hires Cliff to find the missing books and to learn if her mother¿s death, though years ago, caused by an allergic reaction to eating peanuts, was suicide, accident or murder. He follows clues that return him to Geiger¿s house and ultimately the horse racing world. Someone observes Cliff¿s efforts and decides the bookworm is getting too close to the truth so tries to close the book on him by killing him. Wary but not deterred, Cliff keeps investigating as he now knows a homicide perhaps two occurred and he has a suspect but lacks evidence.---------------- Bibliophiles and racing fans will be euphoric with Cliff Janeway¿s latest caper. Dick Francis fans will thoroughly enjoy THE BOOKWOMAN¿S LAST FLING especially for the behind the scenes look at what goes on at a horse racing track. Cliff is at his best evaluating books, but by the tale¿s end the audience will know he misses police work as he gleefully follows the clues in the case even when his life is at risk and upsets his significant other who already is disturbed that he is a ¿murder magnet¿.----------- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2014

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