BOOKWOMAN'S LAST FLING - John Dunning
Book collecting and horse racing is a rather unexpected combination, add that to the idea of a woman who dies young, leaving behind a young daughter, an elderly husband and 3 step-sons and you're not short of the potential for some twisting and turning. Janeway is definitely a character who likes to get involved. When he's initially called in to inventory and value the famous book collection of the long-dead Candice he's dismayed to find the substitution of cheap reprints for some of the very rare volumes. H.R. has recently died, but he's never had much interest in the book collection and now the estate must be realised, Janeway can't help but feel that the book thief must be somebody in or close to the family. He gets himself involved in the horse racing side of the family, whilst he gets to know - and watch - everybody who could have had access to the collection.
Perhaps that's where the wheels fall off THE BOOKWOMAN'S FLING a bit because we go from the investigation of missing books deep and totally into a world of horseracing. And there we stay - for an awfully long time. Sure along the way Janeway meets and starts to check out the stepsons; whilst he also has a good look at some of the long-time Horse Racing colleagues and staff of the Geiger's. He does eventually find out that Candice's death may not have been caused by the accidental consumption of food that she was allergic to, but all of that - the actual investigation into the initial disappearance of books and maybe even of Candice's own death - makes a guest appearance in a book that becomes mostly about the horse racing world. Until the end, when the original threads make a sudden reappearance, culminating in a reasonable resolution.
Janeway is an interesting, knock-about sort of a bloke and in some ways he's a bit of a saving grace for this book. There's no timeframe nominated that this reader could remember but it seemed to have a bit of a 50's feel to it - maybe it's Janeway's own style; maybe it's the way his girlfriend was woven into the story; maybe it was the lack of mobile telephones and other quick communications methods. Janeway is a character you could be interested in - I just wish it had not got quite so lost in the middle and taken too long with heaps of extraneous stuff, which unfortunately wasn't interesting enough in its own right, before getting to the final point.
Cliff Janeway would have liked Candice Geiger. She loved books with a true bookwoman's passion. Sadly, Janeway and Candice will never meet, as Candice died at a young age, twenty years ago.
Janeway first learns about Candice's collection of rare children's books when her elderly husband, wealthy horse trainer H.R. Geiger, passes away and Janeway travels to her Idaho home to assess the collection's value. One look at the books tells Janeway but other valuable titles are missing, replaced by cheap reprints. Janeway becomes convinced that someone has been cherry picking the book collection for personal profit, and the mystery may even involve murder.