Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Bibliomystery Mania: For the Love of Books About Books

Bibliomystery Mania: For the Love of Books About Books

I have a confession to make.  Paranormal books are not my only guilty pleasure.

I also love books about books.

Yes, I'm a bibliophile.  I love books about books, ciphers, long lost manuscripts, libraries, and secret archives.  The only thing better than reading books about books would be doing so while locked inside a bookstore, like this tourist who was locked inside Waterstones bookstore last month.  Some people have all the luck. 

I've been hoarding bibliomysteries (aka book mysteries, biblio-mysteries, bookish mysteries) and now it's time to share my book addiction for this fascinating subgenre of mystery books.  There are so many great bibliomysteries out there.  Here are the bibliomysteries that top my list.

Best Bibliomystery Books

Best Bibliomystery Books List Booked to Die by John Dunning
Booked to Die by John Dunning:  "Turning to his lifelong passion, Janeway opens a small bookshop -- all the while searching for evidence to put Newton away. But when prized volumes in a highly sought-after collection begin to appear, so do dead bodies. Now, Janeway's life is about to start a precarious new chapter as he attempts to find out who's dealing death along with vintage Chandlers and Twains. "  Booked to Die is the first book in the Cliff Janeway series.  Janeway is a former cop turned bookseller and collector of rare books who stumbles onto book heists and more. 

Best Bibliomystery Books List Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte
The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte:  "When a well-known bibliophile is found dead, leaving behind part of the original manuscript of Alexandre Dumas's The Three Musketeers, Corso is brought in to authenticate the fragment. He is soon drawn into a swirling plot involving devil worship, occult practices, and swashbuckling derring-do among a cast of characters bearing a suspicious resemblance to those of Dumas's masterpiece."  A Perez-Reverte thriller intertwined with Dumas and The Three Musketeers.  Absolutely fantastic.

Best Bibliomystery Books List Codex by Lev Grossman
Codex by Lev Grossman:  "His task is to search their library stacks for a precious medieval codex, a treasure kept sealed away for many years and for many reasons. Enlisting the help of passionate medievalist Margaret Napier, Edward is determined to solve the mystery of the codex-to understand its significance to his wealthy clients, and to decipher the seeming parallels between the legend of the codex and an obsessive role-playing computer game that has absorbed him in the dark hours of the night."  It's been awhile since I read this, but I remember it being a thrilling read.

Best Bibliomystery Books List The Dream of Scipio by Iain Pears
The Dream of Scipio by Ian Pears:  "Iain Pears intertwines three intellectual mysteries, three love stories, and three of the darkest moments in human history. United by a classical text called "The Dream of Scipio," three men struggle to find refuge for their hearts and minds from the madness that surrounds them in the final days of the Roman Empire, in the grim years of the Black Death, and in the direst hours of World War II."  This book was heart wrenching, intertwining the story of The Dream of Scipio with all the darkness of the fall of the Roman Empire, the bubonic plague, and World War II.

Best Bibliomystery Books List Ex-Libris by Ross King
Ex-Libris by Ross King:  "A cryptic summons to a remote country house launches Isaac Inchbold, a London bookseller and antiquarian, on an odyssey through seventeenth-century Europe. Charged with the task of restoring a magnificent library destroyed by the war, Inchbold moves between Prague and the Tower Bridge in London, his fortunes—and his life—hanging on his ability to recover a missing manuscript. Yet the lost volume is not what it seems, and his search is part of a treacherous game of underworld spies and smugglers, ciphers, and forgeries."  At times disjointed, but overall a thrilling tale filled with history, intrigue, conspiracies, and a book that many are willing to kill for.

Best Bibliomystery Books List The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde:  "Welcome to a surreal version of Great Britain, circa 1985, where time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem, militant Baconians heckle performances of Hamlet, and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. All this is business as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection, until someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature. When Jane Eyre is plucked from the pages of Brontë's novel, Thursday must track down the villain and enter the novel herself to avert a heinous act of literary homicide."  And now for something completely, really.  I am a huge fan of Jasper Fforde and yet his books are difficult to describe.  As most Ffordians will agree, his books must be read, though your mind will never be quite the same once you do.

Best Bibliomystery Books List The Grand Complication by Allen Kurzweil
The Grand Complication by Allen Kurzweil:  "A modern-day tale of literary intrigue, deviant passions, and delicious secrets. Behind the majestic walls of a Manhattan town house, a stylish young reference librarian of arcane interests unravels an 18th-century mystery--who stole Marie Antoinette's watch? The book is a grand and complicated "timepiece," told with a devilish sense of fun."  A research librarian is tempted into accepting a side job to locate an object formerly contained in a cabinet of curiosities.  Eccentric characters and mysteries layered upon mysteries make this a fun read.

Best Bibliomystery Books List The Historian vampire mystery by Elizabeth Kostova
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova:  "Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters addressed ominously to ‘My dear and unfortunate successor’. Her discovery plunges her into a world she never dreamed of – a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an evil hidden in the depths of history."  A bibliomystery with vampires?  Yes, please!

  Best Bibliomystery Books List The Hollow by Jessica VerdayThe Hollow by Jessica Verday:  "When Abbey's best friend, Kristen, vanishes at the bridge near Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, everyone else is all too quick to accept that Kristen is dead and rumors fly that her death was no accident. Abbey goes through the motions of mourning her best friend, but privately, she refuses to believe that Kristen is really gone. Then she meets Caspian, the gorgeous and mysterious boy who shows up out of nowhere at Kristen's funeral, and keeps reappearing in Abbey's life. Caspian clearly has secrets of his own, but he's the only person who makes Abbey feel normal again...but also special.  Just when Abbey starts to feel that she might survive all this, she learns a secret that makes her question everything she thought she knew about her best friend. How could Kristen have kept silent about so much? And could this secret have led to her death? As Abbey struggles to understand Kristen's betrayal, she uncovers a frightening truth that nearly unravels her—one that will challenge her emerging love for Caspian, as well as her own sanity."  A YA paranormal romance that ensures you'll never read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow the same way ever again.

Best Bibliomystery Books List Interred with Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrol
Interred with Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrol:  "On the eve of the Globe’s production of Hamlet, Shakespeare scholar and theater director Kate Stanley’s eccentric mentor Rosalind Howard gives her a mysterious box, claiming to have made a groundbreaking discovery. But before she can reveal it to Kate, the Globe burns to the ground and Roz is found dead - murdered precisely in the manner of Hamlet’s father. Inside the box Kate finds the first piece in a Shakespearean puzzle, setting her on a deadly, high-stakes treasure hunt.  From London to Harvard to the American West, Kate races to evade a killer and decipher a tantalizing string of clues, hidden in the words of Shakespeare, that may unlock literary history’s greatest secret."  A theater director and former Shakespearean scholar becomes embroiled in a deadly search, a search that leaves a trail of dead bodies.  This is the first book in the Kate Stanley series.

Best Bibliomystery Books List The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco:  "The year is 1327. Franciscans in a wealthy Italian abbey are suspected of heresy, and Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate. When his delicate mission is suddenly overshadowed by seven bizarre deaths, Brother William turns detective. His tools are the logic of Aristotle, the theology of Aquinas, the empirical insights of Roger Bacon—all sharpened to a glistening edge by wry humor and a ferocious curiosity. He collects evidence, deciphers secret symbols and coded manuscripts, and digs into the eerie labyrinth of the abbey, where “the most interesting things happen at night.”"  You may know this book from the film of the same name, starring Sean Connery and Christian Slater...featuring Ron Perlman in one of his weirdest roles ever.  Eco weaves a tangled web of mystery, murder, and secret knowledge within a labyrinthine library at the heart of an Italian monastery.  A bibliomystery masterpiece!

Best Bibliomystery Books List Nevermore Poe Fantasy by Kelly Creagh
Nevermore by Kelly Creagh:  "Soon, Isobel finds herself making excuses to be with Varen. Steadily pulled away from her friends and her possessive boyfriend, Isobel ventures deeper and deeper into the dream world Varen has created through the pages of his notebook, a realm where the terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe come to life.  As her world begins to unravel around her, Isobel discovers that dreams, like words, hold more power than she ever imagined, and that the most frightening realities are those of the mind. Now she must find a way to reach Varen before he is consumed by the shadows of his own nightmares."  A young adult paranormal book with supernatural ties to the writings of Edgar Allan Poe.  Nevermore is the first book in the Nevermore series.

Best Bibliomystery Books List Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez
The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez:  "It begins on a summer day in Oxford, when a young Argentine graduate student finds his landlady-an elderly woman who helped crack the Enigma Code during World War II -murdered in cold blood. Meanwhile, a renowned Oxford logician receives an anonymous note bearing a circle and the words "the first of a series." As the murders begin to pile up and more symbols are revealed, it is up to this unlikely pair to decipher the pattern before the killer strikes again."  An Oxford professor and a graduate student must solve a series of complex murders in this thrilling novel.  Full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing.

Best Bibliomystery Books List The Secret History by Donna Tartt
The Secret History by Donna Tartt:  "Richard Papen arrived at Hampden College in New England and was quickly seduced by an elite group of five students, all Greek scholars, all worldly, self-assured, and, at first glance, all highly unapproachable. As Richard is drawn into their inner circle, he learns a terrifying secret that binds them to one another...a secret about an incident in the woods in the dead of night where an ancient rite was brought to brutal life...and led to a gruesome death. And that was just the beginning."  A psychological book about comradery and murder.

Best Bibliomystery Books List The Shadow of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon:  "Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julián Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets--an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love."  This many layered mystery is dreamlike, melancholy, and poetic.  The first novel in The Cemetery of Forgotten Books series. 

Best Bibliomystery Books List The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield:  "Biographer Margaret Lea returns one night to her apartment above her father’s antiquarian bookshop. On her steps she finds a letter. It is a hand-written request from one of Britain’s most prolific and well-loved novelists. Vida Winter, gravely ill, wants to recount her life story before it is too late, and she wants Margaret to be the one to capture her history. The request takes Margaret by surprise — she doesn’t know the author, nor has she read any of Miss Winter’s dozens of novels.  Late one night while pondering whether to accept the task of recording Miss Winter’s personal story, Margaret begins to read her father’s rare copy of Miss Winter’s Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation. She is spellbound by the stories and confused when she realizes the book only contains twelve stories. Where is the thirteenth tale? Intrigued, Margaret agrees to meet Miss Winter and act as her biographer."  This one is on my towering TBR pile waiting to be read. 

Best Bibliomystery Books List The Unburied by Charles Palliser
The Unburied by Charles Palliser:  "In Victorian England, Dr. Courtine is invited to spend the days before Christmas with Austin, a friend from his youth, in the Cathedral Close of Thurchester. Courtine hopes to research an unsolved mystery at the cathedral library, but when Austin captivates him with the story of the town ghost -- a macabre tale of murder and deception dating back two centuries -- Courtine finds himself drawn instead into a haunting world of avarice, skullduggery, and exceptional evil. Daring, unpredictable, atmospheric, The Unburied is a dazzling entry in the canon of classic Victorian masterpieces of suspense."  Beginning within a memoir, we have a man who has come to unearth a manuscript, but ends up trying to solve multiple cases of murder when he is told a local ghost story.

Best Bibliomystery Books List Unsolicted by Julie Kaewert cozy mystery
Unsolicited by Julie Kaewert:  "London's Plumtree Press has a world-class bestseller of a novel. And the sequel is earmarked to get this old family firm out of the red. But its anonymous author, known to Plumtree only as "Arthur," has apparently vanished, leaving the crucial last five chapters undelivered. Alex already knows they reveal the identity of the characters who smuggled British children to America during World War II. But, of course, this is fiction. So when a lead critic previews the book as a nonfiction exposé, Alex is shocked. Even more so when the critic is murdered...and Alex finds himself the target of a ruthless hunt for the manuscript and bizarre attempts on his life. "  The first novel in A Booklover's Mystery series.  This is a fun, cozy mystery series about a young man who runs a small, family owned publishing house and his penchant for rare books and reluctant sleuthing.  Warning: This book will make you crave tea and toast.  You have been warned.

Additional Reading

The above list is not an exhaustive list of bibliomysteries.  I could go on...and on....and on.  For the sake of space, I am adding these titles here for your enjoyment.  Why did they not make my list of Best Bibliomystery Books?  Truthfully, many of these I read so long ago that I can't remember them fully.  The ones that are most memorable, or that I've read more than once, I've listed above.

Don't miss these bibliomystery books:
  • The Bookman's Tale by Charlie Lovett
  • The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber
  • The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl 
  • Death by the Book by Lenny Bartulin
  • Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco 
  • The Intelligencer by Leslie Silbert
  • The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard
  • Real Murders by Charlaine Harris
  • The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell
  • The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay

E.J. Stevens author of young adult paranormal and urban fantasy
 About the Author:

E.J. Stevens is the author of the Spirit Guide young adult paranormal series, the Hunters' Guild urban fantasy series, and the bestselling Ivy Granger urban fantasy series.  Due to her love for bibliomysteries, her books are peppered with secret archives, libraries, books, documents, grimoires, and words of power.

Hunting in Bruges Hunters' Guild supernatural urban fantasy
Her new novel Hunting in Bruges teams up Jenna Lehane, a Hunter with a troubled past, a proficiency with weapons, and an intolerance for monsters who target the innocent, with a number of quirky characters, including Hunters' Guild archivist Darryl Lambert.  In a race against time, they must delve into both the Guild's and the city's history--centuries of blood, secrets, Templars, kings, and the supernatural predators that threaten the human inhabitants of Bruges.

Have you read any great bibliomysteries lately?

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