Death of a Bookseller: A Classic Library Mystery
Originally published in 1956, it is one of the most modern titles in the series which focuses on reprints from the 1860s. Martin Edwards, detective writer and series consultant, said that she had achieved “some sort of cult status among book lovers” and that it had in fact been suggested to the BL’s publishing team by Richard Reynolds, a well-known bookseller at Heffers in Cambridge. Beautiful first edition copies of Death of a bookseller with dust jacket are rare and highly collectible.
Set in London, the bibliomystery follows Wigan as he enters the remarkably murky world of London’s second-hand book industry. He meets millionaire book collectors, runners (now a dying breed and in this book literally) and agents, including one who carries a razor blade in his purse and is quick to use it. Wigan, which has an interest in first editions by Victorian novelist GA Henty, joins forces with a bookseller selling from a wheelbarrow in the Old Kent Road to solve the murder of a racer/collector who obtained a signed copy of John Keats. Endymion. Much of its time, it still contains many intriguing elements, including a most obnoxious prime suspect, satanic incunabula whips, and a strong anti-porn message. It also has a lot of lighter moments and some of the minor characters like Lavatory Jack and One-Volume Joe skate through the pages too quickly. Those who want more of the reliable Wigan will be pleased to hear that this is the second of his four outings (see also: Death at the Cascades1953; Once, then the funeral, 1958; and Murder next year1959).
Farmer (1902-1964) was previously a policeman and bibliophile. In 1950 he published the slim volume, The delicate art of book collecting. He was born in England, but spent his twenties living and working in Canada in various jobs before becoming a writer. Not much defended during his lifetime, it would have delighted him that Death of a bookseller has become a literary reference.