Home - The Last Page Bookshop - The Horror Reviews Mail Hal C F Astell - Site Map

A Book of the Dead

Novel by John Blackburn (England) 1984.

The book of the dead is Men of Courage, a limited edition of 150, worth maybe a tenner or two, but with something to hide. Renowned bookdealer Jonathan Pike, however, forks out �300 for a copy, only to be discovered a week later with a knife in his chest, and fellow dealer Tom Mayne wants to know why. His investigations lead him to discover that Pike had been gradually buying up all 150 copies of the book, for sale to a single buyer, and that death and destruction have followed copies of the book everywhere. He teams up with Janet Vale, the rich and beautiful daughter of the millionaire industrialist Sir Simon Vale, a man who appears in Men of Courage; and the self-worshipping J Molden-Mott, author, explorer and charlatan, who also features in the book. The mystery deepens and proves to come to a conclusion only with the appearance of Major General Charles Kirk (Retired) who has been interested in the case for the last forty years.

John Blackburn used to be an antiquarian bookdealer, and as such, his knowledge of the subject should be comparable to Robin Cook's knowledge of the medical profession, or Guy Smith's knowledge of smallholding. The setting to the novel is certainly convincing, and provides a fascinating backdrop to the mystery that unfolds against it. Various principal characters appeared in A Beastly Business (amongst others), the other of his books published by Robert Hale, two years earlier, and are just as three-dimensional here. Blackburn's perennial character Kirk is just as devious, Peggy Tey is as repulsive and Mott in particular is even more ego-driven than before; whereas Tom Mayne and Janet Vale are new characters who certainly don't take a back seat. The plot is as complex as A Beastly Business, the pace is almost as fast, and the book is just as enjoyable to read, but the whole thing doesn't have the same spark. But that's not to detract from its high points, of which there are many as John Blackburn proves again that his mind is incredibly versatile and devious. As the old cliche goes, about the only thing to expect from his work is the unexpected. You certainly won't be disappointed.


Home - The Last Page Bookshop - The Horror Reviews Mail Hal C F Astell - Site Map