Mystery-solving criminal lawyer Crang returns to investigate the disappearance of two rare books.
Fletcher Marshall is a Toronto antiquarian book dealer, internationally respected in the business. One night, someone blows the safe in his office and makes off with the contents, which include an infamous forged first edition of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese that is in itself a collector’s item. Fletcher, who was still in the process of verifying the book, doesn’t even know whether it was the real thing or a clever forgery (of a forgery). But rather than summon the cops to investigate the theft, he turns to his pal Crang, the nervy criminal lawyer, hoping he can retrieve the books before their owner gets wind of the crime. The owner happens to be the richest woman in Canada and a tough cookie who could ruin Fletcher’s career.
Crang gets on the hunt, learning much about the trade in musty books and the lucrative business it makes for forgers. Just as he seems to be getting close to answers, a shocking development makes things much more complicated — and much more dangerous.
In Bratten's entertaining seventh series entry (following Keeper of the Flame), Crang, a too-curious-for-his-own-good criminal lawyer and investigator, takes on a literary mystery. Toronto bookstore owner Fletcher Marshall hires Crang to locate stolen literary letters and a suspected forgery of the manuscript of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese, both of which were taken from a safe in Marshall's bookstore. It's a convoluted tale involving the children of the wealthy entrepreneur poised to buy the Browning manuscript, the daughter of the author of the stolen letters, and bookstore staff. Readers also get to know some of Crang's associates, including the retired safe-cracker Freddie Biscuit. There is the serious and unfortunate matter of a murder along the way, but Batten gives the book the light tone of a caper, with Crang and his girlfriend and sidekick, Annie, playing it for laughs until Crang faces a gunman in his backyard. Too many convenient connections between characters strain the plot's credibility, and it doesn't take a mastermind to identify the guilty parties, but Crang's wit and brass pull the story off and make it fun for readers.