I’m always on the lookout for books that John Dunning might have written but didn’t. I’ve read the Dunning portfolio including The Bookman’s Wake, Booked to Die, The Bookman’s Promise, etc. along with his Two O’Clock Eastern Wartime and Looking for Ginger North. Enjoyed them all and especially the “book business” themes in the Cliff Janeway series. Following that interest I’ve found such non-Dunning notables as Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan, and Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. I would recommend them all.
With this inclination in mind I recently picked up a copy of The Last Word by Paul Combs along with two other related Combs’ pieces, Book Town and Writer in Residence. If you like Dunning you will surely find The Last Word a worthwhile read but you will also be reminded of why Dunning and his protagonist, Cliff Janeway, lead the field in this niche.
This book had my interest and enthusiasm for about 100 pages but the plot and characters became more and more predictable as I moved past the character development and story introduction.
This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy the read. I did. And I intend to read the other two books in the series.
In brief summary… Cousins Sal and Camden inherit an independent bookstore in Fort Worth, TX from their uncle and spend most of the book learning the book business and trying to keep the store afloat. Sal is (or was) a mob enforcer from New Jersey and uses many of his former skills of intimidation to get the store and its staff through several close calls. The book ends with, as you would hope, the survival of the store and the characters poised to jump off into the adventures of a second book.
The story is easy reading, most of the characters are interesting and quirky, and the plot is consistent. There is enough detail regarding the bookstore business to keep an aficionado engaged and hoping for more. And there are even some references to the works of John Dunning paying homage to the series of books that originally peaked my interest in bookstore novels. Enjoy.