One Book In The Grave
The fifth book in the Bibliophile Mystery series, 2012
This book is dedicated to my favorite Beast, my brother,
Daniel Patrick Beaver, and to his beautiful and very
clever wife, Deborah, and their amazingly perfect
children, Campbell and Callan.
I love you all!
As always, I’m indebted to so many people for their help in getting this book written. My grateful thanks go to:
My brilliant editor, Ellen Edwards, whose support, encouragement, and guidance are invaluable to me.
My wonderful agent, Christina Hogrebe, for her wit, enthusiasm, and good counsel.
Obsidian senior editor Sandy Harding, and everyone at NAL and Penguin, who work so hard to make book magic happen.
Illustrator Dan Craig, whose artistic talent makes my beautiful book covers the envy of all the others on the bookshelf.
Bookbinder Rhiannon Albers at the San Francisco Center for the Book, who shared the story of Dard Hunter and suggested that a mystery about a papermaker might be interesting.
Book artist Wendy Poma, for making it look so easy.
My fabulous sis-in-law, Jane Beaver, who drove to the ends of the earth and walked for miles in the rain with me, just to find the perfect spot for a Marin County goat farm.
My inner circle, my lovely and generous writer friends, who keep me sane, sort of. Thanks and love to Maureen Child, Susan Mallery, Christine Rimmer, Theresa Southwick, Jennifer Lyon, Hannah Dennison, Laura Bradford, Daryl Gerber, and the notorious Romance Bandits.
The many bookbinders, librarians, booksellers, and readers who have taken Brooklyn into their hearts. I can’t thank you enough.
Finally, to Don, my bartender and partner in crime. Thanks, lovey. You make it all worthwhile.
Hello. My name is Brooklyn Wainwright and I am a book addict.
It was Friday morning and I was on my way to the Covington Library to sniff out my personal version of crack cocaine: books. Old, rare, and beautiful.
I didn’t need a twelve-step program; I just needed more bookbinding work to keep me off the streets. That was why I’d driven over to Pacific Heights to see my good friend Ian McCullough, head curator of the Covington Library in San Francisco. He’d called earlier to let me know he had a job for me.
I found a lucky parking spot less than half a block away. Lucky was the perfect way to describe how I was feeling that day. As I walked up the broad concrete steps of the imposing Italianate mansion, I took a moment to appreciate this beautiful building, its setting at the highest point of my favorite city, and this glorious early-fall day.
A few months ago, after coming within striking distance of yet another callous criminal bent on killing me and a few close friends, I had made a vow to be grateful for every wonderful thing in my life. My family; my friends; my gorgeous, exciting lover; the career I enjoyed so much; my books; pizza-I was grateful for them all. Life was good.
So now I stopped to breathe the crisp, clear air; smile at the colorful sight of newly planted pansies lining the sidewalks; and savor the stunning view of San Francisco Bay in the distance.
The moment passed and I strolled up the last few steps. Pushing open the heavy iron doors, I walked through the elegant foyer of the Covington, with its broad checkerboard marble floor, coffered ceiling, and sweeping staircases. Those stairs led to the second and third floors, where dozens of rooms held priceless artwork and countless collections of the greatest books ever written. In almost every alcove and nook, a visitor would find a comfortable chair with a good light for reading. It was the most welcoming place for a book lover I’d ever known and I loved it as much now as I did the first time I went there, when I was eight years old.
I bypassed the main exhibit hall and headed straight for Ian’s office, down the wide corridor that led to the inner sanctum. I was eager to get hold of the book he was so excited about, and envisioned myself rushing home, tearing it apart, and putting it back together again. With utmost love and care, of course.
Yes, life was good indeed.
That thought was snuffed out as a sudden, cold sense of dread permeated the very air around me. I shuddered in dismay. In any perfect apple, a worm might be found.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing here?”
Shudders rippled through me at the shrill voice of Minka LaBoeuf, my archenemy.
My stomach bubbled and roiled in revulsion and I instantly regretted the Spanish omelet I’d eaten for breakfast. I turned to face her and was sorry I had. Chartreuse-and-fuchsia-striped leggings appeared to have been sprayed onto Minka’s ample lower body. As God was my witness, the leggings were topped by a matching tube top (a tube top!) and a pixie band (a pixie band!) in her hair. She looked like a demented barber pole.
I couldn’t make this stuff up.
“I was invited to come here today,” I said, shielding my eyes from the glare. “I know you can’t say the same, so you should leave. Be sure to let the door hit your ass on the way out.”
Baring her teeth, she snarled and said, “You’re such a bitch!”
I smiled with concern. “Really? Is that the best you’ve got? Pitiful.”
She moved in close-so close that I could smell her new perfume, Eau de Goat-and hissed at me. “If you don’t stop trying to take away my jobs, I’ll make sure you never work in this town again.”
Never work in this town again? Had she really said that? Of course she had. Minka was the queen of the tattered cliché.
“Threats, Minka?” I backed away from her, knowing she had an unruly left hook. “Ian won’t like hearing that you threatened me.”
She sniffed imperiously. “Ian is a jerk.”
“I’ll be sure to tell him you said so.”
“You’re a jerk, too.”
Feeling disappointed, I shook my head. “Have you been sick or something? Your comebacks are so lame, it’s pathetic.” I didn’t stick around to hear her answer, but turned and hurried off. I didn’t look back, either-possibly a tactical error where Minka was concerned, since she was the master of the sneak attack. But honestly, I couldn’t take another violent shock to my nervous system.
“You’ll be sorry!” she shrieked.
I rubbed my arms against the chill but kept moving. Minka had the kind of aura that stirred up all the frigid, stagnant chi that existed in any space. Or maybe auras and chi had nothing to do with it. I just knew she scared the hell out of me. Once I turned the corner and was out of her sight, I breathed easier. It was warmer now. The spell was broken.
I knew that sounded a little wacky, but I’d been stalked and harassed and, yes, punched in the face by Minka LaBoeuf. I wasn’t about to question the possibility that she could cast spells with those evil eyes of hers.
Strolling briskly down the wide hall, I entered the suite of business offices and greeted Wylie, Ian’s current assistant.
“He’s waiting for you, Ms. Wainwright. Go right in.”
I knocked, then opened Ian’s door.
“Hey, you,” Ian said, jumping up from his chair and rushing to greet me with a hug. “I’m glad you’re here. I’ve been itching to get your opinion on what to do about this book.”
Shaking off the last of my Minka-induced negativity, I smiled and hugged him back. “I can’t wait to see it.”
“I’ll warn you beforehand that the outside of the book is less than impressive. Well, actually, it’s in horrible shape, but I know you can make it shine. The inside is exquisite.” He led the way across the room to his lovingly restored Chippendale conference table. We sat, and I watched him slowly unwrap several layers of white tissue paper to reveal a rather nondescript book.