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Reviewed by Jon Michael Miller for Readers' Favorite
The Bookseller: And Other Stories by Peter Briscoe is a series of stories written in elegant, literary style. The first three pieces are very short with the ambiguity of Wallace Stevens’ poems. They seem unfinished, thus, the question: what do they mean? The featured piece of the collection is the much more formidable The Bookseller with the same elevated, challenging style but a tale with a beginning, middle and end. It’s a mystery involving a mysterious series of thefts from a major Latin American library. Amid his world travels, after a fine meal, a bookseller tells the tale to his admirers. A library patron is fed up with his inability to find the books he wants to read and makes a fuss, which eventually reveals that major book pilfering has been going on for years. The quest then becomes to find the who, when and why. Detective Robles and the library’s director of collections Dr. Andres Vidal launch an investigation.
If you love the beauty and depth of fine literature, you will love The Bookseller. Peter Briscoe’s prose is brilliant and flawless, right up there with all the canon’s greats. The plot combines mystery, police investigation, and library protocol. But what I liked most is the idea (theme) behind the majesty of composition: the present clash of the ancient tradition of books and libraries with the present emergence of digital technology, the former to evaluate and codify knowledge and the latter merely to collect it. There’s also the aesthetic and psychological comparison between reading a book and viewing a screen. I think we’ve all seen the clash in our local libraries where books are dumped to make way for computer monitors. In the magnificent tapestry of Briscoe’s story, all these elements blend to perfection along with a startling surprise at the end. If you appreciate mystery, ideas, characterization, libraries, and elegantly written expression reminiscent of Balzac, all woven into a memorable work of literary art, The Bookseller is for you.