John Dunning. The Bookwoman’s Last Fling (2006) 337 pp.
Cliff Janeway, a bookseller—and ex-homicide detective—from Denver, is hired to appraise the book collection of the recently-deceased Harold Ray Geiger, who owned and trained champion race horses. Geiger’s fabulous collection of juvenilia was inherited from his young and beautiful wife, Candice, who had died several years earlier due to complications from her severe allergy to peanuts. But the job seems fishy from the start. The estate manager, Junior Willis, is more concerned with Janeway doing the job quickly than thoroughly. He and one of Geiger’s three sons want the estate settled soon so that they can resume the horse racing operations. From even a cursory examination of the collection, Janeway can tell that several volumes have been replaced with old but cheap reprints. Janeway refuses to do the job the way Willis wants and goes to work for Geiger’s daughter, Sharon, a veterinarian who specializes in rescuing horses from “the killers.” She has a spectacular book collection—also inherited from her mother—in her own right. Sharon wants Janeway to look into her mother’s death—officially ruled accidental—and discover what has happened to the missing books. The case takes Janeway to the Bay Area, into the world of professional horse racing at Golden Gate Fields, where the Geigers had a great deal of success, and to their ranch nearby where Candice had died. As he begins to piece together the story of Candice’s secret life, Janeway discovers another of Geiger’s sons murdered and he himself is attacked and nearly killed. The investigation leads him south to Santa Anita and then back to Idaho, as a desperate case of bibliomania—the obsessive hoarding of books—devolves into murder.
Setting: Idaho; Golden Gate Fields; East Bay