Anyone who has ever seen my bedroom knows that I am a bibliophile. I can’t afford to be a picky bibliophile, looking for rare editions or signed copies of famous titles by famous authors, but I completely understand the urge to collect at that level. Bradford Morrow’s upcoming The Forgers delves into the world of rare booksellers and buyers but through the eyes of Will, a semi-reformed forger. With so much money, prestige, and reputation at stake, the idea that there are people out there who would kill or maim over authenticity is believable and Will’s narration of his experiences is engaging and will make you look twice the next time you sign your name.
The book opens with the death of the narrator’s girlfriend’s brother. After suffering a damaging blow to the head and the separation of both hands from his body, Adam Diehl dies before he can give any clues as to who is behind the attack. But the documents and rare editions, many signed by notable authors, show that Adam was involved in more than just trading difficult to find books. The world of forgery is one that Will knows all too well having been exposed early in his relationship with Meghan, the victim’s sister. Tracing Will’s efforts to move on with Meghan after her brother’s death, someone else seems keen on dragging Will’s past back into the present. But just who is the man behind the threats and how dangerous is he?
The Forgers is a book for and about those who love books; how they smell, how they look, the sound of an old spine being gently worked. The suspense is well established and maintained throughout though the conclusion only mostly lives up to the buildup. While I don’t tend to enjoy first person narration, and I found it frustratingly limiting in this instance, it is ultimately the only way this story can be told effectively. It is the narrator’s anxiety and internal struggle that create the suspense. The reader is meant to be frustrated and want to yell at him to do this or do that because it would clearly solve his problems, only to find out later that the narrator left out some crucial details that explain what appears to be counterproductive behavior.
Frankly, it was the aspects of the first person narration that bothered me most that helped clue me into what the larger plot points would be. There are quite a few characters involved in the narrator’s life, most prominently his significant other, Meghan. One of only a very few female characters, I was annoyed that she features so prominently but the reader so rarely gets to hear her speak for herself. The portrait the narrator provides of her is purposely flat and unsatisfying but he can’t let the complexities of her shine through too strongly because those are part of what motivates his actions (and when he later puts his feelings about her in a larger context, it shows just how morally challenged he is).
If there was an area where I think the book could have been better rounded or expanded, I think it would have been in depicting the difficult time of Will’s initial exposure as a forger. Putting greater detail into the events of those days instead of giving a quick and hollow account of how it made him feel, it would have given greater initial believability to his reactions in the wake of Adam’s death.
The Forgers will be available in stores November 4, 2014.