Hound: a novel
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by Vincent McCaffrey
Description: "Death was, after all, the way Henry made his living." A bookhound, Henry Sullivan buys and sells books he finds at estate auctions and library sales around Boston and often from the relatives of the recently deceased. He's in his late thirties, single, and comfortably set in his ways. But when a woman from his past, Morgan Johnson, calls to ask him to look at her late husband's books, he is drawn into the dark machinations of a family whose mixed loyalties and secret history will have fatal results. Hound is a paean to books, bookselling, and the transformative power of the printed word. Even as it evolves into a gripping murder mystery, it is also a reminder that there are still quiet corners of the world where the rhythms of life are calmer, where there's still time for reading, time for getting out for a beer with friends, time to investigate the odd details of lives lived on the edges of the book world. As the true story unfolds, its mysteries are also of the everyday sort: love found and love lost, life given and life taken away. At the center is Henry himself, with his troubled relationships and his love of old books. There's his landlady Mrs. Prowder whose death unsettles Henry's life and begins the sequence of events that overturns it. There's the secret room his friend Albert discovers while doing "refuse removal," a room that reveals the story of a woman who lived and loved a century ago. And throughout the novel are those of us whose lives revolve around books: the readers, writers, bookstore people, and agents--as well as Henry, the bookhound, always searching for the great find, but usually just getting by, happy enough to be in the pursuit.
McCaffrey's second novel, A Slepyng Hound to Wake, will be published this summer.
eBook Publisher: Small Beer Press, 2009 2009
eBookwise Release Date: September 2009
2 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [348 KB]
Reading time: 225-315 min.
"McCaffrey, the owner of Boston's legendary Avenue Victor Hugo Bookshop, succeeds in conveying his love of books in his intriguing debut."--Publishers Weekly
"A hell of a tale. A murder and the trail to catching him leads through the world of book collectors (Bookhounds) and the things they love. Fans of Dunning will enjoy this."
"If bibliophilia is an illness, then Henry Sullivan is terminal! Books are his work, his life and his love. . . . Filled with anecdotes and asides on bookselling and the love of reading, Vincent McCaffrey's love for books absolutely drips from the pages. If you share that obsession, then you will be touched and moved by his words. Vincent McCaffrey is obviously a man so well read that he seems to have gleaned a deep understanding of human nature from his studies. His characters are appealing and sympathetic and his story well plotted. I look forward to his next novel after what was a most enjoyable debut."
"Ingenious and refreshingly irreverent, Hound is not only a mystery on many levels, but also an intelligent--and often funny--tour-de-force of the perils and follies of human relationships. McCaffrey has a gift for crafting quirky characters and original dialogue, and the path of our hero, Henry, is always wonderfully unpredictable. I came away from this 'book noir' with a sense of catharsis, but also with a sudden desire to reread and rethink all the great classics to which McCaffrey alludes in his terrific novel."
--Anne Fortier, Juliet
"Vincent McCaffrey's bookseller, Henry Sullivan, is as endearing, frustrating, and compelling a character I've come across in some time. Hound is more than Henry's show, however. It's a slow-burn murder mystery, a sharp character study, a detailed exploration of Boston, and a meditation on the secrets of history--both personal and universal. But I'm wasting our precious time trying to pigeonhole his wonderful first novel. Hound is, quite simply, a great book."--Paul Tremblay, author of The Little Sleep
"Vincent McCaffrey's debut mystery is crammed with stories, with likable, eccentric characters, much like his marvelous Avenue Victor Hugo Bookshop--of all the bookstores in the world, the one I still miss most of all. Like all good mysteries, Hound concerns more than murder: it's rich in detail and knowledgeable asides about bookselling, the world of publishing, and life lived in the pubs, shabby apartments, penthouses, and strange corners of the city of Boston."--Kelly Link, author of Pretty Monsters
Death was, after all, the way Henry made his living.
The books he sold were most often the recent property of people who had died. Book lovers never gave up the good ones without cause. But then, the books which people sold willingly were not the ones Henry really wanted. The monthly public library sales were stacked high with those--the usual titles for a dollar apiece, yesterday's best sellers, last year's hot topics.
But not always. Occasionally, some relative--often the child who never cared much for Dad's preoccupation with medieval history or Mom's obsession with old cookbooks--would drop the burden their parents had so selfishly placed upon them by dying, and there they would be, in great careless mounds on the folding tables in the library basement or conference room. Always dumped too quickly by a "volunteer" from the "friends" committee, with the old dust jackets tearing one against the other.
Like encounters with sin, Henry had occasions of luck at yard sales, though not often enough to waste a weekend which might better be spent at home reading. His favorite haunts were the estate auctions, and the best of these were the ones held at the very house where the old geezer had kicked the bucket. And there was always that thin network of friends who knew Henry was a bookman--who heard of book lots being sold and passed the word on. Albert, of course, had been a regular source for this, simply because his trash-removal business so often involved houses being sold where the books had accumulated over the years and the dead were recently departed.
Henry had spent the half hour since they had first arrived at the Blue Thorn talking about death. Albert had said nothing in response. He would not be provoked. Tim had busied himself counting receipts.
Henry studied Albert's darker reflection next to his own pale face in the mirror across the bar. There was no visible reaction. Albert's eyes were down on his glass. Henry knew that look from a thousand glances over a chessboard. That stolid brown face might not give much away, but his eyes were his weakness.
Henry pursued, "You know, the end might come too late for some people. They stay too long. All the good is over for them. With others, killing would be a kindness. I've seen them. Dying can be such an ignoble event. I go into their houses afterward. I see the decay of the things that once made them proud. No one really wants to die, I guess, until it's past their time and all the dodging is over. Dying is just the final alternative." Then he moved his thought at an angle, like an overlooked bishop from a neglected corner. "Maybe that's what makes murder the solution to so many problems."
Albert ordered a second pint before heaving an unhappy breath at the subject matter.
Tim wiped up the tale of the glass after he set the ale down, and then stopped, a frown of thought wrinkling his open forehead. Smaller than either Albert or Henry, he leaned over the bar between them, on his forearms, as if suddenly wanting to express a confidence. Henry looked down on the freckles scattered over the bald center of Tim's head and thought of islands on a pink sea.
Tim tapped the counter in front of his nose with his crooked index finger. "My uncle Jerry died in an accident on the job. Steel beam caught him the wrong way. But get this. Only the day before, he called my Aunt Deirdre into the dining room and asked for a sheet of the special paper they kept for answering invitations and the like. Then he sits down and, out of the blue, he makes out his will. Even calls my cousin Frankie over to notarize it. Can you believe that? He must have had a premonition."