Table of Contents
Praise for Kate Carlisle’s Bibliophile Mysteries
If Books Could Kill
“Carlisle’s story is captivating, and she peoples it with a cast of eccentrics. Books seldom kill, of course, but this one could murder an early bedtime.”
“The mystery plot is lighthearted and cozy but with depth enough to keep me guessing. . . . The eclectic cast of characters kept a smile on my face throughout the book.”
“Excitement bounds off of each page! This twisty tale will keep you guessing until the very end. I feel like Brooklyn is an old friend and hope to meet her again in another mystery.”
—The Romance Readers Connection
“Brooklyn’s uncommon occupation drives the well-constructed and smoothly executed mystery. Offbeat secondary characters contrast nicely with the more levelheaded Brooklyn.”
Homicide in Hardcover
“A fun, fast-paced mystery that is laugh-out-loud funny. Even better, it keeps you guessing to the very end. Sure to be one of the very best books of the year!”
bestselling author Susan Mallery
“Who’d have thought book restoration could be so exciting? When Brooklyn Wainwright inherits the job restoring the priceless copy of Goethe’s
from her murdered mentor, her studio is ransacked, she’s stalked, and the bodies pile up around her. Is it the famous
curse? I’m not tellin’. But, trust me, you’ll have fun finding out.”
—Parnell Hall, author of the Puzzle Lady Mysteries
“Beautiful and brilliant Brooklyn Wainwright thought bookbinding was a low-risk occupation, but she soon discovers her mistake in Kate Carlisle’s smart and sophisticated page-turner.”
—Leslie Meier, author of
“Brooklyn is my kind of detective! She loves books, wine, chocolate—and solving mysteries! Kate Carlisle has crafted a fabulous new series with great food, great books, and lots of fun.”
—Maureen Child, author of
A Fiend in Need
“Welcome to the fresh and funny world of bookbinder Brooklyn Wainwright. A delicious mix of San Francisco, book restoration, and a lingering counterculture beset by murder. Who knew leather and vellum could be so captivating!”
—Jo Dereske, author of the Miss Zukas Mysteries
“A cursed book, a dead mentor, and a snarky rival send book restorer Brooklyn Wainwright on a chase for clues—and fine food and wine—in Kate Carlisle’s fun and funny delightful debut.”
—Lorna Barrett, author of the Booktown Mysteries
“Saucy, sassy, and smart—a fun read with a great sense of humor and a soupçon of suspense. Enjoy!”
—Nancy Atherton, author of the Aunt Dimity Mysteries
OTHER BIBLIOPHILE MYSTERIES
Homicide in Hardcover
If Books Could Kill
Published by New American Library, a division of
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices:
80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published by Obsidian, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First Printing, November 2010
Copyright © Kathleen Beaver, 2010
All rights reserved
OBSIDIAN and logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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eISBN : 978-1-101-44518-1
This book is dedicated with love, affection, and gratitude to my brother, James Carlisle Beaver. Jimmy, my favorite memories of San Francisco are the times I’ve spent there with you.
My thanks and acknowledgment go to book conservator Jeff Peachey for generously granting permission to use his name and his bookbinding tools in my books.
Many thanks, as well, to the wonderful San Francisco Center for the Book, where book geeks like me are welcomed and encouraged by the generous staff and talented teachers. Any resemblance between SFCB and my own fictional BABA is entirely coincidental. I’m also indebted once again to book artist Wendy Poma for her help and inspiration.
I am grateful to my plot group, Susan Mallery, Maureen Child, Christine Rimmer, and Teresa Southwick, for their friendship, advice, and support. Great thanks, also, to my literary agent, Christina Hogrebe of the Jane Rotrosen Agency, for her guidance and enthusiasm, and to Executive Editor Ellen Edwards, for her encouragement and consummate skill with words.
Finally, I owe a debt of gratitude to the librarians and booksellers around the country who continue to spread the word that Brooklyn and bookbinders are hot stuff, indeed. Thanks to you all.
Layla Fontaine, Executive Artistic Director of the Bay Area Book Arts Center, was tall, blond, and strikingly beautiful, with a hair-trigger temper and a reputation for ruthlessness. Some in the book community called her a malevolent shark. Others disagreed, insisting that calling her a shark only served to tarnish the reputation of decent sharks everywhere.
Since I had business with the shark, I arrived at the book center early and parked my car in the adjacent lot. Grabbing the small package I’d brought, I climbed out of the car and immediately started to shiver. It was dusk and the March air in San Francisco was positively frigid. I seemed to be in the direct path of a brisk wind that whooshed straight off the bay over AT&T Park and up Potrero Hill. Huddling inside my down vest, I quickly jogged to the front entrance of the book center and climbed the stairs.
I almost whimpered as I stepped inside the warm interior and rubbed my arms to rid myself of the chills. But looking around, I grinned with giddy excitement. It was the first night of my latest bookbinding class and I, Brooklyn Wainwright, Super Bookbinder, was like a kid on the first day of grammar school. A nerdy kid, of course—one who actually looked forward to spending the day in school. I couldn’t help myself. This place was a veritable shrine to paper and books and bookbinding arts, and I had to admit, grudgingly, that it was all due to Layla Fontaine.
As head fund-raiser and the public face of the Bay Area Book Arts Center, or BABA, as some affectionately called it, Layla had her finger—and usually a few other body parts—on the pulse of every well-heeled person in the San Francisco Bay Area. She was willing to do, say, or promise anything to keep BABA on firm financial ground, no matter how shaky the legalities seemed. Hers was a higher calling, she claimed, right up there with Doctors Without Borders and Save the Children, and anything was fair game in the nonprofit sector. While that might’ve been true, the fact remained that Layla Fontaine was a snarky, sneaky, notoriously picky, manipulative bitch.
But Layla had one true saving grace, and that was her pure and abiding appreciation of and devotion to books. She had an extensive collection of antiquarian treasures that she displayed regularly in BABA’s main gallery. And miracle of miracles, she’d managed to turn BABA into a profitable enterprise and a prestigious place to visit and contribute one’s time and money to.
Most important, she had brought me on staff to teach bookbinding classes here, and she’d also hired me privately to do restoration work on her own books. In exchange, I suppose I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt when it came to her questionable behavior. Yes, I could be bought. I wasn’t ashamed to admit it. After all, a girl’s got to make a living.
I walked through the foyer, where artists’ brochures and postcards and flyers and all the local free press papers were stacked, then entered the main gallery. The room was large with a dramatically high ceiling and skylights. Two ramps led down to the lower gallery, where glass display cases showed off the best works of the visiting bookbinders and artists. In the center was an unusual mix of ancient art and new technology, including an antique printing press and a large freestanding eighteenth-century cast-iron paper cutter with a thirty-inch blade. Next to these was BABA’s latest acquisition, a computerized guillotine that could cut cleanly through six inches of compacted paper.
The lower gallery was surrounded by the upper level, conveniently referred to as the upper gallery, which ran the perimeter of the room. Here were the main display walls and two large alcoves filled with bookshelves and comfortable seating areas.
Strolling through the upper gallery, I spied Naomi Fontaine, Layla’s niece and BABA’s facilities coordinator. She was busy assembling a new display of children’s vintage pop-up books.
To my left, on the main display wall, a number of darkly dramatic, steampunk-style wood-block prints were hung. On another wall, tall shelves of beautifully bound books were available to study or purchase.
Off the main room were three long halls that angled off like spokes on a bicycle wheel. Down these halls were classrooms, offices, mudrooms, a number of individual workrooms, the printing press room, and several smaller galleries.
“Hi, Naomi,” I called out. “Is Layla in her office?”
She bared her teeth at me. “She’s in there and she’s in rare form today. Good luck.”
“Thanks for the heads-up,” I said, wondering, not for the first time, why Naomi Fontaine stayed with BABA. She would never get the respect she deserved from her aunt Layla and would always stand in her shadow. Naomi was a true bluestocking who, in another era, might’ve been just as happy as a cloistered nun. She was pretty in an understated way, and talented enough, but she was a mouse. Shy and a bit obsequious, she lacked the dynamic personality it took to appeal to the high-society types with whom her aunt Layla hobnobbed.
Still, it was wise to keep on Naomi’s good side. She was the person to talk to if you wanted to get anything done here. If Layla was the brains behind BABA, Naomi was its heart and soul. She had her faults, but everything ran smoothly because of her.