Friday, 13 December 2013

The Book Case by Nelson DeMille

This book does not strictly fall under Friday’s Forgotten Books at Patti Abbott’s blog Pattinase but just in case you didn’t know about it.

Otis Parker was dead. Killed by a falling bookcase whose shelves were crammed with very heavy reading. Total weight about a thousand pounds, which flattened Mr. Parker’s slight, 160-pound body. A tragic accident. Or so it seemed.

The Book Case by thriller writer Nelson DeMille is a short fiction about the mysterious death of Otis Parker, the owner of the Dead End Bookstore in New York. As the opening lines reveal, Otis, a bearded man in his early sixties, is killed when a loaded bookcase directly behind his desk falls on top of him. Detective John Corey of the First Precinct Detective Squad finds the bookstore owner “sprawled, splayed, and flattened on his collapsed desk,” his body half on the desk and half on the floor, but with his brains still intact.

John Corey, who has his own detective series, is almost convinced that Otis’ death is an accident until he discovers that the chocks or wedges that held the bookcase upright against the wall are missing. He smells murder.

The detective begins to question three people directly linked to Otis Parker—his young and good looking wife Mia, her lover and a not too successful crime writer Jay K. Lawrence, and a very nervous employee called Scott. He leaves out Otis’ part-time clerk Jennifer and his nameless ex-wife who are never in the picture.

Corey uses an old trick in police investigation—lying to the suspects and pitting one against the other—to ferret out the truth from Mia, who hated her husband and his store and dreamed of an inheritance and a new life with her lover; Jay, who gives her the plot idea but develops cold feet and sleeps with his publicist for an alibi; and Scott whose greed for money and lust for Mia gets the better of him.

“Cops, as I said, are allowed to lie. Half the confessions you get are a result of lying to a suspect.”

Final word
The Book Case (2011) is a light and quick read with just the right touch of suspense, and some humour. The writing style is easy and conversational. Detective Corey is a likeable character who thinks on his feet, is not hard on the suspects, and is determined to nail the murder accused, without ado. I liked the plot. Now why didn't I think of writing this story? Too late. I look forward to reading more books in the series.

The Dead End Bookstore is a nice name for a bookstore. It specialises, ironically, in crime fiction that includes both classic crime novels of Chandler, Sayers, Christie, Doyle and others as well as contemporary authors like Brad Meltzer, James Patterson, David Baldacci, Nelson DeMille, and others—who, as Detective Corey observes, “make more money writing about what I do than I make doing what I do.”

© www.nelsondemille.net
The author
Born in New York and living on Long Island, Nelson DeMille’s earliest books were NYPD detective novels. His first major novel was By the Rivers of Babylon (1978). He is a member of The Authors Guild, the Mystery Writers of America, and American Mensa. He has written over thirty series and standalone novels and contributed short stories, book reviews, and articles to magazines and newspapers. I gleaned this from Nelson DeMille's official website.

The Book Case, one of five short fiction works by the author, is available for Kindle at Amazon.

18 comments:

  1. Re: cops lying. There's an interesting essay in a current New Yorker about a law enforcement consultancy that specializes in getting confessions from persons being interrogated for crimes. Seems they are often a bit too successful and manage to get false confessions from innocent people.

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    1. Ron, I often read about false (or forced) confessions from suspects in the Indian press. Suspects and witnesses, for instance, agree to turn "approver" in a case, in lieu of leniency, only to turn "hostile" in the courts. Forced closure of a case can result in the wrongful persecution of an innocent person. I believe law enforcers resort to this method to up their success rate.

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  2. Haven't read much Demille. I have a couple of his works around here.

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    1. Charles, I didn't know about Nelson DeMille until I saw his books on Amazon. I intend to read some of his full novels.

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  3. Nelson DeMille is one of favorite writers, Prashant. And yet I hadn't heard of these short stories. I'm going to check them out. I love DeMille's long novels and am always unhappy when they end - he is really one of the best thriller writers - top ten for sure. If you can find any of his other books, I say, read them. EXCEPTIONS: Spencerville and The Gold Coast (didn't bother with its sequel either) which I found to be dead bores. Hey, nobody's perfect.

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    1. Yvette, thanks for enlightening me about Nelson DeMille's work. The title of this short story piqued my curiosity and now that I read and liked it, I want to read his long novels. He writes in a matter-of-fact tone that I find appealing.

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  4. I've been a big fan of DeMille's novels for decades. He's consistently entertaining.

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    1. George, I found "The Book Case" entertaining and I'm glad to know that he is consistently so.

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  5. First short story I ever wrote includes death by a falling bookcase - twice. First instance is an accident, the second time it's murder. Not an often seen method of murder in fiction. ALL FALL DOWN by L.A.G. Strong is the only other book where I've encountered death by a mountain of books.

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    1. John, I'd love to read your short story. Have you posted it on your blog? I'm not familiar with L.A.G. Strong and his book FALL DOWN. I'll look for it as it'd be interesting to compare the deaths by falling books or book cases.

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  6. Prashant: Thanks for highlighting an aspect of DeMille of which I was unaware. I did not know he could write short fiction! Who knew there was such danger in the actual books of crime fiction.

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    1. Bill, you're welcome and thank you for writing. I think Nelson DeMille has written only five short stories but a lot of other series and standalone novels that I hope to read. It is an irony that the owner of a bookstore named Dead End Bookstore should be killed by crime fiction books.

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  7. Thanks Prashant this is another one of those ubiquitous authors I have never read though I have seen some of the adaptations (THE GENERAL'S DAUGHTER is one of his, right?)

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    1. Sergio, you're welcome. You are right about the film adaptation of THE GENERAL'S DAUGHTER being based on Nelson DeMille's namesake novel. I have neither read the book nor seen the film. Thanks for mentioning it.

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  8. I haven't yet got to DeMille though he lurks on the shelves waiting. One day!

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    1. Col, one of the benefits of ebooks is easy access to many new books at a reasonable price. It fits in with my recent policy of not buying any more physical books unless I come across some rare books like SUDDEN.

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  9. I see that Yvette didn't like THE GOLD COAST. That's one of the few of DeMIlle's longer works I've read, and I enjoyed it.

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    1. Bill, the only way to find out which of you is right about THE GOLD COAST is to read it myself!

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