The Bookman's Promise (Cliff Janeway Series #3)

The Bookman's Promise (Cliff Janeway Series #3)

by John Dunning

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Cliff Janeway is back! The Bookman's Promise marks the eagerly awaited return of Denver bookman-author John Dunning and the award-winning crime novel series that helped to turn the nation on to first-edition book collecting.

First, it was Booked to Die, then The Bookman's Wake. Now John Dunning fans, old and new, will rejoice in The Bookman's Promise, a richly nuanced new Janeway novel that juxtaposes past and present as Denver ex-cop and bookman Cliff Janeway searches for a book and a killer.

The quest begins when an old woman, Josephine Gallant, learns that Janeway has recently bought at auction a signed first edition by the legendary nineteenth-century explorer Richard Francis Burton. The book is a true classic, telling of Burton's journey (disguised as a Muslim) to the forbidden holy cities of Mecca and Medina. The Boston auction house was a distinguished and trustworthy firm, but provenance is sometimes murky and Josephine says the book is rightfully hers.

She believes that her grandfather, who was living in Baltimore more than eighty years ago, had a fabulous collection of Burton material, including a handwritten journal allegedly detailing Burton's undercover trip deep into the troubled American South in 1860. Josephine remembers the books from her childhood, but everything mysteriously disappeared shortly after her grandfather's death.

With little time left in her own life, Josephine begs for Janeway's promise: he must find her grandfather's collection. It's a virtually impossible task, Janeway suspects, as the books will no doubt have been sold and separated over the years, but how can he say no to a dying woman?

It seems that her grandfather, Charlie Warren, traveled south with Burton in the spring of 1860, just before the Civil War began. Was Burton a spy for Britain? What happened during the three months in Burton's travels for which there are no records? How did Charlie acquire his unique collection of Burton books? What will the journal, if it exists, reveal?

When a friend is murdered, possibly because of a Burton book, Janeway knows he must find the answers. Someone today is willing to kill to keep the secrets of the past, and Janeway's search will lead him east: To Baltimore, to a Pulitzer Prize-winning author with a very stuffed shirt, and to a pair of unorthodox booksellers. It reaches a fiery conclusion at Fort Sumter off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina.

What's more, a young lawyer, Erin d'Angelo, and ex-librarian Koko Bujak, have their own reasons for wanting to find the journal. But can Janeway trust them?

Rich with the insider's information on rare and collectible books that has made John Dunning famous, and with meticulously researched detail about a mesmerizing figure who may have played an unrecognized role in our Civil War, The Bookman's Promise is riveting entertainment from an extraordinarily gifted author who is as unique and special as the books he so clearly loves.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780743476294
Publisher: Pocket Star
Publication date: 01/28/2005
Series: Cliff Janeway Series , #3
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 496
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 6.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

John Dunning has revealed some of book collecting's most shocking secrets in his bestselling series of crime novels featuring Cliff Janeway: Booked to Die, which won the prestigious Nero Wolfe award; The Bookman's Wake, a New York Times Notable Book of 1995; and the New York Times and Book Sense bestsellers The Bookman's Promise, The Sign of the Book, and The Bookwoman's Last Fling. He is also the author of the Edgar Award-nominated Deadline, The Holland Suggestions, and Two O'Clock, Eastern Wartime. An expert on rare and collectible books, he owned the Old Algonquin Bookstore in Denver for many years. He is also an expert on American radio history, authoring On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. He lives in Denver, Colorado.

Visit his website at

Read an Excerpt


The man said, "Welcome to Book Beat, Mr. Janeway" and this was how it began.

We were sitting in a Boston studio before the entire invisible listening audience of National Public Radio. I was here against my better judgment, and my first words into the microphone, "Just don't call me an expert on anything," staked out the conditions under which I had become such an unlikely guest. Saying it now into the microphone had a calming effect, but the man's polite laugh again left me exposed on both flanks. Not only was I an expert, his laugh implied, I was a modest one. His opening remarks deepened my discomfort.

"Tonight we are departing from our usual talk about current books. As many of you know, our guest was to have been Allen Gleason, author of the surprising literary bestseller, Roses for Adessa. Unfortunately, Mr. Gleason suffered a heart attack last week in New York, and I know all of you join me in wishing him a speedy recovery.

"In his absence we are lucky to have Mr. Cliff Janeway, who came to Boston just this week to buy a very special book. And I should add that this is a show, despite its spontaneous scheduling, that I have long wanted to do. As fascinating as the world of new books can often be, the world of older books, of valuable first editions and treasures recently out of print, has a growing charm for many of our listeners. Mr. Janeway, I wonder if you would answer a basic question before we dive deeper into this world. What makes a valuable book valuable?"

This was how it began: with a simple, innocent question and a few quick answers. We talked for a while about things I love best, and the man was so good that we soon seemed like two old bookscouts hunkered down together after a friendly hunt. I talked of supply and demand, of classics and genres and modern first editions: why certain first editions by Edgar Rice Burroughs are worth more than most Mark Twains, and how crazy the hunt can get. I told him about the world I now lived in, and it was easy to avoid the world I'd come from. This was a book show, not a police lineup, and I was an antiquarian bookseller, not a cop.

"I understand you live in Denver, Colorado."

"When I'm hiding out from the law, that's where I hide."

Again the polite laugh. "You say you're no expert, but you were featured this week in a very bookish article in The Boston Globe."

"That guy had nothing better to do. He's a book freak and the paper was having what they call a slow news day."

"The two of you met at a book auction, I believe. Tell us about that."

"I had come here to buy a book. We got to talking and the next thing I knew, I was being interviewed."

"What book did you come to buy?"

"Pilgrimage to Medina and Mecca by Richard Burton."

"The explorer, not the actor."

We shared a knowing laugh, then he said, "What is it about this book that made you fly all the way from Denver to buy it? And to pay — how much was it? — if you don't mind my asking..."

Auction prices were public knowledge, so there was no use being coy. I said, "Twenty-nine thousand five hundred," and gave up whatever modesty I might have had. Only an expert pays that much money for a book. Or a fool.

I might have told him that there were probably dozens of dealers in the United States whose knowledge of Burton ran deeper than mine. I could have said yes, I had studied Burton intensely for two months, but two months in the book trade or in any scholarly pursuit is no time at all. I should have explained that I had bought the book with Indian money, but then I'd need to explain that concept and the rest of the hour would have been shot talking about me.

Instead I talked about Burton, master linguist, soldier, towering figure of nineteenth-century letters and adventure. I watched the clock as I talked and I gave him the shortest-possible version of Burton's incredible life. I couldn't begin to touch even the high spots in the time we had left.

"You've brought this book with you tonight."

We let the audience imagine it as I noisily unwrapped the three volumes in front of the microphone. My host got up from his side of the table and came around to look while I gave the audience a brief description of the books, with emphasis on the original blue cloth binding lettered in brilliant gilt and their unbelievably pristine condition.

The man said, "They look almost new."

"Yeah," I said lovingly.

"I understand there's something special about them, other than their unusual freshness."

I opened volume one and he sighed. "Aaahh, it's signed by the author. Would you read that for us, please?"

"'To Charles Warren,'" I read: "'A grand companion and the best kind of friend. Our worlds are far apart and we may never see each other again, but the time we shared will be treasured forever. Richard F. Burton.' It's dated January 15, 1861."

"Any idea who this Warren fellow was?"

"Not a clue. He's not mentioned in any of the Burton biographies."

"You would agree, though, that that's an unusually intimate inscription."

I did agree, but I was no expert. The man said, "So we have a mystery here as well as a valuable book," and it all began then. Its roots went back to another time, when Richard Francis Burton met his greatest admirer and then set off on a secret journey, deep into the troubled American South. Because of that trip a friend of mine died. An old woman found peace, a good man lost everything, and I rediscovered myself on my continuing journey across the timeless, infinite world of books.

Copyright © 2004 by John Dunning

Table of Contents

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Bookman's Promise (Cliff Janeway Series #3) 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am 15 years old, and John Dunning books were recommended for my summer reading this year. I am not one who shuns books, but in the age of the internet, I would rather be typing away with friends instead of reading. However this book captivated me. It is the third in the Cliff Janeway series yet I felt like I had known this character forever. The way Janeway interacts with others and takes charge of situations is riveting. Not only was this a surprisingly wonderful book but I will be reading the next of the Janeway novels, Sign of the Book, as soon as possible. This is definately worth 4 stars, if not more. Good for mystery lovers of all ages!
Guest More than 1 year ago
THE BOOKMAN¿S PROMISE by John Dunning is the third book of the Cliff Janeway Series, but the only one I have read so far. Janeway, a former cop turned bookdealer and collector is hard on the outside with a tender yolk for a soul. In this novel, he buys a rare copy of a Sir Richard Burton (the explorer) book, which leads old Mrs. Josephine Garrett to him. She tells him that that book and other Burton books had been stolen from her grandfather, Charles Warren, who buddied around with Burton in 1860. The promise of the title is Janeway¿s promise to Jo to find the books and prove their provenance. Jo dies of natural causes, but the book she gives to Janeway leads to murder of an innocent bystander. Although this is set in 1987, it reads like the 1940s. Janeway is the tough but honorable man, who must set things right. Nothing is as it appears and no one can be trusted including the beautiful but tough-talking attorney Erin D¿Angelo. It¿s all Bogey and Bacall between these two. I like Janeway and Dunning has solid writing skills. I understand this is not the best in the series, but it¿s good enough to want to keep me reading the first two and more. -- Leslie Strang Akers
Guest More than 1 year ago
When you discover John Dunning, the rare book world, comes to life. This new book is a MUST for mystery, fiction, antiquarians, and just book lovers in general. The ride is superb!
Guest More than 1 year ago
After getting a little heavy handed with a suspected criminal in his custody, Denver Police officer Cliff Janeway leaves the force to become an antiquarian book dealer. His friendship with rare book collector Judge Leighton Huxley led him to bid and win at auction, PILGRIMAGE TO MEDINA AND MECCA by Richard Burton for just under thirty grand. He¿s very satisfied with his purchase until Josephine Gallant, an elderly frail woman claims that his new purchase and the whole library of Burton¿s books were originally hers until the Treadwells conned them out of her late husband. As she lies dying Janeway promises to find the collection and donate it to a library. She gives him a Richard Burton book to be split between him and Denise and Mike Ralston who took care of her in her final hours. Shortly after Josephine dies Denise is murdered, a homicide that Janeway thinks is linked to the Burton book collection. The bookman¿s search leads him to Koko in Baltimore who used to visit Josephine in the nursing home. Her life is in danger for what she knows so she accompanies Janeway to Charlotte where he intends to learn why Denise had to die and Koko¿s house torched.

John Dunning can always be counted on to give his audience a wonderful reading experience and THE BOOKMAN¿S PROMISE is no exception. Readers learn a lot about legendary explorer Richard Burton and the exhilaration a collector feels when they find the book they consider a treasure. The protagonist¿s search for answers takes him on a long and winding road that circles back to the starting point. This special book will be enjoyed by mystery and readers of mainstream fiction

Harriet Klausner

PermaSwooned on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was evidently the third in a series of books about the character "Cliff Janeway". He is a retired policeman who now runs a rare bookshop, and tracks down and purchases books for discriminating buyers. I found the historical part very interesting, and the "diary" part was well written and held my interest. However, this rather academic writing was interrupted with murder, mayhem, mobsters, maiming, etc., me...just didn't fit with the rest of the story. The ending was completely unsatisfying. I won't be looking for any more from this series.
WeeziesBooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Book seller and former cop Cliff Janeway meets an old woman whose family had a almost priceless collection of books. Unfortunately the books were sold by her father when the old woman was a child. In her late years, she wants to find out what has happened to the books and wanted to bring them back together and asks Janeway the bookseller to find them. Following the murder of a friend Janeway is committed to finding answers to the question of the fate of the books. He travels through the dark reaches of rare and old book sellers stores and collections, meet old friends and acquaintances and becomes involved in a story of betrayal friendship and promises. I really like the Dunning books and am looking forward to reading another.
cameling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Bookman's Promise by John Dunning is a pretty interesting read. An ex-cop turned book collector and owner of a bookstore specializing in rare books manages to snag a rare book written by an adventurist, Robert Burton. The next thing he knows, he's embroiled in a mystery and a chase to find a stolen collection of Burton books and a journal. A friend dies, another's house is burned to the ground, he's violently assaulted, and he doesn't know if his new lady-love should be trusted.Interesting twists in the plot keeps the pace moving along nicely and the conclusion is a nice surprise.
azurelion on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've now read the first three books of the Janeway series in order, and each one is a bit weaker than the last. The first was superb, the second good but not as compelling, and this one was...ok. Readable, but I found it slow going at times. There is a very long section in the middle that's essentially flashback narration from a Civil War-era character. It's a LOT of exposition and the delivery is rather forced. Basically, there is a lot of setup for an ultimately unfulfilling payoff. It's not a bad book by any means, but it's not a great mystery. Not up to par with Booked to Die. I will return to the series, however.
erniepratt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Cliff Janeway is not a traditional mystery or action hero. These books do have action. This is good entertainment for a bibliophile.
madelynj on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Cliff Janeway, former Denver homicide cop turned antiquarian bookseller, discovers that the rare Burton book he's just won at auction may in fact be owned by Josephine Gallant, an elderly woman whose grandfather accompanied the explorer on his little-known journey through the pre¿Civil War South. Gallant informs Janeway that her grandfather owned a priceless collection of Burton's works that remained in the family for years before falling prey to a pair of conniving booksellers. As the old woman lies dying, Janeway sets off to recover the books -- but not before a close friend is murdered and a mysterious figure begins to stalk everyone connected to the collection.
tjsjohanna on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Cliff is back, but this novel has a more cynical edge - maybe because he is looking back from the viewpoint of a man who has been betrayed. Another thing unique to this third book in the series is that it contains a story-within-a-story. Used to good effect, the story gives the reader a sense of the joy of book collecting - the magic of the backstory, the thrill of the mystery. And then there is the on-going question: will Janeway get the girl?
dono421846 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoy this series immensely. Dunning is certainly at his best in terms of plotting, and telling engaging tales that center in some way on books. He is less successful in his depiction of the relationships of his main characters, especially bookman Janeway's romantic interactions, which tend to read as canned and tinny. Significant research goes into each tale, and it shows.
Wuzzlicious on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not fantastic, but not horrible either. This mystery novel following the path of a rare and wanted book was a good, quick read, but not something that I feel I'm likely to pick up and re-read, nor do I think I'll remember the characters' names a few books down the road. Light fun, good for a distraction, but not for much more.
JBD1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very quick potboiler bibliomysteries, but well worth reading.
Kathy89 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a very good mystery. Retired cop, becomes an antique book dealer. However, there was a long segment halfway through involving British explorer Burton's visit to South Carolina during the Civil War. I listened to the audio book and if I were reading this I would have skipped over it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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