The Bookwoman's Last Fling (Cliff Janeway Series #5)

The Bookwoman's Last Fling (Cliff Janeway Series #5)

by John Dunning

NOOK Book(eBook)

$7.99 View All Available Formats & Editions

Available on Compatible NOOK Devices and the free NOOK Apps.
WANT A NOOK?  Explore Now


As a young man, New York Times bestselling author John Dunning earned his living for several years working behind the scenes on the racetrack circuit. Now he brings his memories of the horse world and his expertise in collectible books to this mesmerizing new Bookman novel rich with the lore of both books and horses. . . .

Denver bookman Cliff Janeway would have liked Candice Geiger. She loved books with a true bookwoman's passion. Her collection of first-edition children's books is the best that Janeway ever hopes to see. Sadly, Janeway and Candice Geiger will never meet. She died much too young. Now, twenty years later, her books remain a testament to an extraordinary woman's remarkable vision.

Janeway first learns about the juvenilia collection when Candice's elderly husband, H. R. Geiger, passes away and Janeway travels to their Idaho home to assess the collection. The estate can't be distributed until the books are valued, so there's pressure on Janeway to do the job quickly. But one look at the books tells Janeway something's wrong. Valuable titles are missing, replaced by cheap reprints. Other hugely valuable pieces remain. Why would a thief take one priceless book and leave an equally valuable volume on the shelf?

The answer may lie in Candice's story. The daughter of a wealthy industrialist, she married horse owner and trainer H. R. Geiger at a young age. They traveled the racetrack circuit with some success, as evidenced by winner's-circle photographs -- in which Candice is always a mysterious background figure dressed in white.

Two decades after Candice's strange death, Janeway finds himself deep in a book mystery that may turn out to be much more than a cataloging exercise. It may even involve murder. Candice's daughter, Sharon, may be one of the few people who can help Janeway discover the truth. Sharon has her own Idaho ranch where she takes in sick and injured horses. Janeway worries that her house contains something that could make her very vulnerable: half of her mother's fabulous book collection.

The trail of Candice's shadowy past leads Janeway to California's Golden Gate and Santa Anita racetracks, where he signs on as a racehorse hot walker. A novice at racetrack life, he tries to remain inconspicuous while listening to the chatter among the hands. He doesn't like what he hears. And when he goes to the house where Candice died to look for answers, he finds more than he bargained for.

With its rich mix of books and horses, The Bookwoman's Last Fling is a classic entry in John Dunning's acclaimed Bookman series of suspense novels, sure to bring this superbly talented author even more accolades.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780743299893
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 05/23/2006
Series: Cliff Janeway Series , #5
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 162,442
File size: 433 KB

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; and the New York Times 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 lives in Denver, Colorado. Visit

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

The morning was angry but I was cool. The rain rolled in from the west like a harbinger of some vast evil brewing but I had the man's money in my bank account, it was mine, he couldn't get it back unless I went nuts and decided to give it to him, and that made me cool. I had followed his orders almost to the letter, varying them just enough to satisfy my own persnickety nature. Long before the first faint light broke through the black clouds, I got up, dressed, got out of my motel room, and drove out toward the edge of town.

I found the all-night diner without a hitch; parked at the side and sat in my cold car with the motor idling. I was early. I had been told to come at five o'clock, no more or less, but I tend to ignore advice like that, especially when it comes with an attitude. I waited ten minutes and the appointed hour came and went. I could sense his presence off to my left beyond the parking lot: If I looked hard at that patch of darkness I could make out the vaguest shape of a car or truck, a vehicle of some kind in a small grove of trees. At five-oh-five by the clock in my car I got out and went inside. The waiter took my order, a slam-bang something with eggs and pancakes: enough cholesterol to power the whole state of Idaho. I consoled myself. I seldom eat like that anymore unless I am on the road, and apparently I am one of the lucky ones: I have great genes and my so-called good cholesterol readings are always sensational. No matter how much fat I eat, my system burns it. To my knowledge, no one in my family tree has ever died of a heart attack, which only means that I have a fine opportunity to be the first one.

The waiter tried to make the cook understand what I wanted through a serious language barrier. The cook looked illegal as hell: he spoke a kind of Spanglish through the window and the waiter struggled with that. I sat through two cups of coffee and no one came out of the lot beyond parking. My breakfast was surprisingly tasty and hot; I ate it slowly and looked up occasionally for some sign of life in the parking lot. When I looked at my watch again, it was five-thirty. The man was half an hour late.

I stretched out my legs and waited some more. If he didn't come at all it was truly his loss. I had five thousand of his American big ones and that usually guaranteed good faith. I could buy a fairly nice book with that. It was my rock-bottom minimum these days, the least it took for a stranger like him to get me off my dead ass in Denver and on the road to some distant locale. I got the money up front for just such contingencies as this one: a client with guff to match my own. That's one thing people had said about Harold Ray Geiger in all the newspaper accounts I had read of his life and death. He was abrupt, and so was the guy who had called me.

Geiger's man was also mysterious, enigmatic to a fault. He had sent me a cashier's check, so I still didn't know his full name. "My name is Willis," he had said on the phone. "I am Mr. Geiger's representative in Idaho." Normally I wouldn't touch a job like this: I certainly wouldn't leave home and make such a drive without knowing certain salient details. What had sold me on the case were the books. Geiger had died last month with a vast library of great first editions, the estate had a problem with them, and that was partly what I did now. I seldom did appraisal work: I found that boring and there were others who could do it faster and at least as well. There can be huge differences between honest appraisers and I tend to be too condition-conscious for people who, for reasons of their own, want their appraisals high. But I would help recover stolen books, I would try to unravel a delicate book mystery, I would do things, and not always for money, that got me out in the sunshine, away from my bookstore in Denver and into another man's world. It all depended on the man, and the voice on the phone seemed to belong to a five-grand kind of guy.

Six o'clock came and went. I rolled with it, prepared to sit here half the morning. The man deserved no less than that for five thousand dollars.

At some point I saw the truck move out of the shadows and bump its way into the parking lot. It was one of those big bastards with wheels half the size of Rhode Island. The sky was still quite dark and the rain drummed relentlessly on the roof of the truck. I could see his knuckles gripping the wheel -- nothing of his face yet, just that white-knuckle grip beyond the glass. I knew he had a clear look at me through the windshield, and at one point I smiled at him and tried to look pleasant. But I had a come-if-you-want-to, don't-if-you-don't attitude of my own. The ball was in his court.

Eventually he must have realized this, for I saw the unmistakable signs of life. A light went on in the truck and a man in a hat and dark glasses materialized. He climbed down and came inside.

"You Janeway?"

I recognized his voice from that cryptic phone call a week ago. I said, "Yep. And you would perhaps be representing the estate of Mr. Harold Ray Geiger?"

"I'm Willis. I was Mr. Geiger's right-hand man for more than thirty years."

He sat in the booth and sent up a signal for coffee. He didn't offer his hand and I didn't try to take it. There was another moment when I might have taken it by force, but then he had moved both hands into his lap and I figured groping around between his legs might cast us both in a bad light. From the kitchen the Mexican cook was watching us.

The mystery man sat sipping his coffee.

"Do you have a first name, Mr. Willis?"

"Yes, I have a first name." He said this with dripping sarcasm, a tone you use with a moron if you are that kind of guy. Already I didn't like him; we were off to a bad start.

"Should I try to guess it? You look like somebody named Clyde, or maybe Junior."

I said this in a spirit of lighthearted banter, I hoped, but he bristled. "My first name doesn't matter. I am the man who will either take you out to Mr. Geiger's ranch or leave you to wonder for the rest of your life what this might have been."

Now it was my turn to stifle a laugh.

"Are you making light of this?" I sensed a blink behind his dark shades. "Are you trying to annoy me?"

"Actually, Mr. Willis, I was starting to think it was the other way around."

"You've got a helluva nerve, coming out here with an attitude."

"I wasn't aware I had one."

"Keep it up and you can just climb right back in that car and get the hell out of here."

I stared at him for a long moment. I was suddenly glad I had been paid by cashier's check: his money was now firmly in my bank.

"I want it established right from the start," he said: "You are working for me. You will appraise Mr. Geiger's books and do it ASAP. If it turns out that books are missing and lost forever, I want you to give me a document to that effect, something that will satisfy God, the executor of Mr. Geiger's will, and any other interested party who happens to ask. Is that clear enough?"

"I wasn't told I had to satisfy God as well as all those other people."

"I am not paying you for that kind of wiseass commentary. I was told you are a reliable professional and that's what I want from you. That's all I want."

"Well, let's see if I understand it so far. You want me to look at some books. Supposedly there are some missing titles. I'm to give you a written appraisal and do it on the quickstep. I'm to tell you what's missing based on your assertion that these missing books were ever there in the first place. I'm to do all this in a cheerless environment; I'm not allowed to ever crack a joke or even smile once in a while for comic relief. Twice a day you send a gnome up with bread and water and he hands it to me through the bars. I get to go pee occasionally, as long as I don't abuse this privilege; otherwise it's pucker-up-and-hold-it time. Is that about it?"

"I don't like your attitude."

"We've already established that." I slipped into my Popeye voice. "But I yam what I yam, Mr. Willis. That's what you get for your money, which by the way isn't all that great. And it's looking less great the more we talk."

"Then leave," he said in an I dare you tone.

I slid out of the booth, picked up the check, and started toward the counter. I sensed his disbelief as I paid the tab and sidled back to the booth to leave the waiter a tip.

"Thanks for the call. Give my regards to Idaho Falls."

I was halfway across the parking lot when I heard the door open. He said my name, just "Janeway," and I stopped and turned politely.

"What are you, crazy? You haven't even heard what this is about."

"Believe me, I would still love to be told."

"Then stop acting so goddam superior."

"It's not an act, Clyde. I don't have any act. This may surprise you, but I have lived all these years without any of Mr. Geiger's money. I've gotten wherever I am with no help at all from you guys, and I'm willing to bet I can go the rest of the way on my own as well. I do appreciate the business, however."

"Wait a minute."

We looked at each other.

"What do you think, I brought you out here just for the hell of it?"

"I have no idea why you do what you do. If you want to talk, let's go. Your five grand has already bought you that privilege."

He stood there for another moment as if, with enough time, he could reclaim some of the high ground he had lost. "You're a slick piece of change, aren't you?"

"Yes, sir, I am. I may not be much of many things, but I am slick. Two things before we go. First take off those glasses, please. I like to see who I'm talking to."

He took them off slowly, and in that act the authority passed all the way from him to me. His eyes were gray, like a timber wolf or a very old man.

"Thank you. Now tell me, please, who you are. Is Willis your first name or last?"


"What's your first?"

He stared at me for a long moment. Then he said, "Junior." I swear he did, and that confession made the whole trip worthwhile. Copyright ©2006 by John Dunning

Table of Contents

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Bookwoman's Last Fling (Cliff Janeway Series #5) 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was so excited to read the latest John Dunning book -- but was so disappointed. BORING pretty much sums it up. I actually read to page 300 and couldn't go any further. I just can't believe this was John Dunning -- all his other Cliff Janeway books were so good. I have them all on my shelf! :'
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read all the books in the Cliff Janeway series and enjoyed them all. For some reason, this didn't grab me quite like the previous installments. I think that Janeway leaving home and hearth 'and business and relationship' for an indefinite period to work in the stables without any leads strained the credability of the story and I also had issues with the resolution and wrap-up. Fortunately, Dunning is talented enough to still make it a good read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Last fling is appropriate here. This book is a story of Janeway working at the track and mucking around (no pun intended) for an endless amount of pages. We throw in a killer, a mention of a rare book here or there, and on on on. This book is BORING and not worth your time. It will takes lots of patience to finish it. Save your money.....
ThePolyBlog More than 1 year ago
BOTTOM-LINE: Slow book, too much about horses and not enough detecting. . PLOT OR PREMISE: Janeway is hired to appraise part of an estate, a collection of first-edition children's books amassed by a woman who died 20 years before. Now the husband has died, and his children want to distribute the money, but first, everything has to be totalled up. . WHAT I LIKED: Early on, the case has some interesting bits including discovery that someone has been slowly replacing some of the books with cheap duplicates, but not in any strategic way. Someone who knows something about value, but skipping some obvious choice books. It doesn't take much for a daughter who also loves books to want Janeway to figure out if the mother was killed, and if so, by who. A bunch of brothers run around, and they're all a little bit crazy, but who is the craziest? The dead husband was a horseman, and Janeway works for one of the brothers as a stable boy / horse walker to get in with the horse crowd. Reads a lot like a vintage Dick Francis book. . WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: As with most Janeway novels, there are two mysteries interwoven -- the death of the young wife 20 years before and the theft of the children's books. Unfortunately, the story spends a LONG time with the horse crowd with not much happening. It read more like a personal diary than a mystery novel. Huge stretches of time with NOTHING RELEVANT to the mystery. Equally, neither of the mysteries are unraveled in an interesting way, just plodding in one case and almost happenstance in another. And so obvious for one ending, yet it takes forever to get there. . DISCLOSURE: I received no compensation, not even a free copy, in exchange for this review. I am not personal friends with the author, nor do I follow him on social media.
MusicMom41 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When we are up at our Vallejo house we often listen to audio books instead of watching TV. I got this one from the library because the title intrigued me and I am a fan of George Guidall as a narrator.Cliff Janeway is a former policeman who is now a book collector¿with the instincts of a cop. He is invited to Idaho by a wealthy horse trainer to examine a collection of 1st edition children's classics which had been collected many years ago by his late wife. When his host is murdered Janeway decides to hire on with the crew who works with the horses to investigate not only this mystery but the possibility that the wife, also, had been murdered many years ago.We found the story interesting, the characters well drawn and unique and, of course, the narration was excellent. This is the first mystery by Dunning we have tried and for most of the book we were very entertained and intrigued. However, for an avid mystery junkie the contrived ending was disappointing for me and even my husband was a little irritated by the ploy used to solve the mystery.
gypsysmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I wasn't as taken with this book as I have been with the others in the series. Too many people flip flopped from nice guy to cranky guy back to nice guy without explanation.Cliff Janeway has gone to Utah to appraise a collection of books, mostly first edition children classics. When he gets to the ranch where the books are stored he is told by the ranch manager that some of the books appear to be missing and second rate books put in their place. The collection was put together by Candice Geiger, wife of famed horse trainer H. R. Geiger. Candice died twenty years previously perhaps by accident when she ate some peanuts to which she was allergic. H. R. has died recently leaving a considerable estate to four children, three males from a first marriage and Sharon, Candice's daughter. H. R. was on the outs with all his children before he died and none of them really get along with each other. When Cliff talks to Sharon she tells him that she has always wondered if her mother was killed. Since the collection was put together by Candice he speculates that perhaps the person who has been stealing books also killed her. On this slim premise he sets out to California to try to uncover what he can about Candice's death by moving in the same horse racing circles that she and H. R. moved in during their marriage. While snooping around their California ranch Cliff is bonked on the head, stuffed in a car trunk and left to burn when the car is set alight. Of course he manages to escape. His lady, Erin, comes to be with him and she gets in on the action as well. Eventually, Cliff finds the book thief and solves the murder (because of course Candice was murdered). There is some interesting stuff about horse racing and a little bit of book lore but it all felt too contrived to me. Maybe someone else will enjoy it more so I'll release it soon.
ahduval on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A good solid mystery.Centered around horse racing and book collecting.The culprit was introduced early enough in the story that it was plausible, and there were enough red herrings that could have been the person of interest.The one disagreement I have is actually the quote on the front of this edition, from the New York Times, "An exhilarating adventure that makes book-collecting seem as exciting as horseracing" This is obviously false as book-collecting is much more exciting.
cajela on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An enjoyable read. I enjoy the background more than the plots with Dunning - a dip into another world.The series features Cliff Janeway, a former homicide detective turned book dealer. He tends to stumble on murders while doing estate valuations.This one includes a twenty year old suspicious death. Did Candice die by accident, suicide or murder? The answer may lie in the details of her life on the horse racing circuit, or perhaps with her strange family.
shelleyraec on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am again dissappointed with this series - even though I like Cliff and the mystery is always interesting as is the behind scenes look at the book world - you could easily cut 200 pages or more and not notice. There are huge chunks where nothing happens to advance the story or the characters, and in the end I skimmed a large part of the middle and felt like I missed nothing. Even though I would really like to know what happens between Cliff and Erin - time to give up.
Kathy89 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Retired cop now antique book seller is hired by the executor of a wealthy man's estate to determine if some of his book collection has been stolen and the value of the collection. He meets the daughter who convinces him to look into the circumstances of her mother's death. This takes our hero into the horse racing world to investigate.
Blankenbooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excllent read, as usual. Never fails to weave a delightful story line. Kept me guessing until the last couple of chapters. Have already read it twice, and enjoyed it thoroughly.
dono421846 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Smart money says this will be the last of the Cliff Janeway novels. Janeway himself decides he'd rather be a cop than a bookman, and similarly one gets a sense that Dunning has exhausted his story ideas for this particular character. Last Fling is better than its predecessor, Sign of the Book, but not as good as the first two in the series. Those not only had books front and center as part of the mystery, but capitalized on Dunning's insider knowledge of the book trade by intriguing glimpses into bookstores (Booked to Die) and small presses (Bookman's Promise). Things fall apart when these two pieces don't mesh: In Sign of the Book, we learned a bit about book fairs, but books had nothing to do with the mystery, and finally here books serve ostensibly as an important motivation, but our real attention is on horse racing. Much can be forgiven if the characterization is workable, but Dunning rarely is rarely able to use language sufficiently to distinguish his characters. The broken down drunk, the ivy league lawyer and the ex-cop all speak the same, using the same vocabulary. The language he does use, though, is easy going down, and I have always found these books a pleasant experience. I just wish the later ones were more book-y.
cathyskye on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Protagonist: Cliff JanewaySetting: present-day Idaho and northern CaliforniaSeries: #5 Cliff Janeway, a former Denver homicide detective, has found a second careeras an antiquarian bookseller, but he hasn't quite lost his taste for policework. Janeway receives an invitation from wealthy horse trainer, H.R.Geiger, to come to Idaho to appraise his book collection, but by the timeJaneway arrives, his host is dead. He winds up tracking down some rarevolumes that have vanished from the collection and probing the decades-olddeath of Geiger's wife, a wealthy heiress who collected valuable juvenilefiction. When a fresh body turns up and Janeway himself almost falls victimto a killer, he finds that his decision to pursue the truth puts him at oddswith his significant other, Erin.Once again, Dunning is adept at plotting and pacing, as well as hischaracterization. For those who are not enthused about horse racing, there'sno need to despair--there's not an overabundance of equine detail.
BeckyJG on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Cliff Janeway was a homicide cop. Now he's a bookman--a rare book dealer--in Denver, who scouts out and sells rare books, appraises collections, and oh yes, investigates the occasional book-related murder. Indeed, a love of books can be that dangerous. The Bookwoman's Last Fling finds Janeway called out to a horse farm in Idaho to assess a library. Patriarch H. R. Geiger has recently died and Junior Willis--for three decades Geiger's right hand man, horse trainer, and now executor of his will--has been tasked with tracking down several volumes from the late Candice Geiger's library which have gone missing over recent years. Candice has been dead for thirty years, but despite the missing tomes her library stands as one of the finest collections of classic children's literature to be found. Janeway learns, as well, that there is some mystery surrounding Candice's death, although it had been ruled an accident--she died of an allergic reaction to peanuts--at the time. Some called it suicide; after all, she knew what foods to avoid too well to have eaten any of them accidentally, and she kept an emergency kit at hand at all times, as well. Some whispered about murder, although who would have wanted to murder this lovely, bookish, horse-loving woman none could say.To investigate the missing books Janeway immerses himself in the world of horse racing. He goes out on the circuit, getting himself hired on to walk hot horses, and in the process gets to know the people who knew the people who surrounded Candice Geiger, putting himself in danger more than once as he gets closer to the truth.In addition to his deep knowledge of books and the book world, Dunning has first-hand knowledge of the world of horse racing, and writes of it with loving and fascinating detail. He tosses around horse and racing jargon (and thankfully defines it), and beautifully portrays the camaraderie of the shedrow, an insular world of horse lovers which is lavishly salted with misfits and eccentrics of all sorts. And he writes a damned good mystery in the process.
seasidereader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was my first (and last) Dunning. I found the thread disjointed and unsatisfying. However, there is a well-written segment describing Janeway's return to full consciousness following a concussion.
benjclark on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It was ok. Not Dunning's best effort. It seemed like he had a few chapters sitting around on horseracing and a plot with the Dunning bad-guy twist laying around, so he just padded it out to a whole book. It was filled with starts and stops, where things would get good and interesting, even exciting, then... .... several chapters where nothing happens... It also got a bit repetitive, which may be a better reflection of what real detective work is like, but it makes for dull reading. One other criticism, he could have streamlined his cast a bit. There are several (minor) characters who only add bulk, instead of move the story along, or are used in any real way.
fastfred1 More than 1 year ago
being a horse owner at one time I found this book compelling and accurate, thanks for a page turner. can't wait for the next in the series
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Cliff Janeway had me guessing until the end. Loved all the information on book collecting and horse racing. Can't wait until his new book comes out. Didn't want to put the book down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
John Dunning¿s The Bookwoman¿s Last Fling is a much better novel than last year¿s The Sign of the Book. Cliff Janeway is a sleuth who reminds you of Lew Archer. He is hired to appraise a book collection and finds the case grows to include horse racing and murders old and new. Cliff takes a job in the racing world to find out more about some of the suspects and almost loses his life. Dunning writes about the racing world in the style of Dick Francis and throws in info about the world of book collectors.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Former homicide police detective Cliff Janeway, now a bookstore owner is always on the lookout for a rare and precious book. Junior Willis asks Cliff to authenticate and appraise the book collection of the late Harold Ray Geiger Cliff leaps at the chance because he wants to see first hand the collection. When he does he notices that later editions were substituted for rare books and that his client has only half the collection as Geiger¿s daughter Sharon owns the rest. Cliff is in heaven when he gets to see what she possesses.------------- Sharon hires Cliff to find the missing books and to learn if her mother¿s death, though years ago, caused by an allergic reaction to eating peanuts, was suicide, accident or murder. He follows clues that return him to Geiger¿s house and ultimately the horse racing world. Someone observes Cliff¿s efforts and decides the bookworm is getting too close to the truth so tries to close the book on him by killing him. Wary but not deterred, Cliff keeps investigating as he now knows a homicide perhaps two occurred and he has a suspect but lacks evidence.---------------- Bibliophiles and racing fans will be euphoric with Cliff Janeway¿s latest caper. Dick Francis fans will thoroughly enjoy THE BOOKWOMAN¿S LAST FLING especially for the behind the scenes look at what goes on at a horse racing track. Cliff is at his best evaluating books, but by the tale¿s end the audience will know he misses police work as he gleefully follows the clues in the case even when his life is at risk and upsets his significant other who already is disturbed that he is a ¿murder magnet¿.----------- Harriet Klausner