Title: The Forgers
Author: Bradford Morrow
No. of Pages: 258
Origins: The Mysterious Press
Release Date: 4 November 2014
Bottom Line: Gorgeous story about the book world with a kicker of a mystery thrown in for good measure
“The rare book world is stunned when a reclusive collector, Adam Diehl, is found on the floor of his Montauk home: hands severed, surrounded by valuable inscribed books and original manuscripts that have been vandalized beyond repair. Adam’s sister, Meghan, and her lover, Will—a convicted if unrepentant literary forger—struggle to come to terms with the incomprehensible murder. But when Will begins receiving threatening handwritten letters, seemingly penned by long-dead authors but really from someone who knows secrets about Adam’s death and Will’s past, he understands his own life is also on the line—and attempts to forge a new beginning for himself and his beloved Meg.”
Thoughts: One will walk away from reading The Forgers with a much greater appreciation for paper and handwriting arts. For while the book is about Will and his effort to leave his life of crime in his past, it is also a loving homage to old and rare books, handwriting, and the printed page. Will’s love of calligraphy and his skill at forgery are sensuously described but there is also a deep-seated, almost obsessive, passion to it that many a bibliophile will recognize. This is the same passion that entices readers to inhale the unique aroma of novels, to worship at the bookstore altars and get more excited about meeting an author than about a movie star or musician. This exultation of all things handwritten or published makes one crave to put pen to paper oneself and actually write something versus texting or emailing it. Readers will find themselves better appreciating the books in their libraries, especially those autographed and personalized, and will take greater care of their personal collections. In spite of all of Will’s flaws, he makes one proud to be a bibliophile and collector of stationary or calligraphic elements.
Aside from the love affair with paper products, The Forgers is at heart a mystery. There is the mystery of Adam’s death, unsolved and growing colder by the minute. Then there is the mystery of the letters Will receives, their origins and ultimate aims. That the two are connected is never in doubt. Just what those connections are, however, remain unclear as Will struggles to solve his problems without betraying his wife and everything he holds dear.
Using Will as a narrator is a clever decision and one that has great impact on a reader’s appreciation of the story. Will never hides his past. One knows from the very beginning that he is a criminal, and he is even very honest about his wish to continue using his skills as a master forger. He is genuine in his love for Meghan and his desire for a fresh start. However, he is a reformed criminal, and no matter how much sympathy he generates within a reader, that fact never disappears. Readers must decide for themselves if he is as trustworthy as he appears to be. This is the true mystery of the story and one that captures and maintains a reader’s interest as it meanders through New York to Ireland and back again.
The Forgers will have mass appeal to mystery fans, but it is with bibliophiles where its true stardom will generate. The descriptions of the old and highly valued novels are entrancing and decadent, while Will’s nonchalance at “enhancing” first editions with his forgeries is simply infuriating. One marvels at his skills with old writing styles while abhorring the way he so callously disregards a book’s value. It is the type of novel in which readers will want to put it down in disgust at Will’s actions or desires but want to keep reading because his story is so compelling. The is-he-or-is-he-not-reliable question clings to every page, compounding a reader’s engagement and enhancing one’s reading pleasure. With plenty of ambiguity to foster many a heated discussion, The Forgers will make a great book club selection as well as a wonderful way to enjoy a weekend.