Once a crook, always a crook? It certainly seems that way for Will. As a child, his mother taught him calligraphy. Once he’d mastered all of those scripts, Will started to copy the scripts of authors in his father’s rare book library. Becoming a forger was just a natural progression of Will’s obsession with text. By the time we meet him in Bradford Morrow’s The Forgers, Will has reformed—mostly. But when his lover’s brother is brutally murdered, all of Will’s secrets could be exposed.
The Forgers is narrated completely from Will’s point of view. I always get suspicious when a criminal is a novel’s first person narrator. He’s unabashedly egotistical. He’s proud of the work he did—forging letters and inscriptions on first editions to make them more valuable. He’s disgusted by the work of lesser forgers when he comes across it. The fact that Adam, his lover Meghan’s brother, might be a forger—and not a very good one—pisses him off. You’d think he’d be more pleased when Adam is badly beaten and mutilated by an intruder. Of course he lies to Meghan and tells her he’s horrified. Mostly, he’s worried that Adam’s possible crimes will destroy Meghan’s wary trust of him.
After Adam’s death from his injuries, the investigation stalls. Meghan and Will grow closer. They eventually move to Ireland to get away from bad memories. Meanwhile, an old enemy returns to torment Will. Years ago, before Will was exposed as a forger, someone started sending him letters in Henry James’ handwriting warning him that his secrets would come out. Now the letters are threatening him and extorting him for money. Will learns quickly who’s behind it and the rest of The Forgers becomes a cat and mouse game between Will and his blackmailer.
The Forgers is a slow book for a thriller. But I was entertained by watching for hints of Will’s lies—because I knew he was lying to me. He would say things that made me wonder just how far Will would go to keep Meghan from finding out about him. It was also fascinating to watch Will struggle against his addiction to forgery. I’m not really supposed to quote from the advanced reader copies I get, but this passage from early in the novel reveals the depth of Will’s lust for writing:
Not words so much as letters, their connectors and flow, were what mattered most to me, at least in the beginning, back when I was starting out. Each letter required the right presence and pressure, the tender weight of ink, old sepia, faded black, on my small canvas. The ascenders, the descenders, the choreographic shape and spirit of a comma, these were what kept me up at night. The precision of a period. Single quotes like black crescent moons in a parchment sky. The adage has it, Do what you love. This was what I loved. (Location 161, Advanced Reader Kindle Edition).
This really is a book for bibliophiles. The Forgers takes us to a dark corner in the book world. It’s a book about men who see nothing more important in the world than a rare text that was touched by an author.
I received a a free copy of this ebook from NetGalley and Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review. It will be released 4 November 2014.