I'm not sure this 1984 book has been forgotten, but how many of you have read it lately? It's the story of Rachel Hennings, who inherits a Los Angeles bookshop from her uncle. It's the kind of bookshop that's by now almost as forgotten as this book, the kind of place that sells used books, the kind of place where writers and friends gathered to talk, the kind of place where there might even be ghosts. So if you're someone who objects to the supernatural in your crime novels, you might want to skip this one. You'd be missing some good stuff if you did, though, and the mystery itself is solved through strictly logical means. Rachel is an intelligent, self-reliant young woman. She's also quite attractive, as three men fall for her. Best of all, she loves the bookshop.
Here's the supernatural part, and it's essential to the plot. Rachel discovers that she can reproduce the signatures of any number of writers in their books. She does it so perfectly that an expert believes they're authentic. Fitzgerald? Sure. Erle Stanley Gardner? Yes. And others.
There are two murders. One of them is of a ghostwriter, and the other is of a book collector. Both are connected to the bookshop, and one of them occurs there.
Setting aside the murders and the solution, however, my favorite parts of the book are about the shop and the collectors and the people who want to sell their National Geographics. And the fact that you could get a nice copy of the first edition of The Great Gatsby in 1984 for a hundred bucks. Not anymore.
When The Gathering Place was published, it described a world that I was familiar with and never dreamed would disappear. It did, but I'm glad that Breen captured it so well in his novel.