Crime Mystery Reviews

The Booktaker by Bill Pronzini

14 June 2021
The Booktaker (Nameless Detective #46) Book Cover The Booktaker (Nameless Detective #46)
Nameless Detective
by Bill Pronzini, Nick Sullivan (Narrator)
Detective Mystery
Audible Audio
June 1st 2011

The Nameless Detective is called upon to find out how rare books and maps are being stolen from an antiquarian bookshop with a faultless alarm system. He goes undercover in the store, only to be foiled when a theft occurs right under his nose. Then, as he ponders the case (while on a date with the lovely Kerry), he's violently struck from behind by a car that seems bent on driving him off the road. Will Nameless survive this attempt on his life and solve the case?

Audible has some outstanding selections, and from time to time, they suggest things to me. This week’s review is one of the shorter stories I have located on Audible, but there are many good things in such a small package. This is my Audible review of “The Booktaker,” a Nameless Detective Mystery by Bill Pronzini, Narrated by Nick Sullivan.

For this review, let me give you a little context. I was looking for more mysteries to listen to. I like the format of the mystery genre, and I’m on a bit of a kick. When I stumbled across this shorter story, I thought it’d be perfect. It’s about 1 hour 30 minutes on default settings. This has a very streamlined format for time.

Let me go into the critiques. My main critique is that a lot of this story is easy to figure out, more than perhaps a more densely layered mystery. That said, I feel that a mystery format doesn’t have to be complicated and that a short one can be just as complicated as others.

The main plot points as to the “Who dun it” bit is satisfying. The premise is unique and compelling. But the issue I had was the red herrings to me were very obvious. Mysteries novels rely on that bit of the format to make them what they are, so if you are a would-be mystery writer and want to do a shorter story, make sure you secure your red herrings so they aren’t obvious.

My other critique is a tension issue. I didn’t find a lot of tension. One scene has a lot of tension, but there is such a lack from other spots. And I don’t mean that kind of tension that is suspense. I mean character tension. Character tension can happen just from dialogue. There were elements there, but nothing had any natural substance until the crucial piece in the story led to dynamic tension. I would have liked a bit more, even a bit more, from some of the employee interactions.

Now let me go into what I enjoyed from “The Booktaker”.

First, I loved the brevity of the story. It’s nice when someone can have a delicious bite of a story that I can enjoy. This is very much an enjoyable audiobook to take your mind off a DMV or Tax Assessor waiting room you are sitting in. It’s just the right amount of time for a doctor’s appointment you have to wait on or that MRI that they said you could listen to something on your headphones for. It’s perfect for getting your mind off of your troubles. A good story is sometimes just the right thing. And while yes, some of the stuff I’ve described doesn’t sound fun, I can say it’s good to have this book around for just about anything.

Next, I liked the narrator of this story, Nick Sullivan. He brings warmth to this story and believability to the characters, and I like the variety of voices he used.

Lastly, this is a terrific little mystery story. Is it perfect? No. But it’s delightful and warm and just suitable for what it should be. This is a book that understands what it is and who it’s aimed for.

I think the part I enjoyed most is how much it refers to the old paperback noir books that were the precursors to comic books. Those old dime novels are mentioned frequently in this story with love and care. As a lover of comic books and their origins, I was happy to see the love put into talking about dime novels and those who wrote them. That was lovely.

So, with everything in mind, I’m giving “The Booktaker” by Bill Pronzini and 84/100, which is a 4-star review, and I hope you enjoy it! Pick this up when you need something to pick me up between errands!

Peter Donnelly

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley

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