Blue Octavo by John Blackburn
Hardcover – Centipede Press – Oct 2020 – 175 pages
When bookseller James Roach is found dead after paying an exorbitant sum for Grey Boulders, a rare but apparently valueless volume on mountaineering, the police write it off as suicide. But his young colleague John Cain suspects foul play when he discovers the book is missing and that someone has been going to great lengths to obtain every copy of Grey Boulders in existence. Is it a case of some deranged collector driven to murder by his bibliomania, or is there some secret contained in the book that is worth killing for?
It’s a race against time as Cain joins forces with egocentric adventurer J. Moldon Mott and beautiful heiress Julia Lent to solve the mystery. Can they stop the killer before he gets hold of the last remaining copy, or will one of them become his next victim?
A prolific author of thrillers and horror novels, John Blackburn (1923-1993) also managed a secondhand bookstore, and he draws on this background in Blue Octavo (1963), a clever and fast-paced tale set in the shady world of antiquarian bookselling.