Hound, by Vincent McCaffrey

Vincent McCaffrey is a book collector and ran a successful bookstore, both brick-and-mortar and online, in Boston. He has written a book with a book hound as the main character. Clearly, McCaffrey made friends and connections in the publishing world. Hound got a beautiful cover and five-star treatment from his publisher.

I enjoyed Hound, but I’m not quite as carried away as the gushing enthusiasts quoted on the back and in the opening papers. McCaffrey’s writing, line by line, is mostly lovely, except for glitches like, “the huskiness of her voice was smoother.” The descriptions of exteriors and interiors in Boston are beautiful.

Henry Sullivan is a book-hound, who buys old books. The opening sentence, “Death, after all, was the way Henry made a living,” alerts us that this is a literary mystery. Sure enough, soon a wealthy, beautiful older woman with whom Henry was once involved, who has asked him to appraise her book collection, is found dead in her Boston condo. Henry is drawn into the mystery of Morgan’s death, and a lesser, historical secret-room mystery uncovered by his friend Albert, who runs a salvage business. Henry is a subdued character, but Albert and their bartender friend Tim, Henry’s landlord Mrs. Prowder, his father and his rapscallion uncle are interesting.

Clearly McCaffrey loves books and the places books live. He has lush descriptions of Morgan’s library, the Boston library and the Gardner Museum. His descriptions of the books Henry collects are also concrete and detailed.

Don’t read this book for the mystery. It is fairly predictable and McCaffrey uses an irritating technique; characters trot onstage, deliver information, and exit stage left. There is nothing wrong with this technique but I don’t care for it. The secret-room story is more of a puzzle, and I liked it more. Read it for the lovely descriptions and the occasional flashes of humor as Henry reminisces about parts of his childhood.

Hound is the first of a series. I enjoyed the prose and the books, but I don’t know if I will seek out the next book.

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