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Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Forgers by Bradford Morrow

Mysterious Press, 258 pages, $24

Nothing was strengthened in “The Forgers,” only sundered, for most of the book. Once, and only once, is the narrator named. It is among the interesting items hidden throughout the book. Actual rare book information and a fascinating tiptoe through the mind of a forger underpin Bradford Morrow’s erudite and entertaining morsel of a book. Surely it is contrary to the law of physics that this 258-page book seems twice as long, but not in a bad way.

The narrator is a naughty boy. Despite being born with several advantages and educated more than adequately, he takes to forgery. Specializing in no more than a few authors, mostly in the late-19th century, the narrator forges their signatures, and sometimes writes in their manner. He is very, very good.

After the narrator is driven to walk a straight and narrow path, he is plunged back into consideration of that proscribed vocation when his girlfriend’s brother is murdered. Meghan’s brother, Adam, too, is a collector of rare books. He is found amid a mess of ruined books, splattered with ink (forger’s ink?), with both hands chopped off.

The narrator would happily toddle off into the sunset with Meghan, with no further thought about the murder; there certainly was no love lost on his part over Adam. However, a stalker -- who also is a (gasp) forger -- proceeds to try to pin the murder on the narrator.

Morrow does an excellent job of giving us the viewpoint of a slightly supercilious, slightly sociopathic, clever, and uncommon man. Sunsets are not red; they are “prancing citron and orange flames.” There isn’t mist out there; it’s “lissome creamy fog.” As if repeating material memorized for a test, the narrator tells about his rehabilitation and moral reawakening. He reserves his passionate speech for the art of forgery. The narrator relates, “It takes a lot of truth to tell a lie. Truth must surround the pulsing heart of any lie for it to be convincing, believable.” And that is at the heart of “The Forgers.”

The rather abrupt ending is the only thing that keeps this from an MBTB star.

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