The Book Forger

The Book Forger

The true story of a literary crime that fooled the world

Summary

'Absolutely fascinating . . . A must-read for anyone enthralled by the value and integrity of books' Janice Hallett, author of The Alperton Angels

'Hugely entertaining . . . a propulsive if unlikely thriller, whose plot hinges on typographical minutiae and sherry parties' LRB

A true detective story from the age of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers: the literary crime that fooled the world - and the daring young booksellers who uncovered it

London, 1932. Thomas James Wise is the toast of the literary establishment. A prominent collector and businessman, he is renowned on both sides of the Atlantic for unearthing the most stunning first editions and bringing them to market. Pompous and fearsome, with friends in high places, he is one of the most powerful men in the field of rare books.

One night, two young booksellers - one a dishevelled former communist, the other a martini-swilling fan of detective stories - stumble upon a strange discrepancy. It will lead them to suspect Wise and his books are not all they seem. Inspired by the vogue for Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes, the pair harness the latest developments in forensic analysis to crack the case, but find its extent is greater than they ever could have imagined. By the time they are done, their investigation will have rocked the book world to its core.

This is the true story of unlikely friends coming together to expose the literary crime of the century, and of a maverick bibliophile who forged not only books but an entire life, erasing his past along the way.

'The perfect piece of armchair detection' Ruth Ware, author of The Woman in Cabin 10


‘Thrilling . . . reads like a detective story from the golden age’ Roland Philipps, author of A SPY NAMED ORPHAN

'A great story that is truly stranger than fiction' Martin Edwards, President of the Detection Club

Reviews

  • 'This is an absolutely fascinating literary detective story. Real-life audacious crimes uncovered by the most intrepid amateur detectives, investigated all over again a hundred years later here, in delicious forensic detail, by Joseph Hone. A must-read for anyone enthralled by the value and integrity of books. A page turner about page turners'
    Janice Hallett, author of The Alperton Angels

About the author

Joseph Hone

Joseph Hone is a prize-winning writer and academic specialising in the history of the book. He studied and taught at Oxford, before holding fellowships at Cambridge, Harvard, and Yale. He is the author of The Paper Chase, which was longlisted for the HWA Non-Fiction Crown, and The Book Forger, publishing in 2024. In 2022 he was awarded the Philip Leverhulme Prize in Languages and Literatures. He lives in Newcastle with his wife and son, and spends much of his time either on the coast or scrabbling around in second-hand bookshops.
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