Will is a reformed rare book and manuscript forger who has spent the last twenty years on the straight and narrow living a placid existence with his loving wife, Meghan and two daughters Nicole and Maisie. This idyllic life will be upended as an old enemy of Will has aggressively confronted the eleven year old Maisie in their Hudson Valley, NY home and forced a package upon her that was to be given to her father. Will fervently believed that he had settled all accounts and claims from his past but now in Bradford Morrow’s exquisite sequel to THE FORGERS, entitled THE FORGER’S DAUGHTER he is faced with a decision that could upend his family and their way of life.
Morrow is a talented novelist who in 2014 decided to write a thriller that depicted the underside of the rare book and manuscript world, a world in which Morrow was well versed. His readers will be quite satisfied with his latest effort as he continues to impart the seamier side of his protagonist’s avocation. After his daughter is attacked, Will is confronted with Henry Slader who has reappeared after being released from prison having served a sentence after brutally attacking Will with a meat cleaver while he and the family were living in Kenmare, Ireland severely damaging his right hand when he refused to go along with Sadler’s demands. Lingering in the background throughout the novel is the murder of Meghan’s brother Adam Diehl, another practitioner of literary forgery twenty years earlier, and Will’s own sordid literary past.
Morrow’s approach to preparing and writing a mystery thriller is intellectually satisfying with his repeated references and excerpts from the works of numerous literary figures including, Edgar Allan Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and W.B. Yeats. As in the first novel, Morrow’s obsession with anything related to Doyle and his Sherlock Holmes character pervades the story. Morrow places Will in a very tenuous position as Slader demands that he reproduce a copy of Edgar Allan Poe’s first book TAMERLANE which with only twelve known copies in circulation is considered the holy grail of American letters. The story unfolds carefully and selectively as Will and Meghan co-narrate the story telling the tale through alternating chapters.
The novel travels evocatively from upstate New York farmhouses to Manhattan auction houses, and there’s an aptly gothic tinge to the tense drama that ensues. Will does not realize how dangerous Slader’s request and threats pose to his family as to complete the task he must coopt his twenty year old daughter Nicole who he has trained and imparted his knowledge and calligraphical skills over the years.
(Rhinebeck, NY downtown)
Despite his misgivings Will proceeded as he felt a weird kinship with Slader who he realized was his equal in the dark craft of forgery. While he mistrusted Slader he was somewhat envious of him as he concluded that the two of them had survived the machinations against each other and had shattered each other’s lives in significant ways as they had been extremely competitive even before they formally met. Will concluded that Slader was no worse a transgressor than he was himself and started to accept the idea that had they been collaborators instead of competitors, God knows what satanic masterpieces they might have produced. But what Will most regretted was that he would have to involve Nicole in the project.
The novel progresses as Will and Meghan narrate chapters sharing their emotions and misgivings about what Slader had roped Will into doing. Through Will and to a lesser extent Nicole the reader will be exposed to the mechanics of preparing forgeries and the emotional toll that it takes. Further, Morrow relates how the avocation of bookselling was carried out and the numerous steps involved in preparing, pricing, and selling books to book dealers, private citizens, or the general public.
As is the case in all of Morrow’s novels he is a master in creating meaningful characters. In THE FORGER’S DAUGHTER they include Henry Slader, a narcissist who is the source of many of Will’s demons; Nicole, Will and Meghan’s perceptive and talented daughter; and Atticus Moore, Will’s rare old book compatriot who reemerges after twenty years.
After spending most of the novel in upstate New York in their Hudson Valley farmhouse Will and Meghan will return to Manhattan and make a spectacular discovery in their bookstore. The discovery will lead to an unexpected turn in the plot line that produces a wild finish to the novel. You do not have to be an obsessive book devotee to enjoy THE FORGER’S DAUGHTER as it stands alone as a wonderful literary thriller.