CHARITY BLACKSTOCK – Dewey Death. London House, US, hardcover, 1958. Ballantine U2125, paperback, 1964 (shown); several later printings, including one in 1985 referred to here. Originally published in the UK: William Heinemann, hardcover, 1956.


    When a book originally published more than twenty years ago is reprinted, I’m always curious about how well it has withstood the passage of time. In the case of Dewey Death, the answer is “Fine!”

    The Dewey Decimal System no longer has the widespread use that it once had, and Mr. Dewey’s idiosyncratic way of spelling never did. Since these figure only in chapter headings, that doesn’t matter much, and indeed give the book a certain out-of-the-way charm.

    In Dewey Death Blackstock shows us a young woman progressively fascinated and ensnared by a fellow whom we’re not sure about. Perhaps he’ll turn out to be the hero, perhaps the villain. Both work in the Inter-Libraries Dispatch Association; both — and their co-workers as well — have good reason to dislike Mrs. Warren.

    If anyone has a secret, Mrs. Warren can’t rest until she finds it out, and some secrets are dangerous to know. Mrs. Warren is killed. Barbara Smith, librarian and writer of novels; Mark Allan, who is enmeshed in a romance with the elusive Mrs. Bridgewater; the young Mr. Wilson; the “girls,” Greta and Maureen, and all the other employees, move in an atmosphere of suspicion, doubt and, finally, terror.

    This book moves from a quiet beginning through mounting suspense to a crashing conclusion that left this reader breathless. Its reprinting was well deserved.

— Reprinted from The Poisoned Pen, Vol. 7, No. 1, Fall-Winter 1987 (slightly revised).