Reviewed by RICHARD & KAREN LA PORTE:    

JON L. BREEN – The Gathering Place. Walker, hardcover, 1984; paperback, 1986.

   This murderous dive into the calm ambiance of Vermillion’s Bookshop has an other worldly aura. Rachel Hennings has inherited the bookshop after her Uncle Oscar died. Oscar Vermillion was the grand old man of the antiquarian book trade from his long established shop on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Los Angeles.

JON L. BREEN The Gathering Place

   Rachel has a strong interest in old books and ESP. This extra-sensory perception takes the form of spirit writing in a unique form. She signs the names of dead writers in their books when she is in the shop, which was The Gathering Place for Fitzgerald, West, Faulkner, Huxley and the rest of the gems in that period’s literary diadem.

   When the spirit hand puts the signature of a murdered, virtually unknown hack writer on the endpaper of an early novel by today’s exalted author of a record best seller, Arlen Kitchener, more than the spook hits the fan.

   More bloody murder is done. Agents, authors, celebrities and all get tangled up in a mass of plots and counterplots. Did Kitchener use a ghost writer? Is Detective Manuel Gonzales going to make out with Rachel or, if not, which of the two Wellman brothers will?

   Who killed the ghost writer Ransom Blaisdell and why? Is Rachel’s spirit writing a gift or grift? All these questions develop interlocking answers that lead to a whirlwind romantic finale.

   The story with its dips into the white magic of spirit writing, arcane secrets in an ancient bookshop and high-hearted romance with warm witty people would make excellent material for a Disney feature film.

   Jon L. Breen uses his local knowledge of the Los Angeles book scene with a fine sense of contemporary dialogue and a gleeful look into pedestrian minds trying to ride a hobby horse.

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

Bibliographic Update:   Rachel Hennings made a second (and final) appearance in Touch of the Past (Walker, 1988), in which she helps investigate the present day murder of a retired 1930s actor and book author.