Mystery, Inc. (Bibliomysteries)
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Identified only by the hastily—and clumsily—chosen alias Charles Brockden, the narrator of this story finds a bookstore that instantly piques his desire. He must call it his own; he must add it to his already-extensive collection of bookstores. But surely the owner of such a fine shop wouldn’t easily part with it. Brockden forms a plan to acquire the store in such a way that no one would ever suspect foul play: untraceable murder. And he knows he will be successful—because he has done it before.
object. “Yes! Soon. I love you too, darling.” Neuhaus unabashedly murmurs these intimate words, like one who isn’t afraid to acknowledge emotion. The chocolate truffle, like the cappuccino, is indeed delicious. My mouth waters even as I eat it. I am hoping that Neuhaus will devour his, as he clearly wants to; but he has left both truffles untouched for the moment, while he sips the cappuccino. There is something touchingly childlike in this procrastination— putting off a treat, if but for a
his eyes, shaking his head. This is a surprising revelation! For some reason, I am quite taken aback. That a bookseller was murdered in this building, even if not in this very room, and by his own son— this is a bit of a shock. “And so—in some way—Mystery, Inc. is haunted?”—my question is uncertain. Neuhaus laughs, somewhat scornfully— “Haunted—now? Of course not. Mystery, Inc. is a very successful, even legendary bookstore of its kind in New England. You would not know that, Charles, since
enthusiastic support, he made an offer to Amos Slater for the property, and the offer was accepted almost immediately.” Neuhaus speaks wonderingly, like a man who is recounting a somewhat fantastical tale he hopes his listeners will believe, for it is important for them to believe it. “‘My wife had a faint premonition’—this is Milton Rackham speaking—‘that something might be wrong, but I paid no attention. I was heedless then, in love with my sweet young wife, and excited by the prospect of
bookstore in Montclair, New Jersey, and take on the arrogant heirs as they deserved. The method I have selected to dispatch the proprietor of Mystery, Inc. is one that has worked well for me in the past: chocolate truffles injected with a rare poison extracted from a Central American flowering plant bearing small red fruits like cranberries. The juice of these berries is so highly toxic, you dare not touch the outside of the berries; if the juice gets onto your skin it will burn savagely, and if
a moment I can’t think how to reply. Neuhaus seems almost to be teasing me. It was a careless choice of a name, I suppose— “Charles Brockden.” If I’d thought about it, of course I would have realized that a bookseller would be reminded of Charles Brockden Brown. To disguise my confusion, I ask Aaron Neuhaus how much he is asking for this rare book, and Neuhaus says, “‘Asking’—? I am not ‘asking’ any sum at all. It is not for sale.” Again, I’m not sure how to reply. Is Neuhaus laughing at me?