288. ‘THE HAUNTED BOOK SHOP’. CHRISTOPHER MORLEY
THE HAUNTED BOOK SHOP
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This is a suspenseful novel set in Brooklyn around the time of the end of World War I. It continues the story of Roger Mifflin, the book seller in Parnassus on Wheels. It also details an adventure of Miss Titania Chapman and a young advertising man named Aubrey Gilbert.
The Haunted Bookshop is not a novel of the supernatural. Rather, the name refers to the ghosts of the past that haunt all libraries and bookstores: “the ghosts of all great literature.” Throughout the novel Morley, through the character of Roger Mifflin, makes reference to the knowledge and wisdom that one can gain from literature.
The narrative begins with a young advertising man, Aubrey Gilbert, stopping by a bookstore named “The Haunted Bookshop” in the hopes of finding a new client. Gilbert meets the proprietor, Roger Mifflin. Gilbert does not succeed in selling advertising copy, but is intrigued by Mifflin and his conviction concerning the value books and booksellers have to the world. Additionally, Gilbert is intrigued by the fact that his firm’s biggest client, Mr. Chapman, is a friend of Mifflin and has asked Mifflin to undertake the education of his daughter, Titania Chapman, by hiring her as an assistant.
Gilbert returns to the book store, meets Titania, and falls in love with her. Meanwhile, mysterious things start to happen: a copy of Thomas Carlyle’s Letters and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell disappears and reappears, Gilbert is attacked as he travels home, a pharmacist neighbor of Mifflin is observed skulking in the alley behind the bookstore at night speaking to someone in German, and an assistant chef at the Octagon Hotel has posted an ad in the New York Times promising a reward for a lost copy of Letters and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell. Gilbert starts to sense that something nefarious is afoot. He suspects that the gregarious Mifflin is involved in a plot to kidnap Titania, and he assigns himself the job of protecting her.
Meanwhile, Mifflin begins to train Titania in the booksellers’ trade. His focus is so centered on books and their content that he fails to note the unusual things that are occurring.