"The Forgers" by Bradford Morrow

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The narrator-protagonist of Bradford Morrow’s The Forgers comes across as urbane, sophisticated, and very much in love. He is all of these things, but so much more. For at one time, this unnamed speaker was one of the world’s most expert forgers, specializing in letters and inscriptions by 19th Century literary lights, Arthur Conan Doyle in particular. Because of Mr. Morrow’s brilliant characterizations through this first-person voice, we see this man’s passion for his illicit craft, and we begin to understand his emotional attachment to it.

Mr. Morrow lays out his story with a surgeon’s skill. We bear with the main character through his tribulations and appreciate his devotion to his fiancée (later wife), who knows his background but returns his love fully. Tension builds from the pressure an extortionist exerts against him – this vile man knows of the hero’s past and tries to force him back into a life of crime, which the hero has avowedly given up because he wants to live on the straight and narrow in honor of his wife. These motives do honor to our erstwhile forger, and we want a good outcome for the couple.

I can testify to the author’s skill in building suspense – several times I had to put the book down because I was a little afraid of what might happen, or what the protagonist might stoop to. The gruesome climactic moment with his tormentor isn’t necessarily a surprise, but it’s treated brilliantly: the pacing, the personalities, all aspirations and hopes lead to this crescendo. It’s a very satisfying scene, albeit very brief. The nemesis comes across as truly maniacal, and blunderingly stupid.

This novel shines with craftsmanship. Mr. Morrow has rendered a highly atmospheric, tense thriller; it features a glimpse into the arcane book-collecting world and an unblinking look at the passion of its cognoscenti. When these passions lead to unsavory activity, we sink into skullduggery, paranoia, and at length, harrowing physical danger. It was a privilege to witness these gifts on display, and to have the opportunity to deepen my acquaintance with this brilliant writer. Highly recommended!
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