Source: Review copy
Publication: 27 April 2023 from Hodder & Stoughton
Narration: Emma Noakes and Victoria Blunt
Listening Time: 11hrs 58 minutes
ASIN no: B0B3BLJ6SQ
My thanks to Hodder Books for an advance copy for review
A BOOKSHOP. A TRUE CRIME CASE. A DEADLY FRIENDSHIP.
Roach – bookseller, loner and true crime obsessive – is not interested in making friends. She has all the company she needs in her serial killer books, murder podcasts and her pet snail, Bleep.
That is, until Laura joins the bookshop.
Smelling of roses, with her cute literary tote bags and beautiful poetry, she’s everyone’s new favourite bookseller. But beneath the shiny veneer, Roach senses a darkness within Laura, the same darkness Roach possesses.
As Roach’s curiosity blooms into morbid obsession, it becomes clear that she is prepared to infiltrate Laura’s life at any cost.
Alice Slater clearly knows and loves her bookshops. The daily lives of booksellers are here for everyone to enjoy. Death of A Bookseller centres on two booksellers, Brogan Roach and Laura Bunting who work in the Walthamstow branch of Spines, a major book retailer.
Brogan is universally referred to as ‘Roach’. She is a lover of true crime and she uses her job to feed her enthusiasm, ordering true crime books from the States and elsewhere under fake names just so that she can read them. She listens to podcasts, too. It’s a bit of an obsession, to put it mildly.
Roach is a goth and she’s quite happy looking after ‘her’ true crime section. Then Laura Bunting transfers into the Walthamstow branch. Laura ios everything Roach is not. She is perky, nice as ninepence to the customers and an upward pleaser, sucking up to the manager. She is stylish, writes poetry and her perfume smells of roses. She is a daisy to Roach’s bindweed.
Told in alternate voices and beautifully narrated by Emma Noakes and Victoria Blunt, Death of A Bookseller is a dark psychological thriller that deals with the nature of obsession and the impact of true crime on today’s society.
It is beautifully written. This is a slow burn of an audiobook but each chapter is pitch perfect and you can visualise both of these women as they tell their stories. It’s not only a brilliant depiction of workplace dynamics and working in a bookshop in the run up to Christmas; it is also a very dark and creepy look at what obsession can do to people.
Roach is by nature someone who rifles through other people’s belongings and it is when she does with to Laura that she discovers Laura’s secret. That’s what triggers her and so her need to know more about Laura begins. They have a common interest, Roach believes and so she sets out to befriend Laura and so learn more about her.
But Laura is horrified by Roach’s interests and wants nothing to do with her. As the novel progresses we find that Laura is not as sweet as she purports to be. Neither of these women is especially likeable and both are emotionally compromised.
Alice Slater’s book is so deliciously dark and so brilliantly observed that it feels like we are living in our own true crime story. She uses short, sharp chapters to keep our attention focussed, and the cast of characters is tight and so well observed. Moments of wry humour help to alleviate the darkness and the addition of Roach’s pet snail just seals the deal.
Verdict: This is a really accomplished psychological thriller, delivered exceptionally well in audiobook and it grips the attention like a vice. I found it hard to credit that this is a debut novel. It is so clever, so disturbing and so well conceived that I can’t help but recommend it.
Alice Slater spent six years working as a bookseller with Waterstones. She started as a Christmas temp in Manchester Deansgate and worked her way up to bookshop manager of Romford, then Gower Street’s fiction section, and eventually Notting Hill Gate, lending a hand in 20 different branches across the UK on the way. Now a London-based writer, she is a co-host of literary podcast “What Page Are You On?” and writes about short stories for Mslexia.
4 thoughts on “Death of A Bookseller by Alice Slater @alicemjslater @HodderBooks”
Listening to this right now and loving it!
Oh no! We disagree for the first time ever Mary 😉 Personally speaking, this is hands down one of the worst books I have ever read. 😂😂😂
Oh wow! I wonder if it being the audiobook version helps..?
This sounds good!