Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Bay Psalm Book Murder by Will Harriss

Will Schofield was murdered in the garage of his apartment building. He was apparently stabbed to death by two young hoodlums. No one could understand why Will, a librarian for forty years, had been murdered for fourteen dollars, and or why the thieves had left an extremely valuable manuscript of The Bay Psalm Book on the floor of the garage by Will's body.

Cliff Dunbar had been a professor at Los Angeles College, and was a good friend of Will's. He was approached by Will's daughter, Pearl, who asked him to investigate the murder of her father. Will didn't see what he could find that the police had not already discovered, but he agreed anyway. First off,  he discovered that the primary witness to the crime had been lying about several important points in her testimony.

Then Cliff began to examine The Bay Psalm Book itself. This book was the first book to be published in the colonies in 1640. This copy had been presented to the Los Angeles College library by Perry Winthrop who was currently running for senator in California. Winthrop said that this book had been in  his family's library in Massachusetts, and that he had brought it with him when he moved to California. This gift not only gained him publicity for his campaign, but also a three hundred thousand dollar tax deduction. The book had been verified by two experts, but Will had his own doubts about its authenticity. Will hired Mona Moore who was an expert proof reader to compare this copy of The Bay Psalm Book with a photocopy of genuine copy of the book. Mona almost immediately found points in which the copies differed.

Will's investigation had two different paths.  He and Mona continued with trying to determine the authenticity of The Bay Psalm Book. Will also started looking into the election campaign of Perry Winthrop. Something uncovered in these investigations resulted in a two attempts on Will's life before the murderer of Will Schofield was found.

This book was quite a good read, but I must admit that I found the analysis of The Bay Psalm Book to be the most interesting part of it. Bibliophiles will certainly enjoy this part of the book. This book was published in 1983, and won an Edgar award for the Best First Novel. Harriss wrote one more book featuring Cliff Dunbar, and one more mystery novel. Harriss was a senior research editor of the Rand Corporation. He also wrote short stories and scripts for television and movie scripts.

I have read this book for the 2016 Silver Mystery Cover Scavenger Hunt in the category of a book with a skeletal hand on the cover.





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