Sunday, August 30, 2015

Please Welcome Mystery Author Clea Simon

Omnimystery News: Guest Post by Clea Simon

We are delighted to welcome author Clea Simon to Omnimystery News today, courtesy of Great Escapes Book Tours, which is coordinating her current book tour. We encourage you to visit all of the participating host sites; you can find her schedule here.

Clea's ninth mystery to feature Harvard graduate student Dulcie Schwartz is Code Grey (Severn House; August 2015 hardcover and ebook formats) and we asked her to tell us more about the backstory to the book. She titles her guest post for us today, "Who Would Steal a Book?"

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Clea Simon
Photo provided courtesy of
Clea Simon

Even today, as e-books flourish, paper books — "dead tree" books — hold a place in the hearts of readers. We trade paperbacks, check beloved volumes out of our local libraries, and sometimes even buy them, to support both the local bookstores and the big chains that make them available and the authors who produce them.

What we don't do, for the most part, is steal them. Still, book theft — particularly the theft of rare and valuable books — is a growing problem. It's serious enough that a recent conference at the British Library in London featured a talk titled, "The Written Heritage of Mankind in Peril: Theft, Retrieval, Sale and Restitution of Rare Books, Maps, and Manuscripts."

Now, I don't condone stealing books (or maps or manuscripts, for that matter). But I was intrigued by this talk because this crime is at the center of my new book. Code Grey is the ninth in a mystery series that features Dulcie Schwartz, a graduate student writing her dissertation about the Gothic novels of the late 18th Century. Along with cats (including a particular feline ghost, who makes Dulcie's life a bit Goth at times), Dulcie loves books — particularly old ones. And so when a gentle, if disturbed former scholar is found, unconscious, holding a valuable and long-missing rare volume, she finds herself with a lot of questions. Would her friend have stolen a book? Or was he injured protecting it? Whatever the answer, where has this particular book been for close to thirty years? Why has it surfaced now?

To research the possibilities, I — like Dulcie — did my research. I ended up reading a lot about the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers. The name, I thought, sounded fake — like a cover for a ring of superheroes. I wasn't that far off. In its own way, the ILAB acts like a Justice League for the written word, tackling the plague of rare-book theft in the most bookish way possible — with information.

In short, the ILAB is seeking to combat book theft by running an international database of stolen books. While part of this is private, allowing member booksellers to check in and look up prospective purchases, some of it is open to the public.

Through this database, which was set up in 2010, libraries, rare book dealers, and private collectors can list works that have gone missing — and can check the provenance of pieces that come up for sale. The database assumes a certain amount of self-policing, and certainly shady deals will continue to be done. But thanks to the ILAB, they will be driven further into the shadow. No longer can a crooked clerk smuggle a valuable piece out of a Russian monastery and sell it to a legitimate bookstore in Vienna. Now when a missing monograph from a spectacular Italian theft surfaces in the estate of a reclusive collector, it can be returned to its rightful owner.

The database is only a start, and (as that talk noted) the theft of rare and valuable books is on the rise. But I found it encouraging to know that those who love books are uniting to protect them. I think Dulcie would agree.

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Clea Simon Book Tour

A former journalist and nonfiction author, Clea Simon lives in Somerville, Massachusetts with her husband, the writer Jon Garelick, and their cat Musetta.

For more information about the author, please visit her website at and her author page on Goodreads, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Code Grey by Clea Simon

Code Grey by Clea Simon

A Dulcie Schwartz Feline Mystery

Publisher: Severn House Print/Kindle Format(s) Print/Nook Format(s)Kobo eBook Format

Did a down on his luck former student steal a priceless book? Grad student and cat lover Dulcie Schwartz thinks not — and she sets out to prove it …

It's spring break, and Dulcie Schwartz has stayed behind in almost-deserted Cambridge, Massachusetts to concentrate on her thesis. But when a former student turned vagrant, Jeremy Mumbles, is found injured, with a valuable missing book clutched in his arms, Dulcie can't seem to let it go. What was he doing with the book? And why has it turned up after all these years?

With Jeremy now the prime suspect for a series of break-ins in the area, Dulcie is determined to clear the unfortunate former scholar's name. But when she finds a connection between the book he was carrying and her own research into an anonymous Gothic author, the search for clues takes on a new intensity — and a new menace.

Code Grey by Clea Simon


  1. Thanks so much for having me here today!

  2. Hearing about ILAB was interesting; I wasn't aware that there was sufficient thefts of rare books, maps, and manuscripts to warrant it. I haven't read any of your books yet but would really like to! It sounds like fun, mystery, and a bit of history.

  3. Hearing about ILAB was interesting; I wasn't aware that there was sufficient thefts of rare books, maps, and manuscripts to warrant it. I haven't read any of your books yet but would really like to! It sounds like fun, mystery, and a bit of history.


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