The Sinister Booksellers fo Bath by Garth Nix

March 23, 2023

Please note, The Sinister Booksellers of Bath is a direct sequel to The Left Handed Booksellers of London. With that in mind it is entirely possible, if you’ve not read book one in this series, what follows might contain the odd spoiler or two. Consider yourself duly warned!

There is often trouble of a mythical sort in Bath. The booksellers who police the Old World keep a careful watch there, particularly on the entity who inhabits the ancient hot spring. Yet this time it is not from Sulis Minerva that trouble starts. It comes from the discovery of a sorcerous map, leading left-handed bookseller Merlin into great danger. A desperate rescue is attempted by his sister the right-handed bookseller Vivien and their friend, art student Susan Arkshaw, who is still struggling to deal with her own recently discovered magical heritage.

The map takes the trio to a place separated from this world, maintained by deadly sorcery performed by an Ancient Sovereign and guarded by monstrous living statues of Purbeck marble. But this is only the beginning, as the booksellers investigate centuries of disappearances and deaths and try to unravel the secrets of the murderous Lady of Stone, a serial killer of awesome powers.

If they do not stop her, she will soon kill again. And this time, her target is not an ordinary mortal.

Back in October 2020, I stumbled upon The Left Handed Booksellers of London and I was immediately smitten. Crammed full of secret societies, mythical creatures and magical types with fabulous dress sense there was lots to enjoy. As I said, I was smitten. Now, here we are a few years later and the Booksellers are back. Prepare yourself people for more gleeful urban fantasy delivered in the best possible taste.  

Susan is still coming to terms with the existence of the supernatural and how she is directly related to it. Part of her is keen to just live a normal life. A creative day at art school should be all she has to worry about, but there are otherworldly powers at play that Susan can’t avoid. Once again Susan is a target and the only people who can help are a very particular group of long lived, eccentric bibliophiles.

Merlin remains a firm favourite. Quite how he manages to cut such a fine dash with his eclectic wardrobe I’ll never know, but all evidence suggests he does so with aplomb. I can only hope that one day I will have the opportunity to learn at his feet. Anyone who is prepared to dive headlong into battle wearing a kilt gets my vote every time. 

After much pondering, as I’m want to do, I’ve come to a pretty shocking conclusion. I think Garth Nix is hiding the truth in plain sight. I’ve met a few booksellers in my time and they are a suspicious bunch. I think Nix is trying to convince us that the Booksellers novels are works of fiction. Sneaky old so and so; rather than making it up all he is doing is chronicling the truth. The only thing I have to do now is prove it!*

As you’ve probably already guessed, I loved this book (and its predecessor). Nix is clearly having a ball writing this. I think you can spot when an author loves their work, their uncontained enthusiasm permeates every sentence. This is the sort of fiction that ignited my imagination when I was young and carefree. It’s books like this that got me into reading in the first place. Chock full of action, adventure, lemon drizzle cake and more late 20th century nostalgia than you can shake a stick at. The Sinister Booksellers of Bath is an urban fantasy joy. I’d love to see this get adapted for the screen. It would be all kinds of awesome. 

The Sinister Booksellers of Bath is published by Gollancz and is available from 23rd March. I can highly recommend seeking this series out. There had better be a bloomin’ sequel to this book or I shall be mighty peeved**

Sometimes, when it comes to choosing a musical recommendation to accompany a book, the gods of music turn their gaze toward me and smile. The soundtrack to Lockwood and Co by The Flight is a perfect fit with the novel. It has a suitably supernatural vibe and there are more than enough 1980s-style musical nods that will delight everyone. My advice, as ever, is to read one whilst listening to the other and enjoy both.

*My silence can be bought by immediate membership into the Booksellers august ranks. I have no discernible supernatural abilities but I’m pretty tall and I’d imagine that should prove useful if books need to be retrieved from high shelves. I’m also quite good at looking surly but I’m not sure that’s quite as relevant. 

**Trust me, no one wants to see that.

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