This is the second bibliomystery of the summer from the British Library crime classics series and I particularly enjoyed this one. Athelstan Digby, who is big in the blanket industry, is on holiday in Yorkshire near his nephew Jim. His lodgings are part of the local bookshop and one day to help out his host and hostess he agrees to look after the shop while they're out. It turns into a fateful decision.
Three separate customers come in asking for a copy of John Bunyan's 'The Life and Death of Mr. Badman' - a vicar, a chauffeur, and an out-of-town stranger. It isn't in stock until late in the day when a young boy turns up with it in a bundle of books to sell. Mr Digby does what any right-minded soul would do - he buys it for himself and starts reading.
Before he's finished the thing he foils one burglary and still manages to lose the book. He also finds a dead body and damages his ankle. There are plots within plots from this point; murder, blackmail, politics, love, kidnap, and golden age Dutch art. Throughout all the adventures Mr Digby is a delight of a character. An older wiser man with an inquiring mind and a fine taste in art. He's assisted here by his nephew Jim, and between them, they meet plenty of disasters before managing to resolve everything satisfactorily.
It's fast-paced, gently funny, and I particularly enjoyed the slow reveals of Mr Digby's full and splendid character. A successful career in business and srt collecting has honed a sharp intellect and observational eye into something truly formidable for the criminal mastermind he finds himself up against. The biggest mystery would be why this book has been so rare until this reprint.