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The Secret of Lost Things
ISBN: 978-0-385-51848-2
By: Sheridan Hay

Review by: Cheryl A. Townsend


Upon the death of her mother, her only parent, Rosemary is taken in by her mother's friend, a bookstore owner and woman of great wisdom. Allowing Rosemary her mourning time, the friend then buys her a one-way ticket to New York to live her own life. At 18, Rosemary is transplanted to a place far from her Tasmanian home, a place she dreamed of visiting as a child via scrapbooks filled with pictures that, upon arrival, no longer exist as it did when the pictures were taken. Alone and dislocated, she finds a hotel of lost grandeur and takes a room. Her minimal belongings and funds, and her mother’s ashes are all that she has to begin her new life. Venturing out, she finds her first job and states her intentions to the owner. Thus starts her life in the employ of the Arcade bookstore and her education in antiquated and rare books.

The cast of characters she works with remind me of Maupin's "Tales of the City" series; Mr. Pike, the owner, an eccentric, archaic and stodgy gent who always refers to himself in first person - Oscar, the asexual keeper of nonfiction who Rosemary immediately falls in love with, albeit unrequited, - Pearl, the soon to be transgender cashier who becomes a close ally - Arthur, an overweight gay who works in arts books and banters cattily, the affectionately with Rosemary - Walter Geist, an albino of failing health and fledging desire for Rosemary who works as manager of the store - Mr. Mitchell, a fatherly keeper of the rare books floor and a handful of lesser characters that fill her life within the Arcade. She befriends the hotel clerk, Lillian, who is dealing with the disappearance of her son back in her own homeland. And how they all intertwine is divine.

When Geist asks Rosemary to read a letter for him due to his increasing blindness, a series of cloak and dagger escapades begin in search of a lost Melville manuscript that is presumable found and being worked through the black market. Geist is planning his ever after on the sale of this book and insinuates Rosemary into it. Played out like an opera of forsaken love and deceit, the crescendo peaks around Christmas time with chills, thrills and some of Pearl’s frills.

The characters feel like they are here with me now . . . in all their own vanity, making sure I get their presentations right. But the book is closed, and I miss them.

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