Our eponymous hero is an arrogant, unkind, elitist bookstore owner on Alice Island off the Massachusetts coast, dependent on summer tourists who are increasingly turning to ereaders. Recently widowed and in a bad place emotionally, he excoriates the klutzy new sales rep from Knightly Press who comes to present her company’s winter reading list. Bah, humbug! Soon a mysterious theft occurs – a rare and very valuable first edition is stolen from his store, something he had found serendipitously at an estate sale. He had been counting on that for his retirement nest egg. Now he was going to have to be nice to people because the store was barely scraping by and retirement was not in the cards.
Soon thereafter he comes back to his store after an errand and finds a young child and a note left there. The mother, who is soon discovered to have committed suicide after abandoning the child, wanted the precocious child to grow up around books, hence the choice of A.J.’s store. He must turn the child over to Child Protective Services, of course … but then surprise, surprise, the near-perfect child begins to melt the icicles in his heart à la Ebenezer Scrooge. The rest of the story arc is pretty predictable but that doesn’t diminish the enjoyment. The missing first edition mystery keeps a little suspense going, but as you learn more about the island’s inhabitants, mystery fans can pride themselves in figuring that one out, too.
I chose this book because of its long-time appearance on the best-seller lists, so I have no illusions about bringing a hidden gem to your attention, but since most of my readers are mystery fans, this one might not have been on your radar. Four stars is a bit strong, perhaps, but I enjoyed the book. The characters are (eventually) pretty much all likeable and the quaint setting fun as well.