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  • Published: 21 April 2024
  • ISBN: 9781784744670
  • Imprint: Chatto & Windus
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 336
  • RRP: $50.00

The Book Forger

The true story of a literary crime that fooled the world

A true detective story from the age of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers: the literary crime that fooled the world - and the daring young booksellers who uncovered it

London, 1932. Thomas James Wise is the toast of the literary establishment. A prominent collector and businessman, he is renowned on both sides of the Atlantic for unearthing the most stunning first editions and bringing them to market. Pompous and fearsome, with friends in high places, he is one of the most powerful men in the field of rare books.

One night, two young booksellers - one a dishevelled former communist, the other a martini-swilling fan of detective stories - stumble upon a strange discrepancy. It will lead them to suspect Wise and his books are not all they seem. Inspired by the vogue for Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes, the pair harness the latest developments in forensic analysis to crack the case, but find its extent is greater than they ever could have imagined. By the time they are done, their investigation will have rocked the book world to its core.

This is the true story of unlikely friends coming together to expose the literary crime of the century, and of a maverick bibliophile who forged not only books but an entire life, erasing his past along the way.

  • Published: 21 April 2024
  • ISBN: 9781784744670
  • Imprint: Chatto & Windus
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 336
  • RRP: $50.00

About the author

Joseph Hone

Dr Joseph Hone is a writer and academic based at Newcastle University, where he researches and teaches the literature of the long eighteenth century. He was educated at Oxford and has held fellowships at Cambridge, Harvard, Yale, and the Institute of English Studies in London. His first book, Literature and Party Politics at the Accession of Queen Anne (2017) was shortlisted for the University English Book Prize. He is currently preparing the early verse of Alexander Pope for a major new edition.

Also by Joseph Hone

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Praise for The Book Forger

‘A thrilling unravelling of bookish fraud that reads like a detective story from the golden age

Roland Philipps, author of A SPY NAMED ORPHAN

Spies, detectives, forgers, and The Case of the Kernless 'f'. Another superb piece of narrative scholarship from the best storyteller in book history

Dennis Duncan, author of INDEX: A HISTORY OF THE

'Criminally sophisticated skulduggery . . . A thoroughly enjoyable romp through an infamous moment in book history’

Oliver Darkshire, author of ONCE UPON A TOME

'Intriguing, well-written, and impressively researched, The Book Forger tells a great story that is truly stranger than fiction'

Martin Edwards, President of the Detection Club

'This is an absolutely fascinating literary detective story. Real-life audacious crimes uncovered by the most intrepid amateur detectives, investigated all over again a hundred years later here, in delicious forensic detail, by Joseph Hone. A must-read for anyone enthralled by the value and integrity of books. A page turner about page turners'

Janice Hallett, author of The Alperton Angels

'I loved this elegant untangling of a real-life literary mystery. With a cast stretching from Robert Browning to Dorothy L Sayers, it's the perfect piece of armchair detection for any book lover'

Ruth Ware, author of The Woman in Cabin 10

Fascinating… For all the thrills and shenanigans, the forensics and meticulous detail, this is a curiously moving book

Scotland on Sunday

Meticulously researched… The Book Forger is delightfully and unapologetically bookish, offering glimpsed portraits of significant behind-the-scenes literary figures


Hone is a lively and fluent writer, ratcheting up the temperature with snappy sentences and chapters ending on cliffhangers

Sunday Telegraph

Hone… [is] a dexterous guide and an astute contributor to the long tradition of writers gripped by the connection between bibliography and crime

Times Literary Supplement

This book has a great story to tell…and Joseph Hone narrates it brilliantly… Hone makes a page-turning narrative of their detective work

Literary Review

'An extraordinary story, meticulously researched and beautifully written. Utterly enthralling'

Shaun Bythell, author of The Diary of a Bookseller

'Joseph Hone’s hugely entertaining new account shows how this ‘Moriarty of the book world’ met his match in a duo of intrepid young book dealers ... The Book Forger unfolds as a propulsive if unlikely thriller [and] also a useful reflection on literary forgery in general, which speaks to our own era of post-truth and deepfakes ... Unexpectedly gripping'

Gill Partington, LRB