The term for John Gilkey's bad habit is bibliokleptomania: stealing books not for profit but because you love them, take pride in them, must have them. Freelance writer Allison Hoover Bartlett introduces the reader to two main characters in this strange true-crime tale. One is Gilkey himself, who grew up in a family where stealing among siblings was commonplace and who pulled off his first theft (a shoplifted catcher's mitt) at age 9 or 10. The other is Ken Sanders, a book dealer and amateur detective determined to catch Gilkey, who from 1999 to 2003 stole books valued at $100,000 from dealers around the country. On the way, the author pauses to illuminate a technique used by opportunists who cut valuable pictures out of books to sell them to unwitting art dealers. It's called the "wet-string" method, and it works like this: The culprit "went one day to the library with a length of wool yarn hidden in his cheek. He placed the wet yarn inside a book, along the spine. . . .
From The Washington Post's Book World/washingtonpost.com Reviewed by Dennis Drabelle