Book Reviews

The Jenny


Now it is time for another Philatelic Bookshelf first. David Beasley's The Jenny is my first review of a philatelic fiction title, and a good one it is. When Rudyard Mack, head of security with the New York Public Library, is faced with the theft of a large portion of the library's Miller Stamp Collection, he has countless, conflicting clues, but no solid information. The theft includes a 1918 Inverted Jenny, the Postmaster Provisionals, and the 1869 U.S. Inverted Centres. Through an intriguing plot, which excels like the best of detective fiction, author Beasley leads the reader to suspect up to five or more individuals as the thief. His detective Rudyard Mack like Sherlock Holmes or Perry Mason, refuses to accept the police theory that it is best to take the insurance and close the case. Mack doggedly pursues the frayed ends and puts together the puzzle to solve the crime. The Jenny will never win a prize as a work of philatelic research, but it gets Gold for the "whodunit" plot and the exciting, don't-put-me-down read that it is. David Beasley bases his fiction on an actual theft at the New York Public Library in 1977, but unlike the story in real life, the thief is exposed. The Jenny is an excellent diversion and a fine addition to the small body of fiction that is available on philately.


I have two terminal illnesses. One, I am an incurable philatelist; second, I am addicted to murder mysteries. And when the two afflict me at the same time I become a totally incapacitated recluse. Such was the case when I was invited to read this delightful little book by David Beasley. Based on the true case of a theft of a collection of rare stamps several years ago, the well written story is set in New York City (which, by coincidence, is where I was born), specifically within the New York Public Library. The intricate plot involves the search by library detective Rudyard Mack for a mysteriously missing stamp display including the prized "Inverted Jenny," at least two murders, the intrigue of an international stamp cartel, and the nearly insoluble twists and turns of changing suspects that held me riveted until the case was finally resolved. Easily read in either a couple of relaxed evenings or one long "wee-small-hours" session, the only thing that might have made me enjoy it more would have been if the theft had also included a set of rare Rotary International commemoratives - say a set of the 1948 Brazilian unissued proofs (of which only 50 were produced unlike the 100 Jennies) - but that is my own personal weakness and then the story might not have as wide a readership or general appeal.

Beasley, having been a librarian at the NYPL, obviously has detailed knowledge of the inner workings of the great library in New York which, together with his apparent excellent philatelic knowledge, make the story come to life with a believable realism.




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