The Book of the Most Precious Substance

by Sara Gran
Dreamland Books, February 2022, $18.95

Lily Albrecht—the focus of Sara Gran’s steamy, supernatural-tinged biblio-thriller, The Book of the Most Precious Substance—was a successful debut novelist with a bright future when she met her husband, Abel. The couple shared five idyllic years before Abel began showing symptoms of early-onset dementia. Now Lily sells rare books to make ends meet while a live-in nurse tends to Abel, who is wheelchair-bound and mute.

She’s at a Manhattan book fair, enjoying a brief respite from the “dull ache” of her existence Upstate, when a colleague known as Shyman asks if she’s heard of an ancient tome with a title referencing some sort of ‘precious substance.’ He has a buyer willing to pay six figures, and will give Lily a 33% cut if she can assist in procuring the volume.

When Shyman is then found dead the next morning, Lily teams up with Lucas Markson, the handsome head of a university library’s rare books department, to ID Shyman’s deep-pocketed client, find the book, and complete the transaction.

Research reveals that The Book of the Most Precious Substance: A Treatise of the Various Fluids and Their Uses dates back to 1614, and is the most precise and effective grimoire of sex magic ever written. Competition for the three remaining copies is cutthroat, but Lily needs the money—and what’s more, she craves the diversion the duo’s quest provides.

Exquisite set pieces, evocative prose, and artfully drawn characters distinguish Gran’s latest, which is by turns gripping, erotic, and profound. Lily’s intimate first-person narration lends the tale a voyeuristic air, rendering readers complicit in every move she makes. This is an all-consuming mystery about the all-consuming nature of mysteries—one that’s certain to exhilarate Gran’s longtime fans and win her legions of new ones.

Katrina Niidas Holm
Teri Duerr
February 2022
Dreamland Books