Mar 07, 2023 A Dog, a Book and a Thriller Writer
What would you do if your dog ate an autographed book you borrowed from someone you barely know?
Teresa Bennett faced this exact dilemma when her newly rescued dog, Cora, got her teeth on Elizabeth Robinson’s copy of Slow Horses signed by Mick Herron. The two women met at the Library’s “It’s a Mystery Book Club.” Though they barely knew each other, Robinson offered to share her prized copy of the club’s upcoming selection when Bennett wasn’t able purchase one in time for the discussion.
“I’ll guard it with my life,” Bennett said.
Those words came back to bite her when Bennett received a texted photo from her husband a few days later with the tattered remains of the book scattered on their living room floor. Bennett knew immediately she needed to replace the book–an autographed copy even–but she had no idea the lengths she’d have to go to make that happen.
Finding a New Copy
Just as Bennett had trouble finding the book before the book club meeting, getting her hands on a copy of Slow Horses now was still nearly impossible, mostly because the book had recently been adapted as an Apple TV show. Season 2 was set to premiere in just a few weeks, and the 12-year-old book was more popular than ever. Autographed copies were even more elusive–and expensive–with the only copy available listed at $1,000.
Bennett also was unsuccessful in contacting the author both through his publisher or through social media. Bennett even attempted to locate speaking engagements where Herron might be appearing, hoping a traveling colleague or friend might be able to attend and get an autograph. But Herron’s latest book was several months old at the time, along with most of his promotional events.
“I used every research skill I have,” Bennett said, but to no avail.
Then Bennett learned of an event at Abingdon Library just outside of Oxford, England, where Herron would be talking about his new short story collection, Standing by the Wall. Bennett enlisted the help of HMMPL Librarian Susan Buckley to help her contact the Abingdon Library, hoping she might have better luck librarian to librarian. Buckley eventually reached Jessica Williams, Customer Service Advisor, Abingdon Library, Oxfordshire County Council, who agreed to help.
From there, Bennett and Williams worked to get a copy of the book to Abingdon Library before Herron’s speaking engagement. The task proved far more challenging than either expected. Tight deadlines and exorbitant international shipping rates meant a copy of the book with the U.S.-distributed cover, which would match the original, was out of the question. Bennett eventually found a British bookseller willing to ship a copy of Slow Horses with a U.K.-distributed cover directly to the library, only to have the book arrive damaged the day before the event.
“Every time I thought, ‘I’ve got it,’ I got stopped again,” Bennett recounted.
Then she received a welcome email from Williams: “I’ve got a copy of the book, and I’m going to give it to you.”
Making New Friends
The next day at the Abingdon Library event, Williams told Herron about the mishap with Cora and Bennett’s international effort to secure a replacement copy. Herron loved the story so much he not only signed the book, he also asked for Bennett’s email address.
“Cora is obviously a dog of impeccable taste,” Herron wrote to Bennett in one of his first messages. The two have since corresponded, with Bennett emailing photos of Cora, Robinson, Buckley and herself, and Herron arranging for Bennett and Robinson to receive signed copies of Standing by the Wall. He signed Bennett’s: “Teresa & Cora – Another tasty book …. With my best wishes, Mick Herron.”
Bennett eventually told Robinson the whole saga, too. In fact, Robinson is the one who suggested that Herron sign the replacement book “from the dogs to you,” a nod to both the MI5 internal investigation unit in Slow Horses and to Cora for getting them all into this mess.
Bennett presented Robinson with the new signed book at the December meeting of the “It’s a Mystery Book Club.” Thankfully, the mystery of how to replace the book had finally been solved.
While Robinson is grateful for the signed copy of the book, she says she still can’t believe all that Bennett went through to get it.
“I had no expectation that she’d go to all that effort,” Robinson said.
A Dog, a Book, and a Thriller Writer
As for Bennett, while her book-borrowing days are over, she wouldn’t change a thing about the experience.
“I count on serendipity in my life,” Bennett said. “When bad things happen, I ask myself, ‘What am I going to make of it?’”
Williams, the Customer Service Advisor at Abingdon Library, felt the same way about her role in replacing the dog-eaten book.
“This is such a wonderful example of how libraries, and books, can unite people and spread happiness and, in this case, from across the globe,” Williams said. “I was delighted to play my part in the story of a dog, a book and a thriller writer!“
Photo above: Elizabeth Robinson and Teresa Bennett. Photo at top of post: Elizabeth Robinson, Teresa Bennett and Susan Buckley with Cora, the book-eating dog. Photo provided by Teresa Bennett.