Comic Book / Bookhunter

"We guard no less than the sum of all human knowledge. We are the Library Police."
Agent Bay

Bookhunter is a comicbook by Jason Shiga.

In 1973, a priceless book is stolen from the Oakland Public Library. Three agents from the Library Police are called in to investigate: Agent Bay (detective), Agent Walker (document analyst), and Agent Finch (fingerprint expert).

Their investigation manages to hit all the usual Police Action Film tropes: foot chases, Perp Sweating, swarming the suspect's apartment with the SWAT team, and so on. The fact that it's the Library Police doing all this is played so straight that the entire thing ends up as a Stealth Parody of the genre.

The book can be purchased on Amazon, or read here on Jason Shiga's website.

Bookhunter provides examples of:

  • Batman Cold Open: The first chapter, in which Agent Bay leads a SWAT team to retrieve books from a "freelance censor".
  • Bloody Hilarious: The aforementioned scene ends with Bay shooting a hole in his torso with a shotgun so his blood and guts will extinguish the match he's trying to use to torch the place.
  • Building Swing: Bay gets from one rooftop to another by shooting down a power line and using it to swing across the gap.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Bay observes the library during open hours. Many of the items he observes in this scene wind up being used as weapons in the final scene.
  • Climbing Climax: When the library police swarm the thief's apartment, the thief flees via the window fire escape. Bay follows them up, and a rooftop confrontation ensues.
  • Colliding Criminal Conspiracies: Major spoiler: The real reason why Kettle Stitch never tried to fence the book after stealing it — because someone else had stolen the real book before her. The copy she stole was just a replica left behind by the first thief.
  • Cowboy Cop: Agent Bay takes the over-the-top approach to problem-solving that you would expect from a Cowboy Cop — but, oddly enough, he doesn't get any grief from his partners or superiors for these shenanigans.
  • The Cracker: It's the '70s, so the criminal hacks into a reel-to-reel computer over the phone line.
  • Desperate Object Catch: Library Police Detective Bay pursues the thief "Kettle Stitch" across rooftops as she tries to get away with a priceless (stolen) antique book. When Kettle Stitch misses a jump and falls, Bay improvises a Building Swing to save the book.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The opening chapter informs the reader just how much books are Serious Business in this world, and just how far Agent Bay will go to get his perp.
  • Exactly What I Aimed At: Bay throws a library book at the thief and apparently misses—but the book triggers the library's alarm system, preventing the thief's escape.
  • Fair-Play Whodunnit: Played with. Kettle Stitch's identity is uncovered through real police work, and they're someone the reader couldn't possibly predict. However, all the clues leading to the reveal that Spenser is the real book thief are right there for a perceptive reader to pick up. Agent Bay even has a Flash Back to the relevant panels as he puts the pieces together.
  • Hollywood Police Driving Academy: We only ever see the library police driving when they're in a legitimate hurry to get somewhere—thus, they're driving fast enough to go airborn on every incline, and barely maintaining control of the car as they screech through turns.
  • In-Series Nickname: After Agent Walker points out that the replica left behind by the thief has a kettle stitch binding the leaflets (rather than the common catch stitch), the library police refer to the thief as "Kettle Stitch".
  • Improvised Weapon: You'd be surprised how many objects in a library can be weaponized.
  • Locked Room Mystery: As Bay himself points out, three concentric locked room mysteries: How did the perp enter the library without picking the lock on the only door? How did he retrieve the book from the safe without leaving any evidence that the safe had been cracked? And how did he leave the library with the book without triggering the anti-theft alarm?
  • Metaphorgotten: Bay's motivational speech in the final chapter.
    Agent Bay: It might seem to you that we're grasping at straws. But straws are all we've got left. There is one straw that is going to break this case wide open. Which is why I need each and every one of you to follow your own straw to the bitterest end.
  • Perp and Weapon: In the opening chapter, the perp threatens to immolate himself and his books when the cops come for him.
  • Perp Sweating: Even when the police know that Leslie Stair can't be their thief, they keep up the pressure on him, on the off-chance that he can tell them who the thief is.
  • Phone-Trace Race: In this case, Agents Bay and Finch are physically racing towards the pay phone, attempting to catch the perp in the act of phone hacking.
  • The Profiler: "ALA's top profiler" concludes that Kettle Stitch is a loner, speaks with a lisp or stutter, and was a childhood bed-wetter.
  • Quip to Black: "Shhhhhhhh." "Read him his rights."
  • Race Against the Clock: The book is scheduled to be returned to the Library of Congress in three days. If the Library Police can't find the book before then, they'll have to report the theft to their superiors, and the Feds will take over the case.
  • Recoil Boost: Bay exploits the ridiculous recoil from a shotgun to propel himself across a room, very quickly.
  • Reused Character Design: Several of the main characters are played by members of Shiga's "Star System". Most notably, Agent Finch is Sara from Empire State. All of them have European-sounding names in this, despite being Chinese (if their ethnicity is specified at all) in the other comics they appear in.
  • Save the Villain: Subverted. When Kettle Stitch drops from the roof, Agent Bay pulls off a Building Swing, and it looks like he's going to rescue her. But he just grabs the book, and lets Kettle Stitch fall.
  • Say My Name: This is all Bay can do when the thief evades capture. "Damn you, Kettle Stitch!"
  • Shoot Out the Lock: Surprisingly, realistically portrayed. The SWAT team uses a shotgun with shocklock rounds to blow out the door locks.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Bay shoots a massive hole through a guy for threatening to burn some books on Sino-American relations, lets another suspect fall to their apparent death (she survived, barely) to save the rare Bible they were stealing and leaves yet another bleeding to death in a broken window display.
  • Soft Glass: Inconsistently used. Apparently glass is harmless if you intentionally jump through it, but dangerous if you're unintentionally flung through it.
  • Splash Panel: A two-page spread to show off the size of the Oakland Public Library.
  • Smoking Gun Control: Twice, Agent Bay thinks he's found a clear link to Kettle Stitch, first with a missing circulation card, then with the counterfeit library card. Both times, the evidence is inconclusive because Kettle Stitch is too good at covering their tracks.
  • Super Window Jump: Useful for SWAT home invasions, or for getting onto the fire escape in a hurry.