The peaceful afternoon in the Boston Public Library by the terrified scream of a woman. Library security guards quickly work to contain the scene and have everyone currently in the library remain where they are. Four strangers at a library table strike up a conversation while they wait and they develop a strong friendship that will grow beyond the library. Each of them has a reason for being in the library the day that the woman was killed, and one of them is a killer.
In a secondary story, the author of the story about the murder in the library sends each chapter of the book to a reader in Boston (Leo) who sends back comments and suggestions. Leo gets quite bold as time goes on and he begins to offer some inappropriate advice as well as actual crime scene photos from recent murders in the Boston area (to help the author with her authenticity). Leo’s comments and suggestions are included in the second half of each chapter until it is evident that the author is concerned and has shared the concern with local authorities.
The authorities want the author to stop the communication with Leo, but instead the author wants to draw Leo out, reveal who he actually is or where he lives so that the authorities can be informed. But Leo stays elusive while offer more and more realistic advice on murder … to be used in the book, presumably.
This two-story format is not completely new, and typically I love the blending of realities this way. There is the story, which is surrounding by the ‘real’ author and a possibly deranged beta reader, both of which are pieces of fiction created by the real author.
Yeah, I like that kind of stuff.
But the two different stories were too divergent for me. I found myself much more focused on the author/Leo story and wanting to skip ahead through the ‘library friends’ section to get to the Leo section. After all, why would the writer include the ‘real life’ portions if they weren’t important, and if they are important, why should I care about the fictional characters when there’s a more interesting drama being played out? (And for the record, I know the ‘real life’ section is also fictional, but I’m looking for a way to define it.)
Although a character in the fictional portion is named for the beta reader Leo (again, with the hopes of drawing out more information about him), there really isn’t any cross over. These two stories don’t take place in the same time, place, or reality. So the two stories work against each other, competing for attention.
Leo’s going off the rails was pretty evident and easy to predict early on, so the revelations about him as we go don’t turn out to be any surprise. I highlighted a section in my book, fairly early on, and noted “this is going to be important later” and I was right.
We have all the ingredients of a murder mystery, except for a breath-taking chase and ending. This sort of fizzles out, which was disappointing.
Looking for a good book? The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill is two mysteries rolled into one book, but it’s hard to give them both equal attention and the end winds down without packing a punch.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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The Woman in the Library
author: Sulari Gentill
publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
paperback, 288 pages