Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Book Review: The Woman in the Library

The ornate reading room at the Boston Public Library is quiet, until the tranquility is shattered by a woman's terrified scream. Security guards take charge immediately, instructing everyone inside to stay put until the threat is identified and contained. While they wait for the all-clear, four strangers, who'd happened to sit at the same table, pass the time in conversation and friendships are struck. Each has his or her own reasons for being in the reading room that morning—it just happens that one is a murderer.

Award-winning author Sulari Gentill delivers a sharply thrilling read with The Woman in the Library, an unexpectedly twisty literary adventure that examines the complicated nature of friendship and shows us that words can be the most treacherous weapons of all.

This novel comes out on June 7, 2022. The publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, provided me an early galley in exchange for an honest review.

As a librarian, the title of the book immediately grabbed my attention. I very much enjoy books that revolve around a library. But I quickly found that this story appealed to another aspect of my personality even more - the writer in me. I have always wanted to be a writer since I was a child in the 70's. Having not one but three of the characters being writers made this story even more fascinating.

The story's structure I also find intriguing. As noted, it involves writers. Yet each chapter has an added framing element which I found worked very well - that being the letters from the real Leo to the Australian writer Hannah. He provides constructive criticism for her writing that we see get worked into her ongoing story, which is the story of the four friends and the murder at the library. I have never encountered this meta-technique used in a book before; it gives this novel another interesting layer. In some ways, it reminded me of the monthly writing group I run at our local library and how we offer one another constructive criticisms on our work.

As for the main mystery - Hannah's story within the story, I found it played out well. I am very critical of the mystery genre in general, especially if an ending appears to come out of left-field. I expect the clues to be there for me as a reader to discover along the way, and Sulari met those expectations for me here. I am encouraged to seek out more of her work after reading this one.

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