Looking for a good read? Here is a recommendation. I have an unusual approach to reviewing books. I review books I feel merit a review. Each review is an opportunity to recommend a book. If I do not think a book is worth reading, I find another book to review. You do not have to agree with everything every author has written (I do not), but the fiction I review is entertaining (and often thought-provoking) and the non-fiction contain ideas worth reading.
A Mystery Wrapped in a Mystery
Reviewed by Mark Lardas
June 12, 2022
“The Woman in the Library,” by Sulari Gentill, Poisoned Pen Press, June, 2022, 288 pages, $26.99 (Hardcover), $16.99 (Paperback), $9.99 (Ebook)
Four people sit in the reading room of the Boston Public Library. One, an Australian mystery writer, is in Boston for a year on a writing fellowship. Two others are college students. Another is an author from the Carolinas. They are strangers who have never met.
“The Woman in the Library,” a mystery written by Sulari Gentill, opens with this. The four are quietly observing yet ignoring each other. When a woman screams outside the reading room, library security asks them to remain in the room while they investigate. Nothing is then discovered, and they are told they are free to go.
The incident breaks the ice. They start talking to each other while waiting in the room, then decide to go for coffee together. Soon they bond and become friends. They agree to meet again. When they do meet the next day, they learn a woman’s body was discovered hidden in a room near the reading room. She was murdered. At the urging of one of the four, a psychology student they decide to investigate the murder. The four soon quickly discover their investigation has led them into danger.
This tale is one of two within the novel. Gentill wraps this story within a second one. The book you are reading is a novel in the process of being written by an Australian novelist, Hannah Tigone. It is set in Boston. Tigone’s protagonist, Winifred Kincaid is spending a year in writing a novel for the “Marriot Scholarship.” Real authors rarely get that type of opportunity. Tigone is stuck in Australia, writing a novel about Boston. A fan, unpublished author Leo Johnson, lives in Boston. She exchanges emails with him. She sends chapters as she writes them. He responds, providing her local flavor about Boston. Their emails precede or follow each chapter. Tigone writes Leo into her story (commonly done as thanks) as another visiting writer on a fellowship. Leo’s responses yields its own mystery.
The result is a deeply layered and richly textured story. The two mysteries, the one written by Tigone and the one revealed by the emails intertwine. The main mystery takes increasingly complex turns. It involves readers in the lives of the four main characters, and takes them through a pre-pandemic Boston that seems real. “The Woman in the Library” is an absorbing and engaging mystery. It breaks the third wall, offering readers a marvelous and engaging adventure.
Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.