Narrator: Katherine Littrell
Published by Poisoned Pen Press on June 7, 2022
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In every person's story, there is something to hide...
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.
For me, The Woman in the Library cared a bit too much about its concept than its characters or plot. I’m not a giant fan of metafiction and didn’t realize from the blurb what I was getting into. That being said, even though it’s not exactly up my aisle, I do think the author did a decent job with it.
I guess there are three stories here. Australian author Hannah is writing a murder mystery feature Winifred, the woman in the library from the blurb who becomes embroiled in a murder mystery. Winifred is also writing a book inspired by the three people she meets in the library. Hannah’s beta reader is Leo and most of the book alternates between Hannah’s chapters featuring Winifred and Leo’s e-mail responses. Once you get into the rhythm, it works well, but the structure did keep me off balance and at a distance from any of the characters.
We’ve got two plots here. (Winifred’s manuscript doesn’t get a plot, just characters.) The mystery involving Winifred and her new friends took some interesting turns with plenty of misdirection and a couple of good twists. It would have been a little over the top if it had been the whole mystery, but as it’s fiction within the story it worked well and kept my attention. The second plot involving Leo and Hannah in the “real” world took a turn midway through that I probably should have seen coming, but didn’t. On the other hand, I don’t know that I really cared anyway. In the “real” world there were some references to the pandemic that I could have done without. I didn’t feel like they added much to the narrative and honestly, I don’t really want COVID in my fiction.
I didn’t love the book. I didn’t hate it. It was worth reading but I can’t think of anyone I would actually recommend it to.