The Woman in the Library

Source: DRC via NetGalley (Poisoned Pen Press)
Pub. Date: June 7, 2022
Synopsis: Goodreads

Why did I choose to read this book?

I don’t read a lot of bottle episode-type books, so the description of this one grabbed me because (1) they are stuck in a library and (2) it’s a murder mystery. I’m trying to lean into my new love of thrillers/mysteries.

What is this book about?

It turns out that they are not stuck in the library until the murderer is uncovered. Four people meet in the Reading Room of the Boston Public Library after a blood-curdling scream interrupts the silence. They get to talking, become friends, and then slowly each of them is targeted by the unknown murderer of the woman in the library whose scream brought them together.

This book is also a bit about craft. After each chapter there is a letter of correspondence between a person named Leo (Winifred’s neighbor in the actual novel) and the author of the novel, Hannah. Leo is based in Boston and the author is based in Australia (as is the main character Winnifred in the novel parts). Leo seems to be a reader who gives feedback and location research/info, but also includes correspondence about their own “opus” and its inability to find an agent. They are also a huge fan of this author, and say so multiple times. We are led to believe that the author trusts this person enough to send them their pages for review.

You’re reading a novel AND someone’s opinion of the novel side by side (or rather, back and forth), and things eventually get kind of stalker-y.

What is notable about the story?

Everything about this novel is strangely convenient. From Winnifred’s scholarship to her new group of friends bumping into each other to begin with and then being together/bumping into each other WAY TOO MUCH – you would be hard pressed to not be like How? or What? or No Way That’s Not Believable.

Also everyone is always ready to “come right over” to support each other. I think a couple of times Marigold (the tattooed psychology major) is already outside Winnifred’s building basically fighting the doorman for access. Plus Winnifred is WAY too willing to let people just sleep over in her apartment. It’s wild. Get out of my house, I’ll call you an Uber. It’s Boston, just throw them on the Green line. And visa versa, Americans would be very unlikely to stay in the apartment of a person we just met, and call an Uber for ourselves at the end of the night.

Was anything not so great?

I hate to say it but this book wasn’t exactly thrilling. I think I reached almost 50% of my way through this one and just started rooting for them all to be the murderer so they could just all murder each other and be done with it. What killed it for me was actually also what was so notable about the book: the amount of coincidence. Every interaction was “oh! I didn’t expect to see you here!” like Boston isn’t a gigantic city and these 4 people that met randomly at a library would just be constantly bumping into each other everywhere they went.

What’s the verdict?

I’ll give it 3 stars because it was good enough to keep me reading until the end, but I think this book may suffer from culture ignorance. These interactions are not believable in Americans. A lot of this book was unbelievable or too convenient, and that took away from the suspense and mystery.


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