Murder at the 42nd Street Library

Murder at the 42nd Street LibraryBook Review:  Murder at the 42nd Street Library by Con Lehane

Raymond Ambler is the curator of the crime fiction collection at the New York Public Library.  He has a reputation for curiosity, particularly regarding homicides, so when someone is murdered inside the library, everyone knows that he’s going to look for answers.  And practically everyone has something to hide.

I wanted to like this book.  The author clearly loves libraries and librarians and has done his research.  But . . . this book annoyed me.  There’s the relationship between Raymond and Adele; I’m not fond of romances when one person is old enough to be the other’s parent.  Ick.  Then, there’s Harry, the ex-priest.  I really take issue with religion placing more importance on the rule rather than what’s right.  I don’t understand the thinking that God cares more about the sanctity of the confessional than alerting Child Protective Services when it’s confessed that a child is being sexually abused.  Even in a fictional setting,  this situation makes me livid.

Adding to my annoyance is the relative ease with which everything comes together.  I could have wrapped my head around the fact that a group of people who knew each other thirty years ago came together again around a specific collection at the 42nd Street Library.  But the missing daughter has just been blocks away the whole time?  And she somehow received her dad’s letters when he didn’t know where she was?  And she’s being protected by a thug who originally meant to kill her?  And she’s closely connected to Raymond as well?

The characters are worse.  There’s not a likable character in our small group of sexually charged scholars.  Emily’s would-be murderer isn’t developed enough for me to believe that he would spare her or care about her well-being.  And why is everyone so determined to save Max?  What little character development there is of our scholars doesn’t lend itself to believing that any one of them would place another’s safety above their own.

And then there’s the whole sexual abuse of a child storyline.  It’s a difficult topic and honestly, I would have avoided the book if I’d known that it was central to the story.  As difficult a topic as it is, it can be handled differently; Nevada Barr’s Hard Truth made me physically ill but it didn’t feel salacious; the details of Emily’s story did.





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