“I am a bricklayer without drawings, laying words in sentences, sentences into paragraphs, allowing my walls to twist and turn on whim…no framework…just bricks interlocked…no idea what I’m building or if it will stand…no symmetry, no plan, just the chaotic unplotted bustle of human life.” — Sulari Gentill, 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, instructing everyone inside to stay put until the threat is identified and contained. While they wait for the all-clear, four strangers, who are sitting at the same table, pass the time in conversation. Australian author Winifred “Freddie” Kincaid, writer, Cain, psych graduate student Marigold, and failing law student, Whit, all have a reason for being in the reading room that morning. When they find out a body has been found, they work together to solve the crime. Freddie uses the incident as the start of her work-in-progress. Each chapter of Freddie’s book includes a letter written to famous Australian author Hannah Tigone by a dedicated fan, Leo Johnson, a fellow writer who offers to be her beta reader. So… Hannah is writing the story of Freddie Kincaid, who’s writing the story of the murder in the library. Confused? I guess you’ll have to read it!
The Woman in the Library is just the type of book I used to stay up all night reading, but now I am too old to manage it! Cleverly imagined, it is metafiction at its finest. Metafiction? What are you talking about, Amy? Basically, it is an innovative literary technique wherein an author writes about another author. It’s a book within a book, a mystery within a mystery. Gentill’s novel combines two of my favorite things: a library and a mystery. It’s an off-beat, tense whodunit with epic twists and turns that kept me guessing until the very end. The friendships between the characters are complicated and messy—part of what I enjoyed most about this book. At one point, I suspected each one of them of being the murderer. Although I had a hard time getting into the groove at first, especially when listening to the audio version, the author rewarded my patience with a surprising ending. 4 stars.
Publication Date: June 2022
Genre: Mystery, Metafiction
Read-alikes: The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji; The Verifiers by Jane Pek; Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz; The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections by Eva Jurczyk; The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie, The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley.
** Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a complimentary review copy of the book. The opinions are entirely my own.