Cover Image: How Can I Help You

How Can I Help You

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Member Reviews

This book was an entertaining, dark story. Margo (aka Jane) and Patricia (pronounced Pa-tree-cee-a) meet at the local library. Margo has worked there a couple of years after a nursing career, and Patricia has just been hired to fill the long-empty reference librarian position. As they navigate being co-workers and socializing outside of the library, they develop a mutual unhealthy obsession with each other and their pasts.

I think that anyone who works at a library and enjoys dark thrillers will enjoy this book.
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I love the premise of this, but it never really gets to where it needs to go.

The concept behind this one is not an unusual basis for a novel, but I thought the librarian angle might prove interesting. And it kind of did, though the story just felt a little half-baked to me. It’s a short book and I don’t think that helped the story, which lays the groundwork for something fun only to sputter out in the end.

It’s more interesting hearing from Margo/Jane than from Patricia, though I didn’t mind hearing the differing viewpoints. But neither one feels complete in the end, and it makes the conclusion of the story feel abrupt and unsatisfying. It also just isn’t a very good ending, mostly because it’s at odds with the tone and spirit of the rest of the book. 

“Unhinged woman” is a popular theme in novels at the moment, and this one fits the bill nicely from a conceptual standpoint, but ultimately neither the characters nor the plot are sharp enough to meet what a story like this needs in order to be a success.
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This book had me hooked from the very start!  I couldn't wait to get back to it to see what would happen next.  Fantastic character development, interesting and twisty plot -- plus the fabulous background of a library!  Couldn't ask for more in a really fun take on a mystery novel.
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This was so good! Loved the focus on Margo and Patricia, with the dual POVs. They were both such interesting characters, with really distinct personalities and voice. The story itself was great, and it was written in such a unique style, I don’t know how to explain it. It reminded me a bit of Mona Award’s writing, but more grounded in reality. Really enjoyed this one!!
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I haven't read a thriller in a long time, and 'How Can I Help You' was a welcome foray back into the genre! A dual-POV that flips between a librarian with a number of skeletons in the closet and a reference desk worker whose fixation on her coworker grows to unhealthy heights, Sims plays with the concept of 'loving your job' and takes it to delusional levels. 

The novel's two main characters are Margo and Patricia. Margo is a librarian who has a sordid past but who takes pride in serving her patie- I mean patrons who stop by the circulation desk. In contrast, Patricia, after her first novel fails to be picked up by any publishers, has escaped to Margo's small-town library in hopes to start fresh and put her degree to use. The two women are curious about one another, but this escalates after a patron is found dead in a bathroom stall - and Patricia finds Margo in a compromising position with the body. 

I really enjoyed how work plays such a pivotal role for both characters in how they viewed themselves and those around them. The library as an ecosystem for both parasocial and intimate friendships, brought a lot of humor to what could easily be seen as a mundane setting. My main frustration with the novel was how the alternating perspectives overlapped a tad too much - I thought the use of recapping each perspective was interesting the first time but it quickly grew tiresome as it continued chapter after chapter. 

The ending of this book left me feeling like something was missing. I had more questions than answers and felt like the storyline with the detective was left loose. I almost wish this had been longer, or at least had all facets tied neatly. But maybe that's my inexperience with thrillers???
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I love books about books or librarians. This fit the bill. A great thriller and worth a read. Looking forward to seeing what else the other has in them.
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Nurse Jane struggles with the transition from patients to patrons. Library Clerk Margo is coming unglued. Reference Librarian Patricia is writing it all down- the final scene an effective “pen drop.” 
This library thriller had me burning through pages. I want to simultaneously lend a copy to everyone and hide it in the stacks. I’d you’re ready to be creeped out, check it out.
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Thank you PENGUIN GROUP Putnam, G.P. Putnam's Sons and NetGalley for an ARC of How Can I Help You. 

I loved this dark twisty novel and look forward to reading more from the talented Laura Sims.
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Thank you Laura Sims, PENGUIN GROUP and NetGalley for allowing me to read this ARC e-book. I couldn't put this down. It was a pretty quick read but it was also one that sucked me in from the beginning and no matter what the length I think I would have finished it in one day because I needed to know what was going to happen next. There were two main characters who on their own I would have dreaded reading with but together their cat and mouse game throughout the book kept me hooked and completely invested.
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If you are looking for lovable characters, you will not find them here. That doesn't mean the book is lesser for that. It is a fascinating story and reading things from Margo's point of view is interesting. I do feel that the story ended a bit abruptly, but it was a great read.
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I enjoyed this character study of two twisted women, but it felt like it was missing something, some larger storyline. If you like character driven books about unpleasant people, I'd recommend this, as long as you aren't expecting very much to happen in terms of plot.
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As a library worker, I found the description of this title intriguing and was super excited to dive into it. It did not disappoint! The story is written from multiple perspectives which kept it interesting, and many of the descriptions of difficult patrons were completely accurate. I could relate to the main character, Margo, and felt invested in her story and development, though I do feel like the storyline between Patricia and her boyfriend was unnecessary and didn't lend anything positive to the story. I enjoyed the story overall and was very surprised by the twist at the end! I give it a solid 4.5 stars.

Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Group Putnam for my advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own
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How Can I Help You is an intense thriller in which dysfunctional derangement is on full display! The story has psychological terror which immediately grabs the reader and takes them on an anxiety-ridden ride of shock and alarm.

Margo loves her job as a library assistant in a small town. She fits right in with her co-workers. She has favorite customers, and she enjoys the routine of her life. But Margo is not her real name. You see her real name is Jane, a former nurse who fled the hospital and city she once worked because thanks to another nurse who she thought was her friend, turned her in because she was killing patients.

But she fooled them all! With the change of hair style and color Jane became Margo two years ago quite nicely. She enjoys knowing something no one else does. She does reminisce about the good old days and sometimes at night even relives her conquests, alone, of course. But, during the day, she puts on a happy smile and is a confident, kind employee.

Until…a new librarian named Patricia is hired. Patricia reminds her of her former friend who squealed on her. Margo can’t seem to get Patricia out of her mind. She becomes obsessed with watching Patricia and wondering what she is thinking. She notices Patricia writing all the time in a notebook and can’t imagine what she could be jotting down.

As for Patricia, she left her fiancée and moved to start a new life. Her hopes of a writing career dashed when the novel she had written was turned down by everybody. So, she’s done with that and decided to try her hand at being a librarian. But being one in a small town in not exactly what she imagined. It’s a great deal of answering phone calls about foolish things such as can you give me the number of the nearest sub shop or where can I get a skirt tailored. Not exactly what she thought she’d be doing.

And Margo catches Patricia’s eye. She can’t figure her out. She seems lovely, but sometimes she sees as she bends down to patrons and whispers to them. They seem to get nervous. What could she be saying? Fascinated, she begins to write down her thoughts on Margo. The more she writes, the more she needs to know about Margo’s life.

Something in Margo changes with Patricia there. An urge she thought she had under control. Then someone dies suddenly in the bathroom and Patricia sees Margo over the body, which begins what seems to be a horrible game between the two women.

As Margo begins to spin out of control, quite noticeably to her boss and the other workers, Patricia creates a scenario of Margo, what she thinks she might be up to. But all this seems to excel the cat and mouse game they both are playing with each other.

The only question…who will win the game? Which one will survive?

The story told by the viewpoints of both Margo and Patricia is a fascinating take on dysfunctional behavior, the justification and the thoughts which go along with logic of their deeds and actions.

How Can I Help You will play with your mind in this deeply sinister story with an even eviler ending.

Thank you #NetGalley #G.P.Putnam’sSons #HowCanIHelpYou #LauraSims for the advanced copy.
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In the library's shadows, a sinister past resurfaces - buckle up for Laura Sims' gripping psychological ride!

Book Information

“How Can I Help You”, written by Laura Sims, is a 256-page mystery/thriller published on July 18, 2023. Sims is a critically acclaimed author and award-winning poet. She is also a part-time librarian, which seems appropriate for this book. Someone should keep an eye on her……

Thank you to the Penguin Group Putnam for providing me with an advanced readers copy of this book for review.


In a small-town public library, Margo works as a seemingly ordinary and friendly middle-aged woman, keeping her dark past hidden from everyone. Once a nurse responsible for numerous unexplained deaths, Margo has chosen to start afresh, finding solace in the library and suppressing her old urges. However, Patricia, a recent graduate, and struggling writer, joins the library staff and senses an unsettling aura around Margo. Intrigued, Patricia begins investigating Margo's past, becoming increasingly obsessed despite the dangers it may entail. As the mystery unravels, the library's peaceful facade shatters and Patricia finds herself in a perilous pursuit of the truth.

My Thoughts

Laura Sims' "How Can I Help You" is a unique psychological suspense novel that revolves around two women, each harboring their own obsessions. The narrative is written in five parts, with alternating first-person perspectives from both protagonists, adding depth and complexity to the storytelling. It’s an intricate tale of secrets and suspense.

At the outset, the book read a bit slow for me, but as the main characters gradually uncover each other's secrets, the pace picks up, leading to a suspenseful and sometimes macabre cat-and-mouse dynamic. The tension between them remains throughout, as they grapple with the blurry line between friendship and enmity.

Sims' writing style is engaging. However, I found the ending slightly underwhelming. It seemed rushed to me, especially after significant build-up. The book also leaves loose ends untied. Additionally, the narrative occasionally becomes repetitious, primarily due to spending a significant portion of the book inside just two characters' inner thoughts.

While labeled as a mystery/thriller, I felt like "How Can I Help You" leaned more heavily into the realm of psychological suspense. The plot centers on the gradual revelation of the characters' psychological intricacies rather than a conventional mystery. The intrigue lies in when one woman will finally decipher the secrets that the other holds.

Overall, "How Can I Help You" is a thought-provoking and intense read, offering sometimes disturbing exploration of the human psyche. Fans of psychological thrillers will appreciate the depth of characterization and the enigmatic dance between the two women.


With its unique narrative structure and skillful portrayal of obsessions, "How Can I Help You" will keep fans of psychological thrillers engaged until the very end. Recommended.


3 Dewey Decimal Stars
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Thank you Laura Sims, PENGUIN GROUP Putnam, G.P. Putnam's Sons and NetGalley for this fun ride! 

We follow along with Margo who was a former nurse obsessed with helping her patients, only what Margo considers "helping" is definitely against the law and something that would make me run for the hills. She has a dark past that she's trying to leave buried, she up and leaves her former life and starts new. She's a librarian with a bunch of unique patients... I mean patrons.. ;) Everything is going smoothly until Patricia shows up one day looking for a job... both of their lives will change forever. Will Patricia uncover who Margo really is? Will Patricia be her next victim? 

Guess you better start reading if you want to know! 

I really enjoyed this book, I always love me some dual POV! The main characters were unlikeable but I feel like that was on purpose. If you are in a reading slump or if you just want to read something that is fast and will keep you engaged the whole time then pick this book up!
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How Can I Help You by Laura Sims is a dark and twisted psychological thriller that disturbed and shocked me, and I loved it for that!

How Can I Help You is a short thriller in page numbers but not in any way short in story? It's like a Poe tale in that way. It has layers and layers of meaning and mental disturbance that culminates in an ending that I never saw coming.

The story starts in a way that is very atmospheric and slow-burn. Still, by the 50% mark (only about 125 pages in), the speed drastically picks up as events escalate. Since it is a short story, the slower pace of the first half didn't bother me as much as it usually would.

There is not really a mystery to solve. However, you follow Patricia as she tries to solve the case of Margo's identity before she comes to the town and library, which is very interesting to follow. I saw at least one review that called it a cozy mystery, and it is definitely not a cozy mystery – not even close. It's every inch a psychological thriller – one of the most genuine psychological thrillers that I've read in a while.

Patricia's almost obsessive fascination with Margo and finding writing inspiration in her is a very intriguing aspect of the story, too. That is where I could see the Poe-ness coming out.

Margo, a nurse turned librarian, and Patricia, a writer, work at a small community library they chose for the peaceful small-town atmosphere. They both are strategically developed, which is a standout aspect of the story.

The narration is in first person and told mostly by Margo though Patricia also gets to tell part of the story. This is the perfect narration because, above all else, you also must figure out how reliable these narrators are, particularly Margo.

The setting really is very well utilized. It's a small town a few hours outside of Chicago, and it felt very authentic in its small town-ness.

Read if you're in the mood for:
Cat and mouse games
True psychological thrillers
Poe-type tales
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Many thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Group Putnam for gifting me a digital ARC of this short thriller by Laura Sims - 5 stars!

Margo has been working in a small public library for two years.  No one knows that in the past she was a nurse, accused of causing patient deaths, moved, and changed her name.  She's happy now in the library until Patricia, a young woman hired to be the research librarian, shows up.  Patricia is escaping her own past - a failed novelist and a not-so-happy relationship back in Chicago.  When a library patron dies and Patricia sees something wrong, she begins investigating Margo and using her story to fuel her writing.

Told from the dual perspectives of Margo and Patricia, we get to learn of both women's inner thoughts and actions, as well as their interactions as they dance around each other.  I love when a book shows us the same scene from different views.  As a book lover, all the inner happenings in the library and book references just added to the enjoyment.  This was a twisty, fun book that I read in one sitting.
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This book was wild start to finish. It has amazing characters and engaging the whole time. Masterful storytelling for sure.
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Thank you NetGalley and Penguin Group Putnam for the opportunity to read and review this arc. This was a very slow burn that I didn’t hate but I also didn’t find myself completely hooked to either. I had put it down several times because it couldn’t keep my attention. 
I do love a mystery and needed to keep reading to find out the ending. I loved that Margot had the secret and was always suspicious of others figuring her out. 
Margot left her job as a nurse in Chicago after creating many suspicions that bad things were happening to her patients under her watch.
Now pretending to be a librarian she has started her life over and seems to take pride in her work as she moves on from her past. Until Patricia arrives.
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When Margo has to suddenly leave her nursing job, she eventually ends up at the Carlyle Public Library, a Carnegie-built library in a small Illinois farming community. She's good at her job, even if she's not a reader, and in the library's calm embrace, she hopes to leave her past behind. Patricia spent years working on her novel, only to find that no one is willing to publish it. She decides to give up writing and fall back on her MLS degree and work as a reference librarian, changes that delight her boyfriend. What doesn't delight him is her decision to take a job hours away from their Chicago apartment, but she is secretly pleased to have a place for herself as she figures out her adjustment to a life without writing. But a lifelong habit is hard to break, Patricia's job is boring and before long she's fascinated by one of the other library staff, a tall woman with an air of authority, which reignites her love of writing and she imagines stories with Margo as her main character. But closely observing her, she's seeing something troubling about Margo.

This novel features two main characters, one increasingly unpleasant and the other increasingly willing to slide into gray areas in service to her curiosity. Novels that fall into that odd genre of the literary thriller often fail to deliver on plot, but Sims keeps things moving at a satisfying pace. She writes well, especially the parts told from Margo's point of view, never falling into the trap of withholding information from the reader that is known to the narrator, while maintaining a sense of tension. There are some predictable beats, but the story holds together through the end. As much as can be said about a story involving murders, this was a lot of fun.
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