Cover Image: How Can I Help You

How Can I Help You

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Member Reviews

What could be better than a library circulation clerk who is also a serial killer? Margo has carefully crafted a new persona--middle-aged library employee who (usually) gets along with everyone and is skilled at handling difficult patrons. 

When Patricia is hired to fill the long-vacant reference librarian position, the equilibrium in the small-town library is disturbed. She is surprised by the ridiculous nature of the questions she's asked to answer (what time is a television show on? How many miles to a city?), and she soon starts using her spare time to resume fiction writing, the career she'd given up to become a librarian.

And with the death of a longtime patron, Patricia sees another side of Margo, and begins her own investigation while a local detective also takes interest in the seemingly benign circ clerk.

This novel is so delightfully weird, I loved it. Told in alternating points of view, with neither Patricia nor Margo as a reliable narrator, and neither particularly likable. I'll be keeping a closer eye on library staff the next time I check out a book. #HowCanIHelpYou #NetGalley
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I absolutely loved it! It’s a fun and effortless read. Two narrators. One has a dark past and the other has a bleak future. Both caught in a web of lies that neither can turn back from. With a twist I didn’t see coming. This was my first by this author but won’t be my last.
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Loved this book! I am a fan of Laura Sims work, both her other novel LOOKER and her collections of poetry. This book is fun, scary, swerving narrative that captured my attention.
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I quite enjoyed this book, with the setting in a public library.

The book is told from two points of view, we start with Margo who turns out just reinvented herself from being Jane, who decided that working in a sleepy town public library was perfect for her. She gets the job and as long as she has her scalding hot bath every evening things are going well, forgetting about Jane and what she did as a nurse.

One day in comes Patricia, filling the 12-year empty reference desk position. Patricia reminds Margo too much of her ex-nurse friend Donna and that rattles Margo. Things escalate when a patron is found in the bathroom stall near death.

It isn’t such a sleepy library after all.
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Lots of laugh out loud moments for this librarian! I enjoyed the duel narrators and the building of both characters. Was not expecting the ending.
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Margo Finch has left her old life in the rearview mirror. Once a nurse who cared deeply for her patients, she’s now a library assistant – not that anyone can tell the difference between her and the town of Carlyle’s actual librarians. Working in a library is significantly different from her old job, and different too from the libraries of her youth. Shushing patrons is frowned upon, her boss tells her, as modern libraries seek to be a gathering place for the communities they serve.

Since Margo is as adaptable as she is competent, she quickly puts aside her old ideas and learns how to become the perfect library employee. Her unflappability makes her the go-to person when her co-workers aren’t sure how to handle a difficult patron. She’s had a lot of experience remaining calm under pressure from her hospital work, after all:

[C]haos could erupt from the heart of this quiet, too; suddenly I’d find myself standing by a patient’s bedside as commotion descended: hurried footsteps, shouted directions. I stayed calm, soothing the forehead or hands of a struggling one, shushing them gently, steadily handing this or that to the doctor while keeping my eyes locked on the terrified eyes. I’d show them my shining face and my beatific smile and they clung to it, hung their souls onto it, and sometimes they gripped my arms with their wasted claws and literally held me, and I let them. They needed me. I was their living, breathing saint: their nurse.

Working in a library definitely isn’t the same, but Margo is happy enough with her life change. Until, that is, glamorous new hire Patricia Delmarco arrives to shake up the place.

Margo is instantly drawn to her newest co-worker, who reminds her of friends long ago left behind. Patricia feels a reciprocal attraction but is more standoffish. She has, after all, just abandoned her entire life in Chicago to come work in small town Carlyle. Reeling from her decision to close the door – or, perhaps more fittingly, drawer – on an important part of her existence, she’s leery of forming new connections. A strange incident in the library bathroom gives her a small but crucial insight into Margo’s past, however, sparking a closeness both women at once crave and fear.

Intrigued as well as well-armed with her master’s in library science, Patricia starts to investigate her new co-worker, pursuing Margo’s truth even as the two women begin to bond. She’s thus understandably horrified to discover that Margo is wanted for questioning in a string of hospital deaths. But she’s also intrigued, as a desire she thought she’d been able to snuff out slowly rekindles within her:

I have a story now–or a story <i>has me</i>. Without willing it, I see my character sketches and notes cohere around a central spine: Margo as a killer nurse, living a camouflaged life. Determined not to kill again, but tempted, so tempted sometimes.

She’s a character in a book. <i>My</i> book. And like that, I acknowledge it. <i>I am writing a book</i>. I don’t deny or shy away from it this time. I can’t. How can I deny a story like this? One with such power and potential momentum?

I don’t think for one moment, <i>I should go turn her in. I should call the police.</i> Or–I think it, but I bat it away.

Soon enough, the two women embark on a cat and mouse game, grappling with the truth as each sees it and trying to pry open each other’s secrets. When the tension becomes too high, someone else has to die. But that’s only the first murder, as Margo and Patricia head for a showdown that promises destruction, more death and, perhaps, a terrible form of rebirth.

How Can I Help You? is a compelling take on the complicated relationship between author and muse, as well as the ethics of writing fiction. Told from the alternating viewpoints of Margo and Patricia, this book explores the power inherent in the acts of nursing both people and ideas. I only wish that more of each character’s back stories had been explored. Tantalizing hints are dropped throughout the novel, but deeper explanations would have really driven the impact home.

That said, this is an absorbing, fast read about the dark sides of care work and public service. If you’ve ever wanted a book that riffs with literary inventiveness on the “kill your darlings” advice often given to authors, then this suspenseful novel with an ending worthy of a horror story is definitely the read for you.
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I made it past the half way mark and called it quits. This one just didn't hold my interest. The two main characters were too odd in a creepy kind of way for me. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
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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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