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How Can I Help You

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Member Reviews

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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When Patricia gave up on her dream of writing her novel and moved to the small town of Carlyle to take a job as a research librarian, she was defeated, but she thought she could help people. The library hadn’t had anyone at the research desk for twelve years, but now they have funding, and Patricia is ready for the patrons. She spent a lot of money and energy getting her degree, and she’s ready to answer those research questions. 

Questions about what time a television program comes on that night. Or about how long it would take to drive to a nearby town. Or how to spell words. It’s not exactly how she imagined the job. She needed a fresh start, to get over the idea of being a novelist, not a mind-numbing job that makes her feel dead inside. 

But there is Margo. A librarian who works the circulation desk, Margo is smart and capable and lovely. She can stop the guy who comes in on Fridays to look at porn on the computers as well as the woman who yells at them for trying to charge her for a book that she claims to have left in the book return. She jokes with her fellow librarians, bringing them to tears, and make the patrons feel heard and appreciated. She as even the one to go into the women’s room when a patron was deathly ill and try to help. 

Patricia had gone down to see what was going on and found the other librarians standing outside the bathroom, afraid to go in. For some reason, Patricia pushed the door open and went in, and she found Margo over the woman, clearly trying to help her. Or was she? It had been an awkward embrace that Patricia had walked in on, and later, after the woman had died and Patricia was soothing Margo, Margo said, “I missed it.” 

Patricia thought it was a strange thing for her to say, but it had also been a strange moment. A woman had died. But still, Patricia couldn’t help but wonder about Margo. She started paying attention to the woman. She started writing things down. And soon, almost against her will, Patricia realized she had started writing again, this time about Margo. 

Margo, meanwhile, has secrets. She hadn’t always been Margo. She had been a nurse with a different name. But when she had to leave all that behind, she found herself in Carlyle, pretending to be a librarian named Margo. She liked being Margo. She felt like she was in control. But when Patricia showed up and started writing in her notebook and asking personal questions, Margo felt her control starting to slip away. She did what she could to try to get the feeling back. But just how far would she go to stay Margo, to be the one in control? 

Hoe Can I Help You is a dark tale of friendship between two women who need each other to get what they most in their lives. A twisted cat-and-mouse story told in the voices of the women who are creating their own narratives, this novel is a propulsive thriller about the addictive draw of those without a conscience and the damage they leave in their wake. 

As I was reading How Can I Help You, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Patricia Highsmith (and wonder if the character’s name was a nod to the woman who created The Talented Mr. Ripley) and of Ottessa Moshfegh’s Booker Prize nominated Eileen. It felt like author Laura Sims was playing with us readers the way Margo was playing with everyone, teasing and taunting and laying a trap for us. I know I fell in, mesmerized by these characters and their intricate dance with each other and with their world. I don’t think just anyone can pick this book up and enjoy it. I think it takes a certain dark humor and curiosity about the nature of evil to get hooked liked I did. But if you see yourself in that description, then by all means, dive right in. 

Egalleys for How Can I Help You were provided by G.P. Putnam’s Sons through NetGalley, with many thanks.
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Laura Sims' sophomore novel How Can I Help You is a dual narrative about a psychological game of cat and mouse between two women which is played out in a library. 

Margo is a middle-aged woman who works at a small town library at the circulation desk. She's a doer, she likes projects and to keep busy. She also has a secret past life that she's worked tirelessly to keep hidden - one where she worked as a nurse and left a suspicious trail of premature deaths in her path.

Patricia, a failed writer, is starting work at the library as a reference librarian, except her job is nothing like she expected. People ask her ridiculous questions - what's the weather forecast, the time in England, the number for the dentist. She soon grows bored until the day she finds Margo in a compromising position with a dying patron in the library's bathroom. She can't resist digging into Margo’s past, but will she like what she finds? 


So, I have mixed feelings regarding this book. It's well written with an intriguing premise (I've never read about a murdering librarian before) and the perfectly captured library setting was refreshing. Not to mention, both MCs are unreliable (and unlikeable) narrators. Yet despite the great setup, it doesn't really pay off.  

The majority of the book is spent listening to Margo’s and Patricia's inner thoughts. We hear two versions of each scene and the book very, very quickly becomes repetitive. If there is any suspense, it takes place in their minds, as each wonders if the other has figured out their secret. 

The worst for me was the ending. I was almost finished with the book, when I asked myself "Is anything ever going to happen?" and the next thing I knew the book was over. For such a short book, it was simply rushed. 

How Can I Help You had so much potential and I have so many ideas of where it could have gone. Margo is a fascinating character (perhaps I just love books featuring psychopaths). I wish the novel had focused more on her. 

Thank you to Penguin Group Putnum, Laura Sims, and Netgalley for an advance digital copy. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own and given voluntarily. 

3 stars
Recommended for fans of: 
Psychological Thrillers, Suspense, Mysteries, General Fiction, Women's Fiction
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As a reader, the twists and turns of this book horrified me - as a librarian, I couldn't wait to read the next page and see where the killer combo of Margo and Patricia strayed next!
Margo is a middle-aged, medium height, medium weight woman who happily spends her days at the local library checking out books and providing assistance to the old, the young, and the helpless. But then Patricia is hired to fill the long vacant Reference Librarian position, and throws Margo's precise and boring life into a spin. Because Patricia's job is literally to dive into a mystery and discover all the secrets - the one thing Margo is desperately trying to protect is her sordid past. Because Margo's secret is worth dying for, and struggling writer Patricia is willing to risk her life for the best plotline ever - MURDER!
I just reviewed How Can I Help You by Laura Sims. #HowCanIHelpYou #NetGalley
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I wasn’t expecting what I got.  Instead of two strong characters trying to outwit each other we had two people weirdly obsessed with each other and making a lot of mistakes.  The back and forth between the POVs didn’t hold the tension I hoped it would.  The book was a quick read and not bad for what it was-two obsessive personalities crashing together.
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How could I not enjoy a book about two librarians who play a dangerous game of cat and mouse?

Margo needs a fresh starts and move to a new town, landing a job at the public library. She’s a model employee- friendly, helpful, and capable. Her colleagues and patrons don’t realize Margo is hiding a dark secret. She’s a former nurse who was responsible for the deaths of numerous patients. Margo’s calm and quiet new life is upset when the library hires Patricia, a new reference library. Patricia is also starting over after failing to to get her novel published. After Margo is present at patron’s death, Patricia begins watching Margo closely and digging into her background. What Patricia discovers ignites her passion to write again. What happens when Margo realizes Patricia discovered her secrets and is writing about them? 

This was an entertaining and fast paced read. The women become obsessed with each other as they desperately try to find out each others secrets. It was fascinating to watch Margo desperately try to hang on to the benign personality and life she crafted only to slowly start unraveling after Patricia arrives at the library.
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This is one of my favorite books that I've read this year! The storyline was great and unique! 10/10 highly recommend! Special 'Thank You to the author, publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to read a copy prior to publication in exchange for an honest review.
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short fast read , two women , obsessive in their own ways and fascinated by the other, engage in a cat and mouse game with possible tragic ending. Starts a little slow but builds up to a climax, that while expected in some ways, in other ways, surprising and disturbing. Could there be room in this world for the two of them? is there a way for them to work together or will they destroy each other?
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How Can I Help You was the first book I requested on NetGalley. I was honestly shocked when I was approved and today is finally pub day!

I requested this book because it’s a suspense novel about two librarians that I could not resist! The two MC are both highly unlikeable which just added to the storyline.

Who do you root for?

Middle aged Margo, the librarian who is hiding her true identity as a former nurse who has left several patients prematurely dead? Or nosy Patricia, who is a recent college graduate is also a failed novelist?

Patricia quickly notices Margo’s subtly sinister edge and can’t resist digging deeper to find out about Margo’s mysterious past.

Told in dual POV, I could not put this book down! I wanted to know what Margo was hiding as much as Patricia did. I think the dual POV really added to the storyline, and I think this would be excellent as an audiobook. I think it would just add to the suspense.

I will definitely read more books by this author.

Thank you #netgalley and Penguin Group Putnam for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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3.4. I felt compelled to request this once I saw that it’s about library workers going head-to-head in a cat-and-mouse game, and I enjoyed the authenticity of the library setting—it seems like Laura Sims did some research because reference librarians do, in fact, get questions like “what time is my show on tonight?”. I found Patricia to be pretentious, though I understand some of her thoughts and feelings about working with the public, so that made me root for Margo more despite her, uh, criminal tendencies. The tension between the two women is decent, but I thought some of the thriller aspects could have been fleshed out more, and the ending feels lackluster compared to the buildup.
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How Can I Help You by Laura Sims is a dark and suspenseful psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the very end. The novel follows two women, Margo and Patricia, who become dangerously intertwined when Patricia joins the library staff where Margo works. Margo is a former nurse with a dark past, and Patricia is a failed novelist who is drawn to Margo's mysteriousness. As Patricia gets closer to Margo, she begins to suspect that there is more to her than meets the eye.

The novel is told in alternating first-person chapters from the perspectives of Margo and Patricia. This allows the reader to get inside the minds of both women and understand their motivations. Margo is a complex and fascinating character. She is charming and charismatic, but she is also manipulative and dangerous. Patricia is a sympathetic character who is drawn into Margo's web of lies. She is desperate to find out the truth about Margo, even if it means putting herself in danger.

The novel is full of suspense and twists. The reader is never quite sure what to expect, and the ending is both shocking and satisfying. How Can I Help You is a must-read for fans of psychological thrillers. Thank you to Netgalley and Putnam Books for the chance to review this advance copy.
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I wasn't caring enough about this read to finish it unfortunately :( at first I was intrigued by this dual personality / librarian vs nurse identity. about 20% of the way through though I just lost interest and couldn't complete this read. thank you to netgalley for the advanced copy.
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