Murder Off the Page

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 19 Nov 2019

Member Reviews

I note this is the third book in this series.  It does work as a stand-alone read, as the author is kind enough to provide some background as we go along.  Still, I felt as though as I had come to the theater in the intermission before Act Two--I had a lot of catching up to do.

But no mind, I did get up to speed.  Our sleuth is a librarian, Raymond Ambler.  As one might expect, he goes about solving a mystery in logical and organized fashion.  He certainly is met with a puzzling case--starting with the true identity of the second murder victim: just who is she?  At first, she is “Shannon Darling” who seems to have a lot of men friends in bars.  Then, her real name is found: she is Sandra Dean, prominent dermatologist with a husband and daughter.  Ambler gets involved to help his bartender friend McNulty (a character who is central to another series by the same author), but the more Ambler gets into things the less good it appears for his friend.  

This is an intriguing read with twists and turns.  It takes the concerted efforts of Ambler and several colleagues to arrive at a solution, but not before it builds to a really suspenseful ending.

My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing an advance copy to read and review.
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Murder Off the Page is the third of the 42nd St. Library mysteries by Con Lehane. Released 19th Nov 2019 by Macmillan on their Minotaur imprint, it's 336 pages and available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats.

The main protagonist isn't young, tough, or wisecracking. He's a mild mannered librarian with a melancholy background, entangled in a tense custody truce over his grandson with one of the boy's other grandparents. I loved that he wasn't a superhero. The characters are well written, with well plotted motivations and, in some cases, agendas. There's a lot going on: an estranged daughter from a fragile/neglect background whom he meets in the course of his job as a library curator, murder, a "lost weekend" type subplot involving a secondary character (McNulty the bartender) from the other books, a lesser known author whose papers have been donated to the library, and more. Despite so many subplots, the author handled the complex storyline well, and I never felt lost or confused. The murders are bloodless and off-scene. The denouement is tense and action filled and mostly satisfying.

One of the main characters in this book (McNulty) is also the protagonist in his own series of 3 books, making this book a tie-in/crossover. Though I haven't read the tie-in books, this book works well as a standalone. I had read the previous book in this (42nd St. Library) series, but it had been a while; so I effectively read it by itself.


The language in this book is rough (R rated), there's is potentially triggering discussion of sexual background and abuse/abandonment.

Four stars, entertaining, well written, and satisfying.
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Thanks to NetGalley for a free Advance Copy of this book in return for an honest review. I am puzzled as I write this book. A very good plot and a super last 20% of the book, but until that time I felt the book was one of the slowest reads for me this year. Again the plot is very good: A man in shot in his hotel room, and a person who was researching at the public library was seen in that room. Later she herself is murdered in a hotel room in Connecticut. The race is on to find the killer and Librarian, Ray Ambler, is involved as his favorite bartender is the main suspect for both murders. Now this is the 3rd book of the series and I must admit that at times I was lost because the author gives us information that must have been part of the first two books, and do nothing to fill us first time readers in as to much of the background. Because of this I really recommend reading this book after you have read the first two of the series. I have never been involved in police investigations but I cannot believe all the police investigation info that Amblers police friend Mike Cosgrove gives out to him, nor can I fathom how Ambler and his fellow librarian/girlfriend Adele get so much time off. Do they ever work? At the end it says they used all their vacation days in their unofficial investigation of the murders which included multiple trips out of state. The plot and ending was good enough to garner this rating,  but in the future the reader needs more background information and a a better explanation of why police would divulge information to Ray Ambler so he can go off and try to solve the murder.
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Raymond is a librarian working in the crime fiction section of the 42nd street branch of the New York library. Sounds like a nice safe job, to be surrounded by books of the criminal sort.. He works with Adele who is more than just a co-worker. He manages to balance his job, his love life, his family life and his relationships with friends very well.....most of the time, as this new mystery by con Lehane shows us. We meet Raymond in the library delivering some research materials to a woman who, it seems, has no experience in doing research in a library. He has crossed paths with her before, at his favorite haunt, the Library Tavern. It was a memorable encounter on several levels, not the least of which was the fact that she managed to break his very, very new reading glasses. (They are now held together with electrical tape.) One thing leads to another and Raymond is thrust into another murder mystery, this one centering on the mysterious lady in the library and her connection to his friend, bartender Brian McNulty. She was not who she appeared to be, having two very different identities. How does her researching the journals of a mystery writer, Jayne Galloway progress to the death of a man in her hotel room, then her death and Brian in jail, accused of murder? I won't say any more for fear of spoilers slipping out.
This is the third in the series and can easily be enjoyed as a stand alone. The puzzle is full of twists, turns and red herrings and had me engaged to the last page. I hope I don't have to wait too long for book #4.
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Call it 3.75 stars... 

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Con Lehane, St. Martin’s Press, and Minotaur Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

In the latest novel of this series, Con Lehane spins another tale of a dedicated librarian who seems always to be in the line of fire when murder strikes. Raymond Ambler has been working hard within the 42 St branch of New York City’s Library. He remembers a patron coming in and spending hours reviewing a recently donated collection of writings and correspondence of a popular author. He also notices that she has made an appearance at the watering hole of library employees. Shannon Darling is completely different when plied with alcohol, turning into quite the seductress. Brian McNulty is not only a friend of Ambler’s, but also the bartender of this establishment and takes it upon himself to help get Darling back to her hotel room safely. When, a few days later, Ambler learns that his friend has disappeared, he cannot help but worry. McNulty soon reaches out and promises that he is safe, but needs to handle a few things. When the body of a man turns up dead in a hotel room, Darling’s face shows up on the security camera. McNulty admits that he was with her, but refuses to come out of hiding. Ambler begins trying to see if he can determine what’s going on and if the correspondence Darling was reading could have something to do with what is going on. Darling turns up dead and McNulty is the prime suspect, but this is only the beginning. Ambler must try to protect his friend from a likely murder charge while determining what truths he can uncover. Meanwhile, Ambler must juggle issues with his grandson that have come to the surface, as if he did not have enough to keep in order. A murderer is out there and these letters donated to the library could hold all the answers. Lehane does well to keep the series going, even if things got a little busy throughout. Recommended to those who enjoy Con Lehane’s work, particularly this series of library sleuthing.

I remember stumbling on this series when perusing NetGalley a few years ago. The premise was intriguing and the narrative kept me wanting to know a little more. Ray Ambler proves to be an interesting protagonist, keen to work hard at his job and always the unwitting amateur sleuth on a murder investigation. Ambler must worry, as his friend is in the crosshairs of the police for a set of murders that are wrapped in an elusive seat of journals. He must also work hard to balance work and home life, both of which seem to be on shaky ground. Other characters work diligently to complement Ambler throughout the piece, serving their roles effectively as the narrative gains momentum. The story was slightly hokey, but one can expect that when a bumbling librarian is placed in the middle of a murder investigation, much like a Jessica Fletcher character in the 1980s mystery programme. Lehane keeps the story moving effectively and entertains the reader while keeping the characters developing throughout. I’ll surely tune in for the next book, though admit that it is lighter fare in the mystery department. 

Kudos, Mr. Lehane, for a decent third novel. I am eager to see where you take things, as you left a number of crumbs that could be followed.
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Gosh talk about secrets and lies!  Raymond Ambler and his assistant Adele find themselves in the middle of a real mystery when they try to figure out what's happened to his friend Brian McNulty who is the prime suspect in the death of a woman found in a hotel room. Things get really murky when it turns out that the woman had dual identities- Shannon and Sandra.  The former was the woman who appeared and did research in the crime section of the NYPLibrary and who went drinking with McNulty.  The latter was a dermatologist who lived in Connecticut with her family. Ray is an amateur detective, to be sure, but this adds in Mike Cosgrove, an NYPD homicide detective.  I'd not read any of the books in this series so this was a standalone for me and I was fine with it.  Lehane has an interesting concept, good characters, and a nicely twisty plot.  Thanks to the publisher for the ARC.  Although the title etc. suggests a cozy, this is a somewhat more complicated and deep than that genre.
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I think this is the best of the three books so far in this series.

Ray and Adele are in the Library Tavern when they see a woman who appears to be in trouble with a group of men.  Then, the bartender, Brian, rescues her and brings her to a stool near Ray.  Her name is Shannon Darling.  The next day, Shannon comes to the library to study the archives of Jayne Gallaway, a mystery writer.  She doesn't seem like the usual scholar, but Ray helps her.  Shortly thereafter, a man is shot in Shannon's room at the hotel in which she is staying, and Brian and Shannon disappears.  Ray's policeman friend, Mike is on the case, and is determined that Brian is the culprit.  However, Adele and Ray begin their investigation to prove Brian innocent.  Ray soon finds out that Shannon's real name is Dr. Sandra Dean, and she lives in Greenwich, CT, in a large house with her husband Simon Dean and her daughter, Carolyn.  

Sandra's mother left her with a disinterested father when she was young, and her husband is controlling.  She had been trying to more about her mother, Jayne Gallaway, from her diaries.  

Then, Sandra is killed at a hotel in Connecticut, and she had been there with Brian.  Mike has been investigating Sandra's various male friends, but Mike is sure that Brian is the culprit and he is charged and put in jail.  However, his friend Ray is also on the case, and now first investigating the man Sandra's mother ran away with, and finally Sandra's husband Simon.   The book ends with a very exciting showdown.
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Raymond, a librarian in the crime fiction reading room of the 42nd Street Library in New York City, is intrigued by Shannon, a woman using resources in the crime fiction section. Shannon doesn’t appear to be an experienced researcher and it seems she was fibbing during the Special Collections screening interview. Ray and Adele, his friend and co-worker, quickly become immersed in a murder investigation when a body is found in Shannon’s hotel room and she and their friend McNulty disappear, presumably together, implicating them in the murder.   

I love mysteries that center libraries. Ray is very cerebral and I enjoyed that his investigations didn’t turn toward the stereotypical strong-arm, alpha male tactics you see not infrequently in mysteries/thrillers. Mike, a cop, and Adele, have occasional point of view chapters which help round out the story. The storyline involves investigating Shannon’s past/current lovers and there are some misogynistic comments from those characters; I appreciated that Adele’s perspective in particular provided some balance in opposition to that. I also liked the way the book ended, with no one morphing into a superhero as happens too often during book climaxes. 

Although this book can be read as a standalone I believe it would be best to read the series in order to understand the character relationships and backstories.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC. The opinions in this review are honest and my own. #MurderOffThePage #mystery
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My opinions of this book were definitely divided.  Setting, story and mystery clue dropping all got high marks.  Lehane plays fair with his clues, and leaves enough to keep the reader guessing, but doesn’t hide vital information.  My issues were with the female characters who were all emotional and flighty and couldn’t seem to stop crying when they were frustrated.  This decidedly dated treatment of women turned me off throughout the book.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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Another excellent edition to a wonderful series! Full of twists and turns that leaves you wanting more and enjoying each moment until the end when the killer is caught!
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The 42nd Street library in NYC is iconic and my favorite building in all of NYC. The idea of a mystery set here sparked my interest.
The mystery was intriguing and well-paced. I enjoyed the story but I didn’t like the protagonists. Adele is flighty and too emotional for my tastes. Ambler is too indecisive. In all fairness, I haven’t read any other books in this series. Perhaps if I had read the others first I would feel a closer connection to the main characters. 
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher  for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Murder Off the Page is the 3rd book in the 42nd Street Library Mystery series. Ray Ambler is curator of the NY Public Library's Crime Fiction Collection. Along with his trusty assistant, Adele, he often ends up investigating crimes as well as curating the collection.  

This time, a researcher comes in to use the collection, but it seems she is not who she says she is. The woman doesn't really seem to know how to properly research, but spends days gathering information on a particular writer. Later, they come across the same woman drunk in a bar. A friend of Ray's, Bartender Brian McNulty, seems to know the drunk woman and takes her back to her hotel. Later when a dead body is discovered in the room, the woman and McNulty are nowhere to be found. When the woman herself is killed, McNulty is immediately a suspect. Ray and Adele are on the case to solve two murders and to discover facts about the woman's past, plus prove McNulty is not a killer. 

I had to read a couple chapters of this book twice to fully understand the characters. I realize this is because this book is the third in this series.....but the first I have read. I still enjoyed the story very much .... the investigation is complex and interesting! And, it all works into Ambler's specialty -- crime fiction and crime authors. I liked how Lehane worked that into the plot. I think I would have understood the setting and characters a bit better if I had started this series from the beginning. But with careful reading, a reader could jump in at this book and thoroughly enjoy the characters and story. 

The mystery unravels at a nice page. There are plenty of clues, side investigations and suspects to keep the plot interesting. Ray and Adele work together perfectly. 

I enjoyed this story! I am definitely back-tracking to start this series from the first book. Then I will re-read this one with a better understanding of the characters, the Crime Fiction Collection and past events. 

Great book! I'm definitely reading more by this author!

**I voluntarily read a advance review copy of this book from St. Martin's Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**
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This 42nd Street Library Mystery follows Raymond Amber as he tries to clear his friend Brian McNulty, bartender at the Library Tavern, of murder charges.

Shannon Darling attracts Brian’s attention while socializing at the Tavern and then intrigues Raymond when she shows up at the Crime Fiction Collection Room to research mystery writer Jayne Galloway.  Both Raymond and Adele Morgan, in Special Collections, think Shannon is hiding something.  Then a man is found murdered in Shannon’s hotel room and both she and Brian are missing.  Within days, Shannon is found murdered and now Brian is the leading suspect.

On the family front, Raymond wants to help his prison-bound son get a new trial. Raymond has joint custody of his grandson John with his other wealthy grandparents who object to John visiting his dad in prison.

Compared to the first two novels, this book lacks the cogent feel of the earlier works. The mystery plot is confusing at times.  However, the author’s depiction of character relationships, especially those between Raymond and his grandson and between Raymond and Adele, make this a worthwhile read.
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Shannon Darling is a complicated woman who visits New York and goes on a whirlwind of reckless drinking and illicit liaisons with men she met in the cocktail lounges, including the Library Lounge where bartender Brian McNulty works. McNulty goes to help her and ends up in trouble when he's implicated in two murders, including that of Shannon. His librarian friend Raymond Ambler tries to help him by looking into Shannon's life. He learns Shannon led a double life as Dr. Sandra Dean and lived in a gated community in Greenwich with doting husband Simon and a young daughter. She was also the estranged daughter of mystery author Jayne Galloway whose books and memoirs are part of the crime fiction collection that Ambler curates.

I enjoyed the first two books but this one did not work for me at all.

I received an eARC from Netgalley and St. Martin's Press with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read this book and provided this review.
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A little different from my usual genre. I liked the writing style and would read more by this author.
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Librarian Raymond Ambler finds himself involved in another murder case when his friend, bartender Brian McNulty is on the run from the police.  In Murder Off the Page by Con Lehane, Shannon Darling had been doing research at New York Public Library's crime collection and she had been drinking in McNulty's bar. 

One thing stood out about Shannon - she was a different person when she was drinking. Being the kind of guy he is, Brian stepped in when things got out of hand with a couple of his patrons and Shannon. He walked her home and one thing lead to another, but the next day another man is found dead in Shannon's room and she is missing. Brian finds himself an immediate suspect and he disappears as well. 

A review of Murder Off the Page will be posted on MapYourMystery.com on November 11, 2019
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Murder Off The Page, the third book in the series by Con Lehane is a book that keeps you guessing until the very end.

Description: A note from bartender Brian McNulty, Raymond Ambler’s friend, confidant, and sometimes adviser, sets the librarian sleuth off on a murder investigation, one that he pursues reluctantly until a second murder upends the world as he knows it. The second victim is a lady friend of McNulty’s—and the prime suspect is McNulty himself.  As Ambler pursues his investigation, he discovers that the murdered woman had a double life. Her intermittent visits to the city—a whirlwind of reckless drinking and illicit liaisons with men she met in the cocktail lounges—had their counterpart in suburban Fairfield County Connecticut where, as Dr. Sandra Dean, she practiced dermatology and lived in a gated community with a doting husband and a young daughter.  While Ambler looks into the past of Dr. Sandra Dean to understand the murder of Shannon Darling in the present, NYPD homicide detective Mike Cosgrove investigates the men in Shannon Darling’s life. She might have been murdered because she frustrated the wrong man. It could have been a jealous wife. In fact, any number of people might have murdered Shannon Darling. Or, as Ambler suspects, did someone murder Dr. Sandra Dean?  Yet, no matter which way he turns, McNulty emerges as a suspect. Ambler’s dilemma seems insurmountable: Should he keep searching for the truth behind the murders if the deeper he probes, the more evidence he finds that points to the morally rumpled bartender as a murderer?

Raymond Ambler is pulled in to investigate a murder when his bartender friend Brian McNulty asks for his help. He agrees even though he is merely a librarian. The problem is the more he investigates the more the clues point to his friend. Is he guilty? And, to make matters worse, a woman Sandra is murdered next. Detective Cosgrove believes adamantly that McNulty is guilty. Can Raymond figure who is the real killer?

I was provided this book free of charge in exchange for my honest opinion. I definitely give this a 5 star!
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This was a quick read!  I enjoyed the mystery piece of it, as I was looking for something like Agatha Christie.  It's not exactly like her stuff, but still a great story line that kept me guessing.
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Raymond Ambler works at the 42nd Street Library in New York. He drinks at a local bar where Brian McNulty works. One evening Raymond observes a woman drinking alone, surrounded by a group of men who are being quite aggressive. McNulty takes the woman back to her hotel and soon after a man is murdered and Sandra Darling and McNulty take off together. Mike Cosgrove, Raymond's police friend is convinced McNulty killed the man, but Raymond knows his friend better than that. Than Sandra is murdered and McNulty is the prime suspect, again. Raymond has to work to convince the police in both New York and Connecticut that McNulty is innocent. The best part of this series are the relationships: Raymond; Raymond's grandson; McNulty; Raymond's on-again-off-again girlfriend, not to mention his work associates. If you like series set in libraries, this is a good one to follow.
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This is a story about a librarian who dabbles in murder mystery.   She goes to investigate the murder and ends upon a second murder. I love how you keep me guessing who it is. I was shocked at the end. This is the 3rd book in series. And just as good as the other 2. But if you never read this series start with first one.
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