Cover Image: The Archivist

The Archivist

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Member Reviews

This book has such an interesting premise and I was so intrigued but then realized it was almost 800 pages! 
No thank you.
Thank you to Netgalley and the Publisher for the opportunity to read and review this title. All opinions and mistakes are my own.
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A great plot idea but I could not connect with the characters enough to care about what happened. This may work for others but not me.
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This was a great book and I am sad at how unknown it seems to be. The author wrote strong female characters and the plot really held my attention.
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I really enjoyed this book. It was a slow burner and I took a very long time to finish it, but once I got about a third of the way through it really began to pay back my effort to stick with it and I couldn’t put it down. 

Will definitely be recommending to friends and colleagues.
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The Archivist
By Rex Pickett



Archivist Emily Snow is driving down the coast on her way to Regents University Memorial Library in San Diego California to complete the job of organizing the papers of Raymond West, a famous Pulitzer Prize winning author.  Her predecessor Nadia Fontaine had died in an apparent surfing accident several months earlier.  The temporary position is a fabulous opportunity but comes with lots of pressure.  

The job must be completed quickly, since West has just been shortlisted for the Nobel Prize. West’s wife, a philanthropist is also about to donate $25 million to the renovate the eighth floor of Library.  The donation and the papers will be revealed at a gala set in just a few months,   But as the meticulous Emily begins the archival process she notes that several documents have gone missing from the collection.  In her search for the missing documents and her perusal of the “dark archives” she uncovers extremely personal correspondence between West and Nadia as well as a book they seemed to have authored together.  The correspondence leads Emily to believe that Nadia’s drowning may not have been the accident everyone believes.  So what should she do now…

THE ARCHIVIST is a multi-layered murder mystery that librarians and book lovers might just adore. The setting, suspense and ethics of the archival process are primed and ready to draw you in like a moth to a flame. 

The story is a long one at 700 pages and it occasional gets bogged down in minutia.   While the writing is descriptive at points it’s a little much.  The opening chapter has Emily driving down the California Coast Highway and at times I didn’t think she, nor I would ever make it to her destination.  

Emily’s character is rather quirky because of a selective sound sensitivity affliction know as misophonia.  A barking dog, ticking clock, or dinging elevator  drives her to distraction, frustration, and at times, even rage. As a result she has gravitated to the seemingly quiet of libraries.  She is also so meticulous and will leave no document untouched or unfound. She’ll accept no help and must be in total control of her project, and is quite rough around the edges when dealing with co-workers.   

Author Rex Pickett skillfully transports us into the archive files and has woven   Emily and Nadia’s experiences into a dramatic high stakes tale.  Pickett is an American novelist best known for his his novel Sideways.  

Thanks to Netgalley and Blackstone Publishing for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Publisher    Blackstone Publishing
Published   November 9, 2021     	     
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This library is not a haven of books but a repository of deception, betrayal, and murder

“The Archivist” has the tension of a tale of international espionage, but these things happen within the intellectually-safe cocoon of a library. Who would think that murder, treachery, and breach of trust could happen in such a nice, quiet, educational place?  The initial premise seems so wonderfully academic ― a famous, prolific, and potentially “Pulitzer Prize-winning” author is donating his archives to Regents University, but what follows is fodder for the tabloids. 

The story unfolds in the first-person narrative of Emily Katherine Snow, the archivist assigned to organize and document this collection. She is a consummate professional, and this is her chance to advance her career. This gift of superb academic materials will allow the university to show itself off to the world. However, what Snow finds is not a storehouse of literary excellence but a repository of deeply hidden secrets. Her conservation of academic pieces turns into an erupting volcano of information concerning clandestine meetings, dark archives, trauma, betrayal, and murder. She also uncovers a bombshell ― an unpublished manuscript that if published, could have monumental consequences. 

Pickett’s descriptive style enhances the tense atmosphere. Sensory images are everywhere; waves crack like whips in the early morning; events take form like a photo developing in a darkroom, and thoughts run away like cockroaches skittering in the light. The library is no longer an oasis of serenity, but instead, it has become a stormy world of suffering, salaciousness, secrets, and seduction.

“The Archivist” is a tale of intensity, paranoia, and fraud. Each page reveals new dishonesty and deception. I received a review copy of “The Archivist” from Rex Pickett, and Blackstone Publishing. The book is like a set of Russian nesting dolls, one is opened to reveal another, and another, and yet another.
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I’ve never written a review this short and to the point: an incredibly ponderous read. Overwritten. Really had to force myself to stick with the story.
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Really hard to get through. Dragging on details and very slow moving, which is hard to do these days with books. Thanks to Netgalley for the free copy in exchange for an honest review
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I finished this book weeks ago and have had difficulty articulating--or even deciding--how I feel about it. I've been an archivist for nearly 30 years and can't separate what I think about Pickett's portrayal of archivists and the archival profession from my thoughts on the story itself. But, really, both are a bit overdone.

Emily Snow is hired as a three-month project archivist to complete the processing of prominent author and English professor Raymond West's papers after forty-one-year-old archivist Nadia Fontaine died before completing the project. Emily gave up the standing offer of a position with the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas for a three-month project position (which explains why archivist jobs are so hard to find right now--institutions are keeping positions vacant). West's wife, Elizabeth, is a very wealthy woman in her own right who wields her wealth as a weapon--and the director of the department will do anything to please her largest donor.

Emily soon suspects the collection has been sanitized and is ruthless in her pursuit of missing items--mainly, a lengthy email correspondents between Nadia and Raymond, and a handwritten book manuscript they wrote together.

As Emily gets closer to finding out what really happened to Nadia, her own life is endangered (to say nothing of her career as she seems determined to piss off her bosses).

Rex Pickett is a very successful author and screenwriter. Who am I to criticize his writing or plotting? He clearly tried very hard to get details about the profession right, with mixed results. (I can't even begin to understand why "processing" involves comparing a completed, item-level finding aid with the collection itself). But he's just so heavy-handed--from Emily pulling a copy of the SAA Code of Ethics for Archivists from her wallet (where all archivists carry theirs) to the incessant reminders that Nadia was an SAA fellow (yawn) to Emily's frequent generalizations about what archivists do (hint: they definitely don't do a lot of the things she does. And certainly now what Nadia did). However, as a result of reading this book, "I'm going to archive the shit out of that collection" is my new, go-to sentence. 

What this is: a decent, if way overlong, suspense novel. It may make the archival profession more visible to the general public, but I doubt it and kind of hope not. I've long been interested in the fetishization of archives, and this may feed into that. But--thank goodness--a lot of what takes place in this book never happens in real archives. Let me get back to archiving the shit out of some collections. #TheArchivist #NetGalley
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After loving Sideways, I knew I had to read this one too! The suspense is palpable and kept me reading at a frenzied pace. Emily is the new archivist in San Diego and is assigned to the famous Raymond West whose writing is revered. Seems simple enough...but what Emily discovers is that her predecessor, Natalie died under mysterious circumstances and nothing is what it appears to be--even the author West himself. So as she catalogues his work for posterity, she is aware that his wife has given quite a large sum of money to the university so everything needs to be clear-cut and straight-forward...but of course nothing ever is. There are suspicious papers (some hidden) that Emily wishes to read but everyone seems to be clueless as to where they reside. So just enjoy the journey as you won't figure this one out until the final pages, but it's worth the rollercoaster ride!
Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!
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The Archivist
By Rex Pickett
Blackstone Publishing, 9 October 2021

“Twisting slowly like a tourniquet, The Archivist turns into a suspenseful murder mystery with multiple and intersecting layers. Not just a whodunit, it is also a profound meditation on love, privacy, and the ethics of destroying or preserving materials of a highly personal nature.”

Indeed, this book is a lot of things, some of them are even good.

I chose this book because I’m an archivist and I wanted to see how the author portrayed the profession. For the most part, I have no complaints in that area, although I do need to say a couple of things. Archives, at least the areas where archivists work, are not kept at a temperature of 58 degrees. About 70 degrees is the norm. Also, archives are not kept at zero humidity. Too little humidity is detrimental to documents, as is too much humidity. Around 50% or so is optimal.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s talk about the story. I had trouble getting into the book at first and I didn’t particularly like Emily in the beginning. I just didn’t get her, and that likely is due to how her character was written in the beginning. I also didn’t understand why the author was using such a pretentious writing style. Did he have one hand on a thesaurus the entire time he was writing?
Once Emily arrived at the archives and started to work on her project, I started to understand her and I got somewhat more interested in the story. When it turned into a whodunit, I finally started to enjoy the book and became completely invested in the outcome. Still pretentious, but interesting.

Bottom line, I both disliked and loved this book. I enjoyed the archives setting and thought the discussion about “dark archives” was fun. The Archivist has issues, but I enjoyed the mystery aspect and it became a book I couldn’t put down until I knew whodunit.

Thanks to NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing for the free ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I received a copy of this book for review from NetGalley. Let me begin by stating that I am a library cataloger who , while not an archivist, does all of the cataloging for a university archive. I chose this book because I thought it would be a fun take on the profession, and it was....not. I actually could not finish the book. I felt the depiction of the profession to be unrealistic, the main character was extremely hard to relate to, and while this book was billed as a thriller, it felt like the author was trying too hard to write Literary Fiction. I don't know a single archivist who would ever keep a copy of the code of ethics folded up in their wallet like a love letter, and the idea that a 27 year old archivist could have her choice of positions in a notoriously difficult job market was enough to put me on edge, but the pacing of the book is what finally killed it for me. This book is almost 800 pages, and it felt like I had to slog through what I did read. If the author's style is more your cup of tea, then your mileage may vary, but this was not for me.
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Wow!  If readers begin Rex Pickett’s The Archivist with the preconceived notion that archivists lead dull, sedentary jobs sorting and cataloguing documents, they will be surprised to find themselves reading into the late night, perched on the edge of their seats, rapidly turning pages.

Pickett opens with a late 2017 news article from the San Diego Union-Tribune, identifying a drowning victim as Nadia Fontaine, archivist at Regents University Memorial Library, the person recently in charge of processing the papers of Pulitzer-prize author Raymond West.

Following the news item, Pickett fast forwards to August 3, 2018.   Emily Snow, 27, from small-town Massachusetts, has just left her job at San Francisco’s Pacific Film Archive for a three-month stint as project archivist in charge of completing the processing of Raymond West’s papers.  As California burns around her, Emily drives from San Francisco to San Diego, listening to the audiobook of West’s novel Lessons in Reality, which she views as “charting in hypnotic prose the interior landscape of a young man who yearned for experience but was thwarted by failure.”  Sensing a kindred spirit, she thinks about her own career moving from one temporary project to another and wondering if she chose archival work because of its solitude that proves “to be a bulwark to the inevitable disappointment of intimate relationships.” 

Emily further wonders if a future archivist might someday care as much about immortalizing her life and work, preserving her legacy, as she has cared for famous writers’ legacies during time at the University of Texas and as she is about to do again with the legacy of Raymond West.    

Once on the job, Emily learns that Elizabeth West, the author’s wife, is paying for the archival work and has pledged to donate $25 million, which the library plans to use to renovate the 8th floor, turning it into a stunning money-maker that can be rented out for high-dollar events.

A conscientious archivist striving to do thorough work, Emily finds herself looking for her predecessor’s private archival records that haven’t been made available to her. She also determines to find a way to access Regents University’s  “dark archives,” online records of documents, photos, and videos that she knows various archives keep but, for one reason or another, deem inappropriate for public access.

Digging for letters, manuscripts, and memorabilia that hadn’t been provided to her, Emily realizes, violates the archivists’ code of ethics.  Although she tells herself she should stop, the more she learns, the more obsessed she becomes with the lives of Raymond West and Nadia Fontaine.  She determines to learn the full story, to know the truth about Nadia’s death. Not only does Emily’s delving into hidden materials jeopardize her job, it could mean the university’s loss of Elizabeth West’s $25 million donation, for the volatile Elizabeth appears to be behind the missing or disappearing materials.    

To compound Emily’s growing ethical problems, she has secrets of her own that put her psychological well-being at risk.  

Several graphic sex scenes will bother some readers; personally, I found them excessive although one could argue they serve a plot function.   While some readers may choose to skim or skip those scenes, the overall plot line should grab and hold nearly everyone’s attention as readers wonder what Emily will do next, how she will solve her increasing ethical dilemma, what the truth is behind the drowning of her predecessor Nadia Fontaine, what characters should be trusted or feared, and what dangers lurk outside Emily’s library cubicle.

My thanks to NetGalley and to Blackstone Publishing for an advance reader copy of this recommended thriller.
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I actually enjoyed the in the weeds info about the profession of archiving. However, the detail bogs down the pace here, which is crucial in a thriller, I think.
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The Archivist taught me a lot about the nuances of the job of archivist, from organizational skills, to moral dilemmas of whether or not to censor private papers, correspondence and relationships.  The descriptions of the part politics played in working in a competitive funding based library were spot on!  I loved how the relationships between the current and former archivist and the subject of their research, Raymond West, developed.  However,  there seemed to be much emphasis on finding alternate, eloquent wording,  and the same "voice" seemed to be ascribed to each of the 3 main characters, which I found confusing and slowed down the story-line. I'm a word lover, but even this was too much for me.  It made the reading slow, and while it normally takes about 6 hours for me to read a good thriller, I looked down at 30% through the book and saw I had 21 hours to go, at which point I abandoned the book.  I may still return to finish it because the story had so much potential. 

Thanks to NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing for an advance reader's copy.
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As Emily starts to make sense of her predecessor's work and assess what still needs to be done, though, she notices that several items that should be in the collection are missing. But why? Were they simply mislaid, and if so, where? Or were they deliberately removed, and if so, why? Aided in secret by her closest friend at the library, Joel, Emily gains access to what's called the "Dark Archives" - and tumbles headlong into evidence of a torrid love affair between Raymond and Nadia. That puts Emily in sleuth mode, trying her best to get to the truth about the missing papers and Nadia's untimely death.

At almost every juncture, she gets pushback from the library powers-that-be, all of whom seem intent on stopping her from throwing a monkey wrench into the plans for the library makeover and embarrassing the college and Raymond's wealthy wife even though they have no idea how much she's already learned. Even Emily isn't totally sure what it all means, but she's convinced that no matter how the chips fall, Nadia's story - as recorded by both Nadia and Raymond - needs to be made public despite the family's wishes. That, in turn, brings Emily's ethics into serious question and, ultimately, threatens to destroy not only her career, but her very life.

In the interest of full disclosure - and other readers' sensitivities - I will note that the book has plenty of graphic sex (culled from Nadia's super-detailed accounts of her trysts with Raymond). Also, I'll hope that Moleskine and Societe paid for the extensive product placement (if they didn't, the companies darned well should ante up for all those mentions). I'd also concede that the story could have been told in fewer pages by leaving out what some might deem irrelevant details (such as descriptions of clothing, where and what a character ate and drank). From my perspective, though, those details help shape the story and add substantially to character development (in other words, I'm fine with it). Finally, I think this could be a great motion picture or, maybe even better, a TV series.

All that comes together to make a very enjoyable, thought-provoking and at times scary tale I'm really glad I took the time to read. Many thanks to the publisher, via NetGalley, for giving me the opportunity to read and review a pre-release copy.
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The book’s blurb is enticing. However, the writing is inconsistent at times, almost ponderous. Basically, The Archivist contains two stories, connected by the principals’ connection with Raymond West.  The mystery’s plot is well-conceived but weighed down by excessive verbiage. As a result, the Archivist is a long and challenging read.
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There are almost two plot lines in the book; first the murder and second the research and discovery of the facts regarding the murder. While the murder is well plotted, that plot gets lost in the ponderous writing and the lengthy narration of both the story leading up to the murder and the story of it's research. There is an overwhelming use of complex language that slows the reading and the writing is so in-depth that on numerous occasions I just wanted to "get on with it."

The more sexually graphic content seemed unnecessary in a book purported to be a mystery novel. It was more like an attempt at mild erotica wrapped up in a complex mystery story. I found it ponderous, and difficult to maintain my interest. That is unfortunate because the basic plot holds great potential with an excellent twist and reveal that could be entertaining to a straight mystery reader.

Thank you to Blackstone Publishing and Netgalley for providing me with an advance copy for review.
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Emily Snow is a project archivist sent to San Diego's fictional Regents University to work on the papers of Raymond West, a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist and professor at the university. His heiress wife, Elizabeth is donating $25 million dollars to the library as well as Raymond's papers. 
Emily's predecessor, Nadia Fontaine drowned in a supposed accident after being fired for getting too close to her subject. However, she had hidden secrets and she leaves clues for the current archivist.
Emily is trying to do her job but keeps finding inconsistencies and she is drawn into Nadia & Raymond's story which turns out to be dangerous for her. It could jeopardize her job, her reputation, her sanity & even her life. Emily can't quit however until she finds out the truth.
The first part of the book was difficult to get through, The author is very descriptive and uses some serious vocabulary which interrupts the flow of the story. Once you get used to that however, the story is intriguing.
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I tried. I wanted to like this book but I just couldn't and gave up about a third of the way in. It's pompous and over-written. And a prime example of why some men should not write female characters.
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