Cover Image: The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections

The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

While it is not the most quick-paced books I have ever read, I did really enjoy the peek behind the scenes in the world of academic libraries and the management of their collections. The book was well written and researched. I was surprised in a way when the culprit was named, I expected it to be someone else. This is a great book for anyone interested in the inner workings of a library or the world of book collecting.
Was this review helpful?
An enjoyable book about books that is fun to read and well crafted. The mystery plot is lacking but overall a fun book to read,
Was this review helpful?
Love this book! As a Librarian, a lot really hit home for me, but any reader of this book will appreciate the characters, the nuances of the storyline and the mystery of the story.
Was this review helpful?
Unfortunately this was a DNF (did not finish) for me. Bad relationships all around plus a mystery I just wasn't that into made this very difficult for me to become invested. Maybe just the wrong book at the time, but there was no draw to make me attempt it again.
Was this review helpful?
Interesting insight into the world of academia and the competition for funds.  Good mystery. There were some details in the setting that made it seem more American than British.
Was this review helpful?
I'm pretty sure all booklovers love books about books! 

What a journey this book was! A beautiful mix of mystery, drama, laughter, and tears. This book follows Liesl, a woman who has worked for many years, quietly in the background at the University's rare books library. But when her boss suffers a stroke, Liesl is appointed in his place to acting director for the library. But just when she is put into power, she discovers that a recent and prized possession of the library has gone missing. Lisel is stuck - does she notify the authorities regarding the missing piece and risk the reputation of herself and the library, or does she take matters into her own hands in order to keep up the facade of a perfect, prestigious library full of priceless collections. 

On the surface, this is a mystery novel. But underneath are layers of power, belonging, trust, forgiveness, and suffering. Liesl has worked in this library, with these people, for years. It's all she knows. But when she begins to uncover the mystery of the missing manuscript , she learns more about her fellow booklover co-workers and the layers of each of their lives that are unraveled throughout the process. 

A few things I did enjoy:
- Learning about how old & rare books are brought in and taken care of in a library
- Seeing the politics involved in this job (give the donors everything and anything they want)
- The dynamic of how people respond to a woman filling a man's shoes in a position of power 

This book is a bit long & it took me a long time to get through. However, I did read it as an e-ARC, and I struggle with reading e-books immensely. I can't pay attention the same way as I do with a hard copy. With that being said, I can't wait to pick up a hard copy of this book when it comes out (January 25th, 2022)!

Thank you to NetGalley for the e-ARC!
Was this review helpful?
This definitely a book for book lovers, bibliophiles, and anyone who's found the library to be a sanctuary. The mystery is well-written, and while it does take a while to feel for the protagonist, this is still something any bookworm will be able to enjoy and relate to. The mystery at the heart of the novel is just icing on the cake.
Was this review helpful?
First impressions can be deceiving.  When we first meet Liesl, she is a temporary, awkward head librarian replacing a beloved administrator who had a stroke.  Her specialty is rare books, and she has so many people to keep happy:  donors, a hyper college president, a difficult staff, and demanding faculty.  Then some rare, expensive books go missing, and the only other woman in her department is missing, too.  The college president does not want the police involved, but everything inside Liesl tells her it is time to call them in.  Anxiously, Liesl juggles the recent challenges and drinks to calm her nerves.  Will they find the missing books, which are increasing in number, before the donors find out?   Were they stolen by one of her strange colleagues?  And what happened to the missing Miriam, a depressive who is being blamed for taking the books?  This is a mystery that gets better with time.  While I didn't particularly like Liesl at first, she grows into a fine companion and a crackerjack detective.  This book is highly recommended for librarians, book lovers, and mystery aficionados who will enjoy walking in Liesl's shoes.
Was this review helpful?
This was such an interesting novel; with a mystery, rare books and library drama. As a library and book lover, I was eager to read this. While I liked the book, I never felt too invested in the story line. The mystery is a bit anti-climactic and at times the story moves quite slowly. For me, characters are what make a great novel and I most enjoy feeling a connection and empathy for literary characters. This novel, while solid, doesn't have well-rounded and believable characters. It's this shortcoming (which may not bother other readers), that made me less than eager to keep reading the book and this is also the reason that I felt little when reading about some sad situations. Novel writing is such an art - creating scene, character and plot - Jurczyk does a great job with her writing; I just wish her characters were a little more developed.
Was this review helpful?
I thought I would enjoy this book, but it seemed so historically-based and set rather than as a fictional novel. The plot of the missing manuscript didn't draw me in. It came to a point where I did not connect or feel attached to the story or characters.
Was this review helpful?
Loved the insider look at how libraries handle their specialized collections: the intrigue, the machinations, the characters but also the love of books.  Definitely worth reading!
Was this review helpful?
librarian, library, university, rare-books, Toronto, women's fiction*****

Subplots and timewarps and lies. Liesl is a strong and complex character but too many of the others, not so much. The story is complex and I was somewhat daunted at the beginning by the delineations like "forty years earlier", "nine years earlier", and many more. But it all made sense once I got into the story. The publisher's blurb is a good hook and spoilers are just insulting, so I'll just say that I really enjoyed it!
I requested and received a free temporary ebook copy from Poisoned Pen Press via NetGalley, Thank you!
Was this review helpful?
I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery set in a Toronto university library of rare and unusual books. I found the protagonist, Liesel, to be engaging and relatable and was especially pleased that she wasn't a typical protagonist in that she was not young, beautiful, and looking for a perfect man. Liesel is a mature woman and a librarian who has been tapped to serve as acting director of the library. 

As director, Liesel discovers a series of missing books in the library. Liesel really just wants to retire in peace so she can work on her own projects, but with donors nervously phoning and the university president unwilling to contact the police, Liesel takes matters into her own hands. 

I loved Liesel, I loved the library setting, and I look forward to more work by this new author!  Thanks NetGalley and the publisher for a great read.
Was this review helpful?
Cute story about the librarians who work in a library of rare books.  After the head librarian has a stroke his temporary replacement realizes that a new acquisition is missing.  The mystery continues as other books are found to be missing/fakes.  It was a fairly quick read and very enjoyable.
Was this review helpful?
I tend to like books about books, reading, libraries and book shops--this one I loved.  This book has a tight array of characters, but several plot lines running, although they all tend to tie together.  At different times, the reader thinks that he/she has figures out who the thief is, and honestly by process of elimination, I think everyone will determine the culprit on his/her own, the ending is still satisfying.  My one complaint (and it is a small one) is that the beginning of the book has so much explanation and takes so long that the ending just zips by and all of a sudden the reader is left with no more pages.  I also really enjoyed an inside look at an academic library which is a type of library I have never worked in, so it was instructive as well as enjoyable.
Was this review helpful?
I only made it as far at the far shaming and calling one of the characters “ugly”. There’s ways to portray a villain without playing in to outdated phobic tropes. Pass.
Was this review helpful?
When a rare book goes missing from the university library, Liesel, the temporary director, is told to keep quiet about it or the donors will not be happy. So now she has a mystery to solve.
Was this review helpful?
If you're nerdy about special collections, archives, rare books libraries, academia, ancient manuscripts and librarians... boy do I have a book for you! I loved every aspect of this book's setting and the description regarding all things bookish was absolutely spot on! Although the story itself was rather dry, I was intrigued enough by the setting and the lead protagonist to keep reading, even when it felt like nothing was happening. Overall, it was enjoyable and would make for an excellent book discussion read
Was this review helpful?
When I saw the cover of this book, I knew it was one that I probably wanted to read. I've been fooled by cute covers before, though, so I did some digging before I committed to reading it. The synopsis sounded intriguing and the early reviews were good so I dove right in.

Overall, The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections is an interesting and compelling mystery, but what goes unmentioned is how much is underlying the face of the story. Liesl’s relationships are complicated and, like every great protagonist, she is balancing some secrets from her past while trying to do her best in the present day. There are also some really touching and, frankly, sad, situations that arise throughout the book and Jurczyk does not take the easy way out in any part of her storytelling. It is informed and it is powerful.

Perhaps I just find Liesl particularly relatable, but I thought that her experiences in the workplace and the world – as a woman being overlooked and undermined – were so true that I couldn’t stop taking notes.

Things I loved about this book: Eva Jurczyk is Canadian and her book is set in Toronto. She is a writer and a librarian, as is Liesl. She created a strong female character and she really stuck with her straight through to the end of the book.

I picked The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections up and I rarely put it down before I was finished. It was more than just a fix for my temporary reading slump. It was a really thoughtful book and it was fun to catch a glimpse into the mystery world behind the library scenes. I give this one five stars and a wholehearted recommendation.
Was this review helpful?
I received an advance copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.
In The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections Liesl Weiss is called back from her sabbatical to run the rare book department at an academic library. The newest acquisition has gone missing and under pressure from the university president and coworkers, she holds off on reporting the lost volume to the police.  The story gets more complicated as other important works are discovered missing and then one of the staff members goes missing.  

The story is well written and includes interesting subplots within the main plot. The book includes descriptions of manuscripts and the preservation process which are interesting for anyone unfamiliar with managing rare books. The interactions between the Liesl and the donors paints them as arrogant blowhards.  The author explores the gender imbalances in rare book collections and reveals the  “good old boy’s club” culture.  

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading mystery books about book mysteries. It’s probably most appropriate for public libraries.

#NetGalley #rarebooksfiction
Was this review helpful?