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The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections

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Member Reviews

This book was simply not my cup of tea. The setting was fabulous, after all most readers love books set in libraries and around rare books, but the characters and the plot was simply not my thing.
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An entertaining novel which will appeal to many book lovers due to the subject matter.  The pace is a bit slow at times, but overall a good read.
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A brand new novel for all you bibliophiles out there!

Liesl Weiss has worked at the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at a prestigious university for many years.  She’s given up hope of leading her own department, content to work in the shadow of her much-revered boss.  When he has a stroke, Liesl is placed in charge, but her first few weeks become a baptism of fire, with priceless books, and one member of staff,  going missing.  With the library donors piling on the pressure, and everyone who works at the library being a suspect, will Liesl manage to hold it all together and locate the prized manuscripts? 

This is a mystery story with a difference, and a real treat for book lovers.  I found that the setting very much overtakes the plot, but if you love libraries, and care more for a missing book than a missing person, then this may well be the book for you.  

Thank you to Poisoned Pen Press, Eva Jurczyk and NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.
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I enjoyed this debut novel about an almost-retired librarian who is thrust into a position of power when her boss has a major stroke.

Leisl has worked at the university library in the rare books collection for many years. She is the organizer and planner behind the director, who is great at the wining and dining of potential and current donors, and the selection of great rare books that will make the university look better.

But as the book begins, her boss has had a major stroke and may not recover. Leisl is thrust into the director role (perhaps as just the interim, perhaps as the permanent director), and finds out that a rare book that was just purchased is missing.

Leisl would have gone straight to the police, but some of her coworkers and the university president convince her to wait and see if they can find it. Eventually, Leisl wonders why everyone seems so resistant to reporting the theft (because she is pretty sure the manuscript isn't just misplaced).

At the same time, one of her coworkers disappears, and everyone seems to want to blame her for the theft. Leisl isn't convinced, because this woman isn't someone who would steal a manuscript, and she tried to talk to Leisl right before she disappeared. 

Leisl also is told over and over again that she is failing at the role of director, but she has enough confidence (and stubbornness) to stick with what she believes is the right thing to do and find a new way forward for the library and the university.

The story is unusual and enjoyable to read; however, there were times when the story stalled a bit. The beginning was a little jarring for me because I felt a little like we were just thrown into the story without enough information on the characters and location. 

Thanks to Netgalley for this advance copy for my honest review.
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While Eva Jurczyk’s debut novel is called The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, it could have just as easily been called The Department of Missing Books and Special Librarians. First there’s one missing book. Then a missing librarian. Then another missing book. As beautiful and unusual as the books are, though, the academic librarians at this Toronto university are just as unusual.

Liesl Weiss isn’t even supposed to be at The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. She was on sabbatical to write her own book when Christopher Wolfe, the library director for over forty years, had a stroke. Now, she’s frantically trying to break into Christopher’s safe where the latest acquisition, the Plantin Bible, is kept. Lawrence Garber, the University President, insists it’s important to show off the book to the university donors. And, Liesl, as interim director, must find a way to get into the safe.

Garber’s biggest concern is always the donors. Don’t make waves that will upset the donors. When Liesl finally gets the safe open, and finds it empty, she wants to call the police. Garber insists the book is only missing and he wants the librarians to inventory the collection to find it. When one of the librarians disappears, a quiet woman who never caused waves, Garber is even less concerned.

When Liesl Weiss comes back to the library in Christopher’s absence, she discovers she has no more control over the library than she ever had. And, she doesn’t have support. No one wants her to report the missing books or the missing woman. Max, a former priest who specializes in the religious collection, thinks he should have been appointed interim director. Liesel can’t understand why a friend of over twenty years, Francis, doesn’t want her to contact the police. But, Max and Francis, along with the missing librarian, Miriam, all have secrets. When Liesl and the woman’s husband finally call the police, President Garber is angry. Headlines about a missing woman and missing books might upset the donors.

The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections is as much about the mystery of people as it is a mystery of books that have disappeared from a special collection. Jurczyk focuses on Liesl Weiss, a woman over sixty who is aware that women seem to disappear as they age. She certainly has no presence when it comes to the library itself. She’s unsure of herself, and tends to vanish into the stacks so she doesn’t have to make decisions.

Jurczyk’s debut novel is interesting, but she tries to juggle too many elements. She tries to deal with the role of women, especially older women, in academia. She deals with depression and the role it plays in the lives of the person who suffers from it, as well as the partner and family members who deal with it daily. Of course, there is also the mystery of the missing books. This novel is already popular with librarians, for obvious reasons. Jurczyk’s admiration is evident. But, I’d like to have seen what this novel could have become if she’d picked one or two topics rather than so many in The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections.
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This book is great! Would definitely recommend. Thanks so much to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
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This was a fantastic literary mystery with great characters. A rare book is missing, an employee has been found dead, and the powerful folks don't want any information leaks. Lisel is tasked with not only finding the missing material, but trying to keep everyone appeased. The unraveling of the mystery is well written and kept me reading to figure things out. Loved this book! Thankful for the ARC!
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The Department of Rare Books and Special collections is a gem for anyone who is a lover of libraries and books. I am a public librarian, and seeing another side of my field was a pleasure. and I enjoyed learning about the intricate details of academic scholarly librarianship. It's certainly a different beast from public librarianship 

I enjoyed many aspects of the books. I liked that Liesl was an older woman already established in her life. who is married and looking forward to retirement after a long joy-filled career. I learned a lot about the way that collection development at these types of institutions is done. I liked the awkward moments she has with the aloof and out-of-touch president of the library and other characters, and  Liesel's dry humor, and wit. All of these things kept me reading. You can tell that this book is written by someone who truly knows libraries. 

However, I did feel the pacing was a little too slow. If the author hadn't done such a good job with the other aspects of the book, I don't think I would have finished it.  As a  mystery, it lacked that intrigue that I enjoy in the genre. In fact, I sometimes even forgot that there was a mystery to be solved as I was just caught up in reading about the characters and the everyday happenings of an academic library.  I also suspected the thief from the beginning and all of the other "curve balls" weren't really surprising to me. 

Despite my indifference towards the book as a mystery, I still found it an enjoyable read. Liesl is a great character as are the rest of the characters in the books. Overall, I would recommend it to anyone that loves books and long descriptions of libraries and rare books.
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Very different book about a librarian who stands her ground and does a great job of it. The writing was very good and so was the story.
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I was introduced to this author via the Library Journal Day of Dialog and immediately bumped this book up on my TBR list.   Thoroughly enjoyed this literary mystery and academia setting.  Also appreciated the age and experience of the main characters.
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When Assistant Library Director, Liesel opens the safe expecting to find the rare Plantin Polygut Bible she is shocked to find an empty vault. 
The Bible was last seen by the Library Director now in a coma after suffering a major stroke.
Wealthy donors whose funds paid for the bible expect access sooner than later. It falls to Liesel to find it before the donors discover it's disappearance.
There are multiple suspects among the library staff; one of who has mysteriously vanished.
Liesel's personal story is seamlessly interwoven with the mystery.
A mystery set in an academic library may not sound intriguing but this is a page-turner for book and library lovers
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Being a lover of librarians and libraries, I was immediately drawn to pick this up when it was offered to me. Basically it’s a “who dunnit” novel, centered around the disappearance of an expensive and extremely rare bible. As the main character, Leisl, tries to figure out what happened to the book, the histories of her co-workers in the library are revealed thereby lengthening the list of possible culprits to the theft. Interwoven through the story are library politics, relationship drama, and other elements of intrigue. While not the most sophisticated mystery novel ever, it is still a fast and enjoyable read. Plus, libraries! So that alone makes it worth a read.
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'The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections': 4⭐

(Unpaid Review: thank you to @netgalley, @evajurczyk and @poisonedpenpress for allowing me to read this eArc copy in exchange for a review.)

The title speaks for itself: this is a book for book nerds, for book lovers who love the feeling of being surrounded by rare collections of books, but also, so much more!  I really enjoyed the mystery aspect to the story, even though it was easily solvable. It reminded me of a cozy mystery, comparable to Agatha Christie's writing and really easy to follow and understand!
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I cannot praise this enough, and as soon as I opened this book I was hooked. We follow the main character Liesel as she is thrown headlong into the acting Director of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections due to her bosses stroke. From the get go issues arise and a particularly pricey acquisition turns up missing. Chaos ensues. Everyone in the library is a suspect from the cantankerous ex priest, distant female coworker, angry underling, and the ex lover. It isn't just the library and it's staff with secrets, Liesel herself has many things to hide. Liesel fights to regain control of the situation while dealing with the President of the University, donors, and her unruly staff. In the end the person you least expect is revealed to be the thief, and Liesel brings about change to the library and her own life. This book is part mystery, part thriller, and she keeps the reader guessing until the very end, and I cannot recommend this book enough to library lovers, book nerds, and mystery lovers.
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The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections is a fascinating book told from the perspective of Leisl. Leisl is unexpectedly thrown into a position of power as things in her department are crumbling. Then, important books go missing and she has to figure out how to deal with everything at work and in her personal life. Throughout the book I was captivated by the twists and turns, the secrets, the emotion. I was a little bit let down by the simple ending. I wanted more drama after everything that happened, but overall this was an enjoyable read.
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The first book for me to read by this author but I will be on the lookout for more for sure! Highly recommend this one!
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I stopped reading around 73% of the way in. I did not connect with the characters and just wanted to know who stole the book. So I skipped ahead to find out that tidbit and am now going to move onto something else.
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I really enjoyed this book.  Great read.  Solid character development, solid relationships built between non-related characters and a great story line.  Good suspense and movement to keep the plot flowing at a good pace.  I always enjoy stories and situations that deal with the idea of you don't know what you don't know and when you know better, you do better.  I will even re-read this story because I"m certain I missed some things the first go-around.
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Liesl Weiss long ago learned to be content working behind the scenes in the distinguished rare books department of a large university, managing details to make the head of the department look good. But when her boss has a stroke and she's left to run things, she discovers that the library's most prized manuscript is missing.
Liesl tries to sound the alarm and inform the police about the missing priceless book, but is told repeatedly to keep quiet, to keep the doors open and the donors happy. But then a librarian unexpectedly stops showing up to work. Liesl must investigate both disappearances, revealing her colleagues' pasts like the threads of a rare book binding as it becomes clear that someone in the department must be responsible for the theft. What Liesl discovers about the dusty manuscripts she has worked among for so long—and about the people who care for and revere them—shakes the very foundation on which she has built her life.

This is a marvelous debut novel, and I hope she writes more!  I am always drawn to books about books, and this one was a gem.  The author's descriptions of the library are so well done as are the character descriptions.  It is hard to believe that this is her first novel.  Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this marvelous book.  I highly recommend!
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I had read an intriguing excerpt of this book in Buzz Books 2021, so I was excited to have the opportunity to read an advance copy of the whole book.  I flew through the book finding it thoroughly enjoyable.  The main character, an older woman approaching retirement, was certainly not your typical heroine.  She was overwhelmed by the stressful circumstances in which she found herself.  She made mistakes in both her personal and professional lives, and she was blamed for problems she didn't create.  The author made her into a very believable character.
It was fun to see the power play with her colleagues who wanted her job, and her dealings with the administration and other departments. 

I enjoyed the Toronto locale and the university setting with its politics.  It was interesting to see the importance of fundraising on every aspect of academia.  I found the subject of rare books fascinating.  It brought up a lot of questions for me regarding the resources needed to acquire these books and who should have access to them.

I highly recommend this original book, and I think it would make a great choice for book discussion groups.
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