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The Woman in the Library

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Member Reviews

I really liked the framing device. It added a lot to the story and it was a fun addition that complicated a story about a writer writing about a writer. It was clever how the author ate her cake and had it too with regards to mentioning the pandemic. Sometimes this sort of meta trickery can be distracting but in this case I was delighted by it. Recommended for fans of Anthony Horowitz.
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Four strangers being at a table in the Boston Public Library. They're all different, unassuming, and one just happens to be a murderer. 

But the plot does not stop there. Another layer is added when we discover that these characters are another writers unfinished manuscript.

Layered and meta, Gentill delivers a complex and engaging mystery thriller that will keep you on your toes like the best of Hitchcock and Agatha Christie.
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Four strangers are brought together when a murder is committed in the library. Each unique character brings their own personality to the story, adding depth and perspective. Uniquely written, each chapter ends with a letter from one author to another critiquing the story and creating a second mysterious element.  Thank you, NetGalley, for an e-ARC of The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill ; a fast-paced murder mystery where every character is a suspect.
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The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill is an inventive mystery with several layers of intrigue. Four strangers accidentally meet in the reading room of the Boston Public Library and are seated at a table when there is a scream which they soon realize has come from a dying woman. Then, shortly after, the first person writer, an Australian who is living in Boston on a writing grant, realizes that one of the other three, a woman and two men, is the person who has committed the murder. Freddie, the writer, weaves a tale of friendship, caution, and suspicion that cleverly leads to the identification of the murderer, but not without sleuthing on her part that brings in more characters to enrich the story. To further broaden the plot, there are letters from a rather creepy admirer of Freddie. Gentill never takes a false step in her story within a story, and this truly is a book that is hard to put down. Its unusual plot and connections among the four (or is it five?) main characters is brilliant and skillful.
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The peaceful afternoon in the Boston Public Library by the terrified scream of a woman. Library security guards quickly work to contain the scene and have everyone currently in the library remain where they are. Four strangers at a library table strike up a conversation while they wait and they develop a strong friendship that will grow beyond the library. Each of them has a reason for being in the library the day that the woman was killed, and one of them is a killer.

In a secondary story, the author of the story about the murder in the library sends each chapter of the book to a reader in Boston (Leo) who sends back comments and suggestions. Leo gets quite bold as time goes on and he begins to offer some inappropriate advice as well as actual crime scene photos from recent murders in the Boston area (to help the author with her authenticity). Leo's comments and suggestions are included in the second half of each chapter until it is evident that the author is concerned and has shared the concern with local authorities.

The authorities want the author to stop the communication with Leo, but instead the author wants to draw Leo out, reveal who he actually is or where he lives so that the authorities can be informed. But Leo stays elusive while offer more and more realistic advice on murder ... to be used in the book, presumably.

This two-story format is not completely new, and typically I love the blending of realities this way.  There is the story, which is surrounding by the 'real' author and a possibly deranged beta reader, both of which are pieces of fiction created by the real author.

Yeah, I like that kind of stuff.

But the two different stories were too divergent for me.  I found myself much more focused on the author/Leo story and wanting to skip ahead through the 'library friends' section to get to the Leo section.  After all, why would the writer include the 'real life' portions if they weren't important, and if they are important, why should I care about the fictional characters when there's a more interesting drama being played out? (And for the record, I know the 'real life' section is also fictional, but I'm looking for a way to define it.)

Although a character in the fictional portion is named for the beta reader Leo (again, with the hopes of drawing out more information about him), there really isn't any cross over.  These two stories don't take place in the same time, place, or reality. So the two stories work against each other, competing for attention.

Leo's going off the rails was pretty evident and easy to predict early on, so the revelations about him as we go don't turn out to be any surprise. I highlighted a section in my book, fairly early on, and noted "this is going to be important later" and I was right.

We have all the ingredients of a murder mystery, except for a breath-taking chase and ending. This sort of fizzles out, which was disappointing.

Looking for a good book? The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill is two mysteries rolled into one book, but it's hard to give them both equal attention and the end winds down without packing a punch.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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What an outstanding job and literary work in the crime-fiction genre! This whodunit will ring in your ears like an Alfred Hitchcock or deeper with a subplot that is chilling. When the characters come together as strangers in the Ornate Reading Room in the Boston Public Library, they will leave as friends and much deeper after a murder occurs in this "locked room in reverse" thriller. 

Freddie, Whit, Cain and Marigold are sitting at a table in the library when they hear a blood curdling scream in one of the other rooms. Little did they know that one of them would be the killer. Strangely, when security locks them in place to investigate, the police cannot find a body.  They are able to leave, so they meet for coffee to discuss what has happened and discover they are established writers and one is a stalker. Later, they will learn the body was concealed under a buffet table with a tablecloth explaining why it wasn't found right away. 

The narrator is Freddie who decides to write a book using them as the characters. There is a Hannibal Lector feel in the subplot from a writer Leo offering advice on her writing through emails. His input becomes dark and unnatural, but keeping you involved and changing your mind several times with who the killer is. The characters are well played and believable, but the biggest capture of my attention is the persona of each friend and how they each perceive the other. Plus, an unbelievable stunt to the writing when you don't know or forget which characters are made up! This is genius, Sulari Gentill! You will see when you read this gem!
Thank you NetGalley and Poisoned Pen Press for this title in exchange for my review.
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I loved this book! It is the story of four people who are brought together when they happen to be sitting near each other in the Boston Public Library Reading Room when a woman screams and is presumably murdered. The four strike up a friendship and decide that they owe it to the woman who was murdered to try and discover what exactly happened to her. Two of the four are novelists, which definitely adds to the story (while crime writers solving crimes themselves isn't a new trope in the mystery genre, this story does it very well). At the very same time that our four new friends are trying to solve the murder, the reader is reminded through emails that are interspersed throughout the book that this is in fact a manuscript that a writer named Hannah is in the process of writing, and she is receiving feedback, research help, and perhaps overzealous advice from a man named Leo. This also adds another layer of interest and even suspense to the book.
I enjoyed getting to know the four main characters and see how they developed as the reader (and the "narrator" of the story, Freddie) really got to know them. I got definite "Only Murders in the Building" vibes from the story, and I really enjoyed the camaraderie between the characters as their quest to find out what happened to the "woman in the library" grew. The interjections from Leo's emails were also very interesting and different, but a great addition to the book.
I would absolutley recommend this book to anyone who enjoys mysteries. I read it quickly and couldn't wait to see what was going to happen next!
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A murder mystery centered around an event that occurs in a Library sounds like a perfect match for me. However, despite some high points, I wasn't as captivated in the investigation as I wanted to be.
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This book had so much promise. I loved the framing device provided by the author of a mystery novel, sharing chapters with her early reader who has a strange obsession with her. I knew there was something off about his correspondence, but once he started sending pictures from crime scenes I was absolutely enthralled by the turn--he's a killer! I tore through the plot in between the framing device correspondence, eager to see what he would write to the author next. Problem is, the entire actual book is just the plot between the correspondence...and so, the book that the author of the framing device is writing is as boring as any obnoxious arm-chair detective mystery novel. The characters are dull, the plot is dull, I just couldn't care less about their plight or who didn't trust who or who had a "crush on" who. Very immature and predictable.
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An interesting one, this. A murder-mystery centred around four strangers who are brought together by the sound of a woman's terrified scream inside Boston Public Library; while security check it out, the four strike up a conversation, and friendships are formed. It just so happens that one of them is a murderer...

The narrator is Winifred Kincaid ("people call me Freddie"), a writer whose vivid imagination soon casts her new friends (who she refers to as Freud Girl, Heroic Chin, and Handsome Man) as potential characters in her own murder-mystery she could be writing.

Overlaying this is the fact that the overall murder-mystery (and the murder-mystery within it) is being written by an Australian author, Hannah Tigone, who is receiving detailed feedback on her work-in-progress by another author, Leo Johnson, based in Boston. In another twist, 'Leo Johnson' is the name of a character in Hannah's book. But soon, Leo the author becomes a more sinister figure, who may be shifting his research into crime and punishment from the abstract to the concrete, and developing an obsession with Hannah.

So far, all very 'meta' about the mechanics of crime writing; and potentially very interesting, too.

But, the concept of a book-within-a-book-within-a-book never really gels convincingly, and what the reader is left with is a fairly standard modern-day murder-mystery - though a perfectly readable one at that.

It's just that, after the promising opening, I was expecting more.

3.5 stars out of 5.

 Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks for an ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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A Murder mystery with lots of potential bad guys with twists and turns right to the very end. The way this book is written is unique, an author is writing a book about an author writing a book. Interspersed are letters from a fan writing to the author who has a very dark side to him.  

Four strangers are sitting in the library when they hear a woman scream.  This starts them talking and although they are an eclectic group of people they develop a friendship.  What they don’t know is that there are connections between some of them. A dark story is unraveled and their friendship is challenged over and over again.  Throw in a character or two that makes you think perhaps they are the bad guy and you get an amazing mystery. I couldn’t stop reading this book,  the author also shows us some of what a writer goes through to create a plot and characters.  

Exciting, edge of your seat book. Thanks to Poisoned Pen Press via NetGalley for the opportunity to read this amazing book.
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The Woman in the Library is a book within a book, interspersed with letters from a fan, leading to twice the suspense of a normal mystery. 

Four strangers in the Boston Public Library forge a deep bond with one another after experiencing a horrifying event together. What started out as a shared interest in finding the unknown killer turns dark after each member of the group begins to suspect the other of committing the crime. The main character of the book, interestingly, is a mystery writer living in Australia. As the author works through her novel, she receives feedback in the form of letters from Leo, a beta reader, who provides both praise for the author's work and tips for improving the manuscript, sometimes delving into dark places himself. Essentially, the novel has two different plot points -- the manuscript and the correspondence. Both plots pull the reader in, daring them to read just one more chapter. 

I enjoyed the author's writing style, and the choice of making part of the novel epistolary was a good move.
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Thank you to Netgalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this novel! From the onset, I was intrigued by the style, and form, of this novel. From the description, it very much sounds like your typical mystery thriller novel. However, once you start to read it, it becomes apparent how different the novel is from others in its genre. The concept that the reader is constantly reminded that the murder they are reading about is fictional is very meta, but was a concept that I actually really enjoyed. I liked the similarities between the fictional story unfolding, and the story being told through Leo and his emails. I will say, by the time I was halfway through, I was just excited to read what Leo had said in his correspondence as I was to see what Cain and the others were getting up to. The novel kept me on my toes throughout, and often took a twist or turn when I would finally think I had figured out who the culprit was. The only thing that I didn't love about this novel was the ending. I felt like it was a little rushed compared to the rest of the story, and that we as the reader were left on a bit of a proverbial cliffhanger at the end. Just know that I'd pick up the sequel to this book in a heart beat!
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I really wanted to love this book but the story inside of a story style was just not for me. However, if you do like that type of writing then I think you will really love this book. The story line, suspense, and the actual writing is really well done and I think will appeal to many.
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This excellent story begins in the elegant reading room of the Boston Public Library where four strangers are working and are interrupted by a blood-curdling scream. This event brings them together and they become friends although unbeknownst to the others one is a murderer. . The main character is Winifred (Freddie) who is a young Australian author in Boston on a prestigious writing fellowship and it is through her eyes that we watch the story unfold. In reality it is a story within a story and it is riveting. It is the mystery with Freddie and her friends and it is the story of thefictitious Australian author of the mystery who is writing with the assistance of an online author friend in Boston who helps with the local details. It is also a very interesting look at the writing process. It is intricately plotted. After I finished I went back to the beginning to find the clues the excellent Sulari Gentill left and I wound up reading the entire book again. It is very good book. I recommend reading the author's notes after where she talks about writing in the pandemic.
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Not only is this a detective fiction, it's a meta-narrative about detective fiction, writing, race, and COVID. Keeps you on your toes from the jump and doesn't let go until the end. I like the conversations that Gentill is having with herself in the chapter closure notes--it allows back-and-forth with a hypothetical reader about all sorts of topics you'd expect to be subtext. Smartly written and gripping.
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I usually don't pick up books whose plot is a story-within-a story, but wow! I am glad that I took a chance. I really enjoyed this novel. The mystery/creep factor increased with every chapter. Loved it!
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The Woman In The Library is a stand-alone novel by award-winning Australian author, Sulari Gentill. Aspiring author Leo Johnson, whose opus has now attracted publisher rejections in double figures, sits in Boston Public Library’s reading room, awaiting inspiration from his uncooperative muse. His Australian correspondent, best-selling author, Hannah Tigone, takes his emailed description and incorporates it into her new novel, sending Leo chapters as they are written. Leo enthusiastically offers comments, culture and location tips, crime-scene photos, plot suggestions, and other literary feedback.

Aspiring mystery author, Winifred Kincaid (Freddie), taking advantage of her Marriot Fellowship, sits in Boston Public Library’s reading room, subtly (she thinks) examining her table neighbours, noting their descriptions and giving them tentative titles in the novel she would write about them. The silence of this private study of Freud Girl (liberally tattooed, psychology student?), Heroic Chin (Harvard law student?) and Handsome Man (dark-haired, dark-eyed classic beauty, a writer?) is suddenly broken by a piercing scream. In the immediate aftermath, four strangers become friends.

When the body of a woman is later found in a nearby library gallery room, the four speculate about the murder, curious to know more but, it seems, some of them are omitting relevant facts and keeping secrets. And the drama doesn’t end there: one of their number is mugged, another injured in an altercation with a homeless man, cell phones go missing, creepy messages are received, a food hamper mysteriously appears, someone’s mother is attacked and someone else dies.

This novel is very cleverly constructed: chapters of Hannah’s fictional murder mystery alternate with Leo’s emailed input. Hannah sometimes incorporates Leo’s feedback into ensuing chapters, and the story she creates is thoroughly gripping, with more than enough red herrings to keep the reader guessing right up to the thrilling climax. From his emails, Leo initially seems earnest and extremely thorough, but as the story advances, Hannah is probably grateful for the restrictions COVID has imposed on international travel.

The concept of a story within a story keeps the reader on their toes, and it’s easy to be thoroughly absorbed in Hannah’s story until Leo’s emails remind the reader it is fiction. But of course, it’s all fiction. And while one murderer might be an obvious pick, even the most astute reader is unlikely to settle upon the other. 

This format does give the reader a peek into the world of the writer, and what needs to be considered and researched when creating a believable work of fiction. Smart and funny, this is murder mystery at its most entertaining.
This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Poisoned Pen Press.
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I received this ARC via Netgalley and Poisoned Pen Press, in return for an honest review. This is an ‘out of the normal’ writing style with two stories intertwined and I consider it more of a psychological mystery than a cozy.  An Australian author named Hannah is communicating with an American fan, Joe, via email.  He’s giving her advice on how to adapt her work for American audiences with language change suggestions.  But not all is as it seems with Joe and Hannah slowly uncovers disturbing secrets.  The second story is about four people who share a table at the Reading Room of the Boston Public Library when a scream shatters the silence.  Forced to remain in place, they build a connection that develops into friendship after they’re allowed to leave the building.  The next day, the body of a female reporter is discovered.  Each of these four people have secrets as well; are they willing to kill to keep them private?  
This was an interesting story and the intertwining of the two storylines moved it well, once I understood the format.
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Hannah is the creator of mystery writer Winifred (Freddie) Kincaid, Freddie’s love interest (Cain), Marigold, and Whit, but, more importantly, she is the chilling obsession of an out of control, wannabe published author. Sound confusing? It’s a tough act worth following.

As Hannah attempts a believable and engrossing tale of Freddie’s murder mystery within a Boston library from her native home in Australia, she struggles with the occasional American nuance. Leo, the aforementioned obsessive fan, timidly offers suggestions in the beginning, which gradually escalate to disturbing demands.
While Freddie’s library murder keeps the reader guessing as to the motive, and the identity of the killer, it’s the subplot involving Hannah and Leo that makes this novel unique and adds that extra layer of suspense all mystery fans crave. Although I prefer more compelling characters, THE WOMAN IN THE LIBRARY is a fun read I heartily recommend. Much appreciation to NetGalley, Sulari Gentill, and Poisoned Pen Press for the ARC.
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