Cover Image: The Woman in the Library

The Woman in the Library

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Interesting stories. We start with a letter to the author of our mystery story, Hannah. Leo writes to Hannah after each chapter to help her novel be more American, as Hannah is Australian. Leo has some helpful tips, but he really wants to meet Hannah and have his manuscript published. Around the halfway point we learn a little more about Leo. Now we have the mystery of Leo and the mystery in the library. How will both stories resolve?

Thank you to NetGalley for allowing me to read this book in exchange for my honest review.
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I love books, so a book that took place in a library and was a book within a book? I thought sure I'd love it. Sadly, that wasn't the case. First, there were a number of typos, but I'm guessing those will be addressed before the book is published. However, there were other basic issues that I'm surprised weren't addressed in an early edit, such as plot holes and inconsistencies. Due to the overall format, I struggled to stay engaged or connect with any of the characters.


Trigger warnings: murder, violence, blood, mention of child abuse, mention of sexual assault, stalking
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This simply just didn't work for me. Despite initially liking the story, I found my interest dwindling and my rating slowly getting lower as more and more issues started to appear with the plot and characters. The closer I got to the end, the more I started to skim because I was over the story. 

Let's get into the details. 

 

WRITING:

Originally, what drew me to his book was the way the author presented the story. In fact, it was the only thing I found interesting as I found the story itself was rather plain and boring. I enjoyed the communication from Leo to Hannah through a series of letters critiquing her book as it broke the fourth wall a bit. 

However, as I went on, the format lost its charm and only added to the confusing mess that was this book. I spent a lot of time during this book being very confused, which was both my fault and the books. My brain just kept going back and forth on whether or not this was a book about a book, which ended up pulling me out of the story. 


PLOT:

This is a multi-layered story where the author chose to focus on the second layer instead of the first. The 'real' story, which is nothing but a series of letters from Leo to Hannah, the author of the story you are actually reading. What we are consuming is a book in the works by a character we do not get to meet, which is a bit of an odd choice. 

Like the nature of this story, I had layers upon layers of issues with the plot to the point where I don't even know where to begin. It was predictable in an 'in your face' kind of way, and it simply just wasn't a very captivating mystery thriller. As I said earlier, I didn't mind the story at first, but once the charm of the format wore off, I was left with a clunky and hollow story. 

Let's start with its predictability. The author very blatantly steers the story in one direction, which creates an issue because - either the person to who all the suspicion is pointed either did or didn't do it. Now, this is an issue because, from the start, the author left the reader with only two options and, after a while, you lose interest in what the outcome is going to actually be. It also just felt very forced because of how blatant the blame was pushed. 

For the vast majority of the book, while there was a sprinkle of intense moments, the mystery was rather passive. A lot of time was spent with the characters when they weren't doing much. There was also space wasted where the author focused on things that didn't add anything to the story. As such, even for a book on the shorter side, it felt really dragged out. 

One detail that I caught that I thought was funny, if anyone is curious, is that there is an actual Oh My Cod! restaurant in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. I have actually been there before, and the food was wonderful too. 


CHARACTERS:

I did not care about one single character in this book, not only because they just weren't interesting to follow, but also because they didn't feel like actual people most of the time. Freddie was unlikable, Cain was just there only to serve the mystery, and Whit and Marigold were shells of a character. Freddie was the one that bothered me the most though since I found her actions to be contradictory. 

Another issue I had with the characters was that there was a lot of off-page interaction that occurred, which stilted the character relationships and dynamics. Freddie and Cain, as well as Whit and Marigold, while strangers, in the beginning, grow closer as the story progresses. The problem here, as I have said, is that we don't actually get to see them get to know each other. One second they are strangers, the next they are spending all their time together. There was just a lot of disconnect. 
 

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS:

This sounded like this was going to be a good book, and I am sure people will enjoy it, but it didn't work out for me in the end. 

The format for this book kind of reminded me of Until Dawn and The Dark Pictures Anthology games.

Thank you, NetGalley and Poisoned Pen Press, for giving me the opportunity to review this in advance.
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Whoa! What a ride. It was very fast-paced. The writing style kept me hooked and I didn't find myself losing any interest. I enjoyed getting to know each of the characters and how real the story felt. The author did a great job painting the setting, so it was easy for me to visualize the scene played out before me.  I recommend giving this one a chance!
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Four strangers are sitting in the Reading Room of the Boston Public Library when they hear a woman scream. This is the beginning of this twisted tale of how the 4 people related to each other in the aftermath, but it really is a story within this book written by a woman who lives in Australia. Also, interspersed are the letters from a male fan from Boston. What a story!
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Leave it to Sulari Gentill to come up with twists and turns one never expects.  Her prowess as an author continues to shine in The Woman in the Library.  

The initial concept of the story was intriguing – four strangers happen to share a table in a library when a scream rings out.  The drama of the event ties the four together and they quickly develop a friendship… except one is a murder.  That is certainly tantalizing. 

The addition of outside forces, however, gave the story a spin that was unexpected.   To be honest, initially, it turned me against the book. I had been looking forward to immersing myself in the mystery of which of the four truly was the killer.  On that front, Gentill does not disappoint.  The outside forces do not dissuade her from the telling of that particular story.

The overlain story was an interesting add-in, but I would have liked it to be a bit more developed.  How was the initial connection made?  What was going on in Hannah’s life with regards to Leo? It seemed this could have been a bit more developed.  That said, Gentill included enough information to wrap up that mystery as well, at least to a point. 

In all, I loved the story and, as always, look forward to her next work. I would (and already have) recommended the book to others.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Poisoned Pen Press for this ARC!

3.5 Stars!

I'm a little disappointed because this was one of my most anticipated books of the year and it was overall somewhat a let down. The Woman in the Library follows Winifred Kincaid as she meets three other strangers at the Boston Public Library after hearing a chilling scream. This book has many of the tropes that I like: a locked room mystery, a book within a book, and a mystery writer being the person who is solving the mystery. However, I felt that this novel lacked a lot of the things I enjoy about mystery books. It felt as if all the clues just fell into the MC's lap, and I found the side story contained in the letters pointless and confusing.

Although this wasn't what I expected, I do think there is an audience out there for this book, especially if you are new to mysteries. I enjoyed how quick-paced this story was and the commentary on the writing process, but overall not the most thrilling mystery I've ever picked up.
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When you are in a library, the last thing you would expect to hear is a woman scream.  But that's exactly what happened in Boston Public Library.  Four strangers who were unable to leave after the commotion quickly become friends - bonded over the frightening experience.  Each one of them had a valid reason to be there.  Or did they?  

There were a lot of moments when I thought for sure "who done it" but then proved wrong.  Very likeable characters.  I was a little confused a few times but overall, I really liked the storyline.  I found myself anxious to find out who was the killer of The Woman in the Library.
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What a fun creative book!  "The Woman in the Library" is a story within a story within a story...author Hannah is writing a book about Freddie who is writing a book based upon people she met in the library, where they happened to be when a murder occurred!  Phew!  I know it sounds complicated, but Sulari Gentill's writing makes it all clear. The way Ms. Gentill ties everything together, while keeping a reader invested and on the edge of his or her seat, is pure genius.  I was so engrossed in this book that I read it in one sitting; I just couldn't put it down!  Though I guessed the identity of the killer in Hannah's story pretty early on, there were plenty of surprises to keep me interested and entertained.  This is the kind of book that makes a reader want to call in sick from work so he or she can read it from start to finish on one sitting.  

Many thanks to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for the privilege of reading an advanced digital copy of this wildly entertaining book in exchange for my honest review.
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4.5 stars. I love it when I read a book where the author does such a good job with making you think you know what is happening and then BAM, total shocker with the ending where you never saw it coming. This book was EXACTLY THAT. There was never a doubt in my mind what was going on. Even as the story unfolded, I became more and more convinced I was right. And then the end came and threw me for a loop. It was such a great read and such a great book. This is my first for this author and I can not wait to read more! I am hooked!
Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
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Thank you NetGalley for the Arc of The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill.  This book is a cleverly written mystery within a mystery.  Four strangers are in the Boston Public Library Reading Room when a scream shatters the silence.   As security checks the building, the four strike up a conversation and the start of a friendship.  The only problem is that one of them is a murderer.
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Wow! This book was a 2-in-1 experience. There are actually 2 stories happening simultaneously and they keep you turning the pages until the end. The first and main story is of four strangers meeting in the Boston Library when they hear a woman scream. The four build a friendship as they try to figure out who killed the screaming woman. The other story is that of an author that is getting feedback and detail help on her chapters from Leo in the US while she is writing from Australia. There are many things and people that are not what they seem, Can you figure it out?
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The Woman in the Library is a stunner! What makes this novel so unique and satisfying is that you have a "story within a story" along with a small dose of epistolary to add to its depth.

In the opening chapter, the first plot line is set up. We meet Leo Johnson, a professional reader (I want that job) and Hannah Tigone, a mystery writer who lives in Australia. She is unable to make it to the states due to COVID restrictions. This is where the epistolary piece comes into play. At the end of each chapter that Hannah writes, Leo provides feedback on the language of America, and Boston specifically, as well as settings and potential areas he feels that the plot needs some assistance. They have a cordial, and friendly relationship, that moves from professional to friendly. I looked forward to hearing from Leo at the end of each chapter.

Our second plot line begins where Hannah introduces us to the characters in her novel; Australian author Winifred "Freddie" Kincade living in Boston on a Merit Scholarship. While spending time in the Boston Public Library (BPL) writing her novel, she engages with the three folks at her table; Marigold, Whit and Cain. As they are engaging in pleasantries, the library is brought to its knees when a blood curdling SCREAM shatters the solitude of the library.

And that is where our mystery begins...

Freddie, Marigold, Whit, and Cain are thrown together, becoming fast friends, as they try to navigate the murky waters of the scream in the library.

What worked: Amazingly written characters, who had depth and interesting backstories, and most importantly where believable and likable. The novel moved at a quick pace, which kept me engaged, trying to guess what was going to happened next. Of course the setting, Boston makes for another interesting character and the weather adds to the dimension of what is happening in the story.

I would have given this book five stars, however I was SO confused at the beginning with the two plot lines; they were too similar. I had a hard time keeping them separate in my mind. It just wasn't clear enough for me. BUT! the story was so unique and riveting that it JUST DIDN'T MATTER. I would suggest that when you read this novel, pay attention at the beginning.

For someone who is not a mystery/thriller fan to begin with, I truly enjoyed this novel!
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Thank you Netgalley and Poisoned Pen Press for this advance reader copy in exchange for my honest review.

Full disclosure: I toggled back and forth between print and audio on this book.

DNF at 35%. I grabbed this book when it was "read now" and I was really excited for it, but I was highly disappointed. It was stereotypical, unbelievable, unrelatable, confusing and somewhat boring. I, unlike many others, did not enjoy the story within a story. It was weird and didn't flow well. I didn't connect with any of the characters and there was no clear break in narration from Hannah to Hannah's manuscript. The email sections were weird and I felt like they were out of place. It just didn't flow well. I found it extremely far-fetched that the four people at the library would become such fast friends that they're sleeping over at each other's houses like kids? It just wasn't realistic. There were also a lot of stereotypes and I didn't like that.

All in all, I just wasn't a fan. I didn't even care enough to tough it out and find out who the "killer" was.

I will not be reviewing on Goodreads or any other platform as I didn't finish the book.
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The title grabbed me but this was a disappointment. The story within the story was not appealing. New author for me, just not the right fit.
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The description of this book jumped out at me while I was looking for something to read and for the most part it did not disappoint. This classic portrayal of a modern murder-mystery is well paced and entertaining. In trying to discover the killer responsible for a murder, this book takes you along one path without even acknowledging any others and then creeps up behind you with its reveal in a sneak attack. Although most mystery novels tend to build up to the twist at the end, I preferred the rest of the story to its last few pages. I'm going to refrain from spoilers but I will say that, although I did appreciate the inevitable turn at the novel's end, I was hoping for a more exciting and satisfying resolution.
I don't really know how to feel about the characters of the story. They started off strong and I think the way they were meant to be portrayed at the beginning would have been more effective it had played out instead of petering out. Although Freddie never really stuck out to me (as main characters tend to do) the other three held my interest for a while. However, the more Cain's story unraveled the less of his character's personality you see. Marigold is wonderful but she seemed to grow less, rather than more, interesting (and a bit pathetic unfortunately) as the story progressed and seemed fairly underdeveloped all in all. Interestingly enough, Whit probably held my interest the most, even though he had the least amount of screen time out of the four.
In particular I thought the setting and motion of the novel was well-exhibited and engaging. Perhaps I may simply be biased because of my affection for the city but I enjoyed how the novel was introduced in the BPL and then followed the characters around Boston.
I wasn't a huge fan of the subplot of the email correspondence at the end of each chapter. I did not mind it at all while I was reading as I thought it was building up to something exciting, either as part of the main plot or as an independent plot. Especially towards the end I felt like it was really going somewhere but unfortunately the last chapter with the final email fell flat and didn't amount to much. Because of this, I can look back at this part of the novel and see that it was mostly unnecessary, although there were a handful of instances in which it was interesting to see how Hannah, the author within the novel, responded to the feedback she received from the emails.
Overall I enjoyed this novel, despite not feeling at all consumed by it. Though weak at times, the writing is pleasant and charming and presents a murder-mystery story in a way that feels fresh and wonderful to read.
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A new way to tell the story!! I'm always up for that! The Australian author narrator includes a particular American fan's responses to his reads of her manuscript. . . .he comes back with encouraging praise, and suggestions on proper language an American would use rather than an Australian colloquialism that had landed on the page.

The tale starts in the Boston Public Library, and as it unfolds it is about writing a mystery, and in the course of it, mysteries are presented (murders!) and by the book's end are satisfactorily solved.

A great read - started slowly for me, but at about 20% in I was ALL in, and turned aside all offers for other activities until the story was done. As I usually do mid-mystery, I made my call on whodunit, and in this one I was partly on and partly off, so hats off to besting me!

A Sincere Thank you to Sulari Gentill, Poisoned Pen Press, and NetGalley for an ARC to read and review. Pub date: 07 Jun 2022
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Thanks to NetGalley & Poisoned Pen Press for the ARC in exchange for an honest review!

I’m not going to spoil this book’s format, as it’s not in the description, but it’s truly a unique one that I haven’t read in a thriller before, and it immediately drew me into the story. I found myself caring immensely about both stories (and if anything, that’s why this gets 4.75 and not a perfect 5/5, because I was so invested in BOTH and wanted to know more about one of the stories than what we got). I’ve never read this author before but I definitely want to check out more of her stuff from now on - this book had me so invested, and I was dying trying to figure out what was going to happen. I honestly should have slept a while ago but I couldn’t, because I just had to keep reading to find out what happened next.
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This story is told in such a unique way, with dual perspectives that really increase the suspense and keeps you on the edge of your seat. The main storyline is a mystery "book within a book." The central perspective follows Australian author Freddie, who is in Boston as part of a writer's fellowship program and is brainstorming her new mystery novel in the Boston Public Library when she hears a woman's scream. The scream shatters the silence of the Reading Room, and she starts a conversation with the three people surrounding her. And when a woman's body is found in the library, Freddie is forced to consider if one of her three new friends could be a murderer. But what makes this book so unique is the side plot told through an entirely different perspective. Emails are mixed throughout the chapters telling the mystery story from Freddie's perspective. Most of them are to the mystery book's author Hannah from someone named Leo, who is helping her write a book set in Boston when she cannot leave Australia to do her own research. Leo is getting the chapters as you read them and is responding to them and giving advice as he reads along with you. But Leo may not be an innocent writer who just wants to help her out, and the messages take a dark turn.

The dual perspectives in this novel really keep you on your toes. The twists and turns were a little predictable, but it was really well written. It was fascinating to read a story along with one of the characters. Leo would give suggestions or locations that could be useful to Hannah, and then the next chapter would contain that information. Also, Hannah and Leo were communicating throughout 2020, so their conversations started with the Australian wildfires, discussed the pandemic and masks, and even touched on the Black Lives Matter protests. This is the first book I have read that is set in 2020 and discusses the pandemic. It was a little jarring, but it was nice that the main plotline did not deal with those topics, so I could read about these topics without being submerged back into the stress that comes with thinking about the pandemic and many other events of 2020. This was a very thought-provoking and intriguing book! Even though I was able to predict the ending, I was unable to put it down.
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3.5 stars

I love books set in places I’ve visited, though I’ve been to Boston I did miss the library. After it’s description in this book it’s high up there on my list to checkout.

The Woman in the Library is essential a story within a story within a story. Honestly I was confused at the onset and at times throughout.  The premise starts good, four strangers connect after hearing a scream in the Boston library and when I say connect it’s like within hours they become the best of friends. 

Here is the thing, because the blurb above doesn't give a detailed synopsis and name names I don't feel that I should either.  If you want that you can check out other reviews on Goodreads. Suffice to say this is a complex story that did kept me on my toes, the characters were developed nicely and mystery was, well mysterious.

The Woman in the Library is a story about friendship, about the past coming back to haunt you and trust. My thanks to Poisoned Pen Press for a digital arc in exchange for a honest review.  This book can be preordered now with a Jun 7th release date.
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