Cover Image: The Woman in the Library

The Woman in the Library

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HERE it is, the book I have been waiting for, my first 5-star read of the year.  After a couple of middling 3-star rom-coms (and I love rom-coms), I found The Woman in the Library.

Or, perhaps, like our protagonist Freddie's muse, it found me.  This novel is Agatha Christie with a nod to Shakespeare's book within a book plot device and it immediately draws the reader in.

So, too, were our four main suspects drawn to one another by a fateful scream at the Boston Public Library. Freddie, newly arrived from Australia on a writing scholarship, quickly takes to Cain, Whit and Marigold. She believes them all to be strangers, but more ties the others together than a woman's scream. When it's discovered that a body of a young woman was found at the library, the connections grow - and so does the chance that one, or all, of them are in danger.

The reader soon discovers that the characters in this book belong to mystery writer Hannah Tigone, who is sending chapters to a fan, Leo.  As Leo's communication becomes more and more worrisome, we start to wonder about Hannah's safety as well.

The focus of the novel remains mostly on Freddie as she falls in love with one of the group and tries to clear that person of murder. There is some suspension of disbelief here - would a mystery writer get herself so involved in a real-life mystery?  

Anything for the story.
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Very well written. It took me a little while to catch on it was 2 mysteries for the price of one.

The letters threw me for a loop at first. The second letter made it clear it was a fellow writer, with feedback about a manuscript, Freddie’s story. The correspondance was done masterfully, becoming darker and darker, talking about the pandemic, racism (either the state of things or Leo’s feelings) and (sometimes gruesome) research. 

As for the manuscript mystery, everyone becomes a suspect, except Freddie. As a reader, it was interesting to see how the first few letters from Leo played into who I thought had done it, since perhaps he knew where Hannah, the writer, was going with her story. And then chapter 18 happens and everything becomes even more muddled… it’s so well done!

My only question is… what is the point of Freddie’s neighbour Leo? He shows up randomly… but who is he really and why is he at the hospital?
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There's so much I want to say about this book but I am going to try to keep this spoiler-free.

To begin with, I really enjoyed this. I had to put it down because life was intervening but it kept circulating in my mind and that was a very good thing. Told in two paths (one, the titular story being written by an author and the second, the correspondence of her beta reader reacting to said story with commentary and suggestions) and that made for an interesting read. It's like Inception with Gentil writing a story about an author writing a story with the author's real-life playing out via the beta reader. It's such an interesting way to tell a story and I just loved it. Now I have to admit that I did feel at times that the story of The Woman In the Library felt like a tertiary story because so much else was happening to the characters that didn't seem too related to solving the murder. As that's what drew me in to read this, to begin with, I was a little disappointed at some points. But, this was always a very engaging read. The beta reader thread upped the level of "Wait... what?!" and then it was just a story that would not let go of my attention.

Finally, I stayed up one evening determined to finish because I couldn't stand not knowing how it would all end. It was completely worth it. It should also one said that there were so many questions brought up in the book that was worth thinking about. Whether an author should or shouldn't reference the Covid pandemic or not (I still don't know but I appreciate this is a difficult thing for authors at the moment. It made me think about what authors did during/past the Spanish Influenza.

Also, should authors state character race/ethnicity or just ignore it altogether? I enjoyed reading the perspectives and it's definitely one that has me thinking. As a biracial POC, I don't assume white characters unless told otherwise when I read but realize that others may. The discussion around not being explicit about it robs the character of complete characterization was an interesting one. It's an argument I've read about regarding Bridgerton and while I haven't watched it, I've seen tons of clips of it and can see the points of the various arguments. I loved seeing that here and having the opportunity to think about it in the context of this story. I have to admit that one of the possible clues the in-story author gives for a character flew completely over my head because I knew nothing about the location given about where the character was living. If it was indeed a clue it was an oblique one, at least to me which adds another layer to the discussion of declaring upfront.

Finally, the mystery solution was great and so well done, that I couldn't have asked for more. It was exciting to the last. I have to admit though my favourite character was Mrs.Weinbaum and I think she should have her own story because she must lead a damned interesting life and in turn makes the lives of her attorneys so exciting though perhaps they'd choose a different word.

So I recommend this. Highly. I have some of Gentill's classic mysteries in my TBR and will be getting to those sooner than later now. She knows how to tell a story. Read this if you get the chance.

Many thanks to Netgalley & the publisher for the Advance Reader's Copy.
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This book started out fathering promising, but the further I got into it the more it just kind of fell flat for me. It ended up being middle of the road as far as my enjoyment of it, I would recommend it for people who really like a mystery and are looking for something a little different.
If you are looking for something that leans more towards a thriller I wouldn’t say this is it.
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The idea of this book was great and I thought I would love it! I like stories within stories.  Sadly, this book did not work for me and It fell flat. It was a tedious read and I had to fight through to finish. It took me some time to get used to the different narrators and viewpoints. I did like Leo’s letters though the best. I am giving this book 2 stars because of the premise of the story. 

Thank you to NetGalley for this arc in exchange for an honest review. This review is completely my own and is my honest thoughts and opinions.
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A complicated mystery, a tale of murder, misdirection, suspicious characters, and confusion. Set in a library reading room, four young would-be authors start a friendship when a scream is heard, and a body is found. Unraveling all the possibilities is compelling and mind-boggling. A puzzle. I liked it.
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This was so good, a crime thriller in the old fashioned Agatha Christie style with a fabulous twist. I intended to only read a bit but found myself unable to stop until I had finished. Best book I have read in ages.
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The Woman in the Library was a fun read. The framing devise of have a a reader’s feedback after each chapter was a clever approach and felt very meta. It was particularly enjoyable to see how Leo’s feedback began to shift and become more aggressive over time. The letter also allowed for a terrific way to address the pandemic but also not acknowledge it. At least that was my take on it even if Leo disagreed! The main mystery itself was successful in its own right and did keep me guessing until the end.
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What a who done it..  A novel inside a novel which I myself did not see coming.  Four young people a few writers are in the Boston Public Library when and terrible scream turns them into to friends.  Friends that lead them on a path of murder, lies, and uncertainty.  
Winifred Kincaid or Freddie  to her friends is a writer from Australia who is in Boston on a scholarship for writing.  While in the reading room she meets Marigold Anastas a psych student, whit Metters a law student and Cain McLeod a published writer..  Then comes the scream that changes things for the four.  Where did it come from and who is the victim.? This murder leads these four on a path to friendship but not the kind you would want. Can one of them be the murderer.
As we read on we find out that this woman had a history with one of these people so we start off with the mystery of why?
What I like about this novel is that it's a two in one story Not only are you trying to figure out who killed this young women but but of Leo who is writing to his favorite author Hannah Tigone.  We see how Leo who you believe is another aspiring writer and a fan of Ms. Tigone reads chapters of her next book and gives her his ideas of how she can change things. You see as you read how Leo changes towards Hannah.  So here is your next mystery.Once you read Leo's  emails to Hannah you are then taken back to Boston and what is happening with that murder. How does the friendship change with these four as more truths come out about how one of them if not more are connected to this murder .  I like the twists and turns this novel took that brought us to the end.  Love the character of Freddie and how she changes from chapter to chapter.  She will stop at nothing to find out the truth.  She had grown into a fearless fighter for the truth.  You also some racial overtones.  Especially between Leo and Hannah.  His tone changes when race is brought up and also how he touches on the pandemic.and how it is affecting him. 

I would recommend this to anyone who likes a story withing a story.  A mystery within a mystery with some funny undertones.  I wish the ending had a little more to it.  I felt it was a little flat, but that is just me.  I would give this 4.5 stars because I love the mysteries and how this novel was written.  Thank you Poisioned Pen Press and NetGalley for this ARC.  I will look forward to Sulari Gentill's next novel.
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Wow what a story within a Story!   The twist have turns and twist again. A little hard to follow but Werth  it in the end!  Will watch for more reads!
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I really enjoyed reading this book, I loved it and I need it with all the things going around I had the opportunity to immersed in unconventional mystery and forget about day life problems. I loved the subtle humor and the surprising twists in the story. This is a second novel I read by Sulari Gentill and she surprised me again. 
I want to thank Poisoned Pen and NetGalley for the advanced copy in change of my honest review.
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2.5 Rounded Up. This book didn't really work for me. At first I had vibes from "The Plot" as it is a story within a story. However I quickly derailed from the similarities as this one completely confused me and left me scratching my head multiple times. I never felt it completely come together on various fronts. I had high hopes as reading about a murder mystery in the Boston Public Library sounded fantastic but ultimately it fell flat for me. Thank you to NetGalley and Poisoned Pen Press for an advance copy in exchange for my honest opinion. The Woman in the Library will be available on 6/7/2022.
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Rating: 2.1 / 5

Received ARC for honest review

Cards on the table, where they may as well be--and as they always are in all my reviews.

*deep breath* I didn't like the writing of this.

Yup, that's it. I did not like the writing of this.

In terms of metafictional fiction, I can take it or leave it, personally. Sometimes, it's done really well and writers can get away with it, indeed being "clever" and getting the reader "thinking" about the layers of complexity hidden beneath the plot, etc. I'm not saying that it doesn't take a lot of planning and thinking--it does.

But in the case of a murder mystery novel, which I expect to be fast-paced, instantly interesting, and pretty much something that I don't want to put down...

Eh...this kind of fell flat for me, to be honest.

What we've got is the story of Winifred, which is being written by the fictional author, Hannah. Honestly, for this, I would have preferred the author to just name her fictional author Sulari, since at least then we'd get a sense that this talks about her writing process, not the writing process of a fictional writing.

*sighs* But, anyway...

Winifred meets up with three other people in the library one morning, whom I'd much rather refer to by their initial nicknames rather than their real names--Freud Girl, Heroic Chin, and Handsome Man. Together these four strike up a spontaneous friendship after they hear a scream in the library, and the pitch for this entire story that gets it moving is that Hannah (the fictional author of this foursome), has decided to make one of them a murderer.

Okay, so, that's well and good, but where's the Sherlock Holmes exploring for Winifred? Where's the atmosphere of that "off" feeling, something that we can't define but that we know is there beneath the surface and that we want to find out at all costs?

If I cared about what happened, maybe I would have felt all these things, but as it is...I just didn't.

I don't know, maybe it's the meta-metafictional nature of this read, or maybe I just don't like the writing of the author. Certainly, I didn't get far enough into the book to judge the plot fully, but...oh well.

Just my two bits, take it as it is.
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This was a decent read for me but I did have some hang ups that prevented me from enjoying it more. Firstly, kudos to the author for thinking up the unique idea of a book within a book idea. This made the plot layered and dynamic. However, much like I am not one for instant romance, instant friendship also does not work for me. Call me rude but I will never meet three strangers and instantly have them over everyday. For this reason the I found it hard to engage with characters from the beginning. 

Thank you Netgalley and Poisoned Pen Press for the opportunity to review this arc.
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Like other readers mentioned this is a story within a story.  I actually enjoyed that and thought it was a great read! Lots of twists and turns and set in a library.  Great story for an afternoon of reading! I got through it in one sitting!
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The Woman in the Library is a clever and engaging thriller set in Boston during the pandemic. One engaging aspect of the plot is author Sulari Gentill's technique to draw attention to the fact that the pandemic is not included in the main plot about the scream heard by four strangers as they sit across from each other in the reading room of the Boston Public Library. Gentill uses a letter exchange between two writers to discuss the pandemic and its place in contemporary fiction. Overall, The Woman in the Library is a wonderful, refreshing murder mystery with engaging characters and solid plot.
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The ornate reading room at the Boston Public Library is quiet, until the tranquility is shattered by a woman's terrified scream. Security guards take charge immediately, instructing everyone inside to stay put until the threat is identified and contained. While they wait for the all-clear, four strangers, who'd happened to sit at the same table, pass the time in conversation and friendships are struck. Each has his or her own reasons for being in the reading room that morning—it just happens that one is a murderer.  This is  an unexpectedly twisty literary adventure that examines the complicated nature of friendship and shows us that words can be the most treacherous weapons of all.  

I was not familiar with the author, but thoroughly enjoyed this book.  It is an interesting premise about a woman writing a book about 4 people, one of which is also writing a book.  There are twists and turns along the way in the story which kept me reading late one night to finally figure out the ending.  Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for granting my request to read this book.
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Fun and interesting premise, but nothing extraordinary.

Which isn't bad. This book understood the assignment and delivers. Unfortunately, that assignment was a Girl/Woman thriller that's about seven to ten years too late.

It's a perfect beach/airplane book. You can sit down and read the whole thing in a day and have fun doing so. But you'll probably forget you read it once you're home from your vacation.

I received a copy from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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This  author really took a unique approach with this book.  Like a story within a story and the twist and turns make it a very interesting read. The characters are likable and compelling and you honestly don’t want any of them to be the murderer.  A must read for those folks that like to be kept on the edge of their seats.
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The Woman in the Library, by author Sulari Gentill, is like no other book I’ve ever read.  The risks Gentill takes in turning the traditional structure of a murder mystery on its ear are at once intriguing and frustrating; the source of not only the book’s strengths but also it’s weaknesses.

The chapters in the book are the work of fictional author Hannah Tigone.  She is an Australian writer using a beta reader in the US, Leo Johnson, to help her stay true to the setting she has chosen in the US.  The book initially alternates  between the story Hannah Tigone is writing (a piece set in Boston, the premise of which is a writer developing a murder mystery) and the letters she then receives from her beta reader as she shares with him each chapter upon its completion.  In Leo’s letters to Tigone, he corrects some of her Australian word choices to more appropriate American phrasing and suggests adjustments of details based on the area of Boston where the story is set.  Leo is himself a writer, though he has not enjoyed the successes of Tigone, and he doesn’t hesitate to boldly assert himself in proposing tweaks and changes, some minor and some which could potentially alter the entire plot of Tigone’s work.  His letters become increasingly aggressive in their suggestions as the story progresses; his recommendations more violent and graphic.  The reader is not, however, given any insight into Tigone’s reactions beyond what Leo responds to and a few other communications directed to Tigone that are included (to elaborate on this point would mean spoilers, which I am loathe to include). If it sounds confusing, that’s because it is.  While the “story within a story” has certainly been done before, the structure of The Woman in the Library takes it one step further, testing both the loyalty and patience of the reader.  If the reader doesn’t immediately catch on to what Gentill is trying to do, the result is seemingly unrelated chapters that refuse to connect.  The upshot is that this is a novel that contains chapters of another novel, written by a fictional author, the content of which is the story of a mystery writer awarded a grant  that allows her to travel to the US from Australia in order to write her book.  Those chapters  alternate with letters from the fictional author’s beta reader. Yeah.   It’s quite a monumental task for both author and reader.

I appreciate the risks Gentill takes in her storytelling.  They keep the reader focused, if only to stay on top of the ever-changing perspective and media being shared.  The transitions between Leo’s letters and suggestions and the mystery being written by the fictional author are sometimes awkward and abrupt.  While this may have been intentional, for me it removed me from the story in an effort to “keep up”.  Further more, Gentill’s approach to character development (there was none for Tigone) made the entire book feel distant, as if I as the reader was being held at an arm’s length instead of being invited in to meet the cast.  This feeling of being an outsider colored my ability to invest in either Leo’s spiraling mental state or the story Tigone is writing.  Even the characters within the mystery are under developed and almost ethereal—shallow and transparent to the point of appearing as rough outlines of who they could have become under the direction of a more experienced writer.  

I appear to be in the minority with my rating, as others have placed this squarely in the 5 star category.  For me, however, I could offer only three stars for the novel approach.  Beyond that, there is definitely a lack of substance from the beginning that never does materialize.

Thanks to NetGalley and Poisoned Pen Press for allowing me access to this ARC.  Expected publication is slated for June 7, 2022.
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