The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill: A review

 

This book features a story within a story which made it (sometimes) confusing for me to follow. 

The library in the title is the Boston Public Library which is where one of the book's characters, Australian thriller writer Hannah Tigone, sets her story. We never really meet Hannah except through the emails addressed to her by someone named Leo. Leo is apparently an aspiring writer himself and a fan of Hannah's. He reads her manuscript and offers her suggestions, as any good editor would, about her language and the plot of her novel.

Leo's emails come at the end of each chapter of Hannah's manuscript. Those chapters almost always end on a cliffhanger.

The story within the story, i.e. Hannah's manuscript, has an Australian woman named Winifred, aka Freddie, living in Boston on a scholarship. The book opens with her sitting at a table at the BPL with three strangers when they are shocked by a scream. The authorities tell everyone to remain in place while they sort out what has happened. 

What has happened is that a woman has been murdered and we are apprised up front that one of those people at the table with Freddie is the murderer.

Freddie herself is attempting to write a novel and she decides to use her tablemates as characters in the book. She refers to them as Handsome Man (Cain), Freud Girl (Marigold), and Heroic Chin (Whit). As they are trapped at the table by circumstances, they converse and establish friendships. A bond of those friendships is the fact that they are now each other's alibis. But not everything is as it seems.

As I indicated in the beginning, this twisty plot was a bit of a challenge to follow and I sometimes felt lost. It was a clever story and Sulari Gentill, a writer I had never read and indeed had never heard of before, did yeoman duty in attempting to keep it all straight, but I frankly felt that the Leo gambit added no value to the tale and if his comments had been omitted, I think it would have made for a better read. His comments just interrupted the flow of the story, again to no positive effect.

I looked Gentill up after the fact and learned that she has a LOT of books published all the way back to 2010. The majority of her books are part of a crime fiction series featuring a character called Rowland Sinclair. Maybe I'll get around to reading some of them one of these days.

Comments

  1. When authors try something new like this--like writing a story within a story--I always admire the attempt, even if the book itself is less than successful. I like the idea of this one, I'm just not sure I'd love reading it.

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    1. It was not the easiest of reads. As I indicated, I found it confusing at times, but overall I found it enjoyable.

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  2. Evidently, I was in the perfect mood for this book because i didn't have a problem following it at all. I liked Leo's presence in the book, but I sat here for a minute or two to ponder your thoughts about leaving him out altogether, and--even though I don't particularly agree-- he would be relatively easy to excise with little damage to the story.

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    1. It helps to be, as you say, "in the mood" for a story. I've found this to be true time and time again.

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  3. I have had this one on hold at the library for a while, and it looks like I'm still several weeks away from getting my hands on it. But now I know I need to pay attention right from the beginning if I'm going to have a chance at keeping up with the intricacies of the plot. Sounds like those books best read straight through rather than alternating it with other books being read.

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    1. My mind is such that I have to stick to one fiction book at a time, although I usually have a nonfiction going somewhere in the background. But, yes, this one is a bit twisty and it is best to be alert while reading it.

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  4. It does sound confusing. I sometimes like stories within stories ... but this one sounds like it backfired.

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    1. I enjoyed it well enough but I felt it could have been better.

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