First Line: Dr. James Donnelly climbed out of a cab on Fifth Avenue in front of the marble stairway that led to the entrance of the 42nd Street Library, pulling his worn leather shoulder bag behind him.
When a man is murdered right in front of Raymond Ambler, the man in charge of the crime fiction collection in New York City's fabled 42nd Street Library, Raymond is compelled to do his own investigating. After all, he's got the proper literary background for it. What he doesn't expect to uncover are some disturbing relationships among the scholars studying in the library. The more Ambler finds out, the more he's beginning to think that the 42nd Street Library will never be the same.
What dedicated crime fiction lover can resist a murder in a library? I certainly couldn't, but as I read this book, I found a collection of mixed blessings.
The descriptions of the library are absolutely delicious. They made me want to hop a plane and go there immediately. Another thing I savored was Lehane's skill with characterization; the interactions between characters and the observations they make about each other are excellent. In particular the budding relationship between Ambler's fellow amateur sleuth Adele and Johnny, a young boy she at first believes to be homeless, is touching and makes these two come to life.
I wish I could say I had the same warm fuzzies about the main character, Raymond Ambler, but I'm afraid he put me off when he felt it was only fair to withhold evidence from Cosgrove, his friend in the police force, because Cosgrove didn't give him each and every detail of the murder investigation. To be honest, it made me wonder what the name of Ambler's home planet was.
The pace of Murder at the 42nd Street Library was slow at times, and at others, it bounced around so much that I felt as though I was inside a pinball machine. Another thing I didn't care for was the deus ex machina concerning a child's parentage provided at the end by Lehane.
You could almost call this book a cozy, but it's meatier than that, and although I loved Lehane's powers of description and characterization, Ambler didn't quite win me over. But that doesn't mean he won't be able to charm you.
Murder at the 42nd Street Library by Con Lehane
Minotaur Books © 2016
Hardcover, 320 pages
Source: the publisher