The woman in the library by Sulari Gentill

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Utterly brilliant, this highly original mystery novel will have you puzzling until the end. It begins with a letter from aspiring author Leo, writing from the Boston Public Library, to bestselling Australian author Hannah, asking about how her latest novel is going. And then we have Hannah’s writing, a work in progress, about four people who actually meet in that library, drawn together when they hear a woman scream. Thus Gentill creates a story within a story. It’s a little confusing at first, but readers are encouraged to persevere, for it becomes the most fascinating brain twister, that explores all the possibilities of mystery writing. It is that extra layer that raises so many interesting questions about authorship and writing.

My preview edition of the novel came with 4 playing cards, each card a possible suspect: Winifred, Cain, Marigold and Whit. Each has their own secrets. Like a game of Cluedo, I was challenged to read the novel until page 235, then stop, and make my guess: who killed the woman in the library? Even if your edition of the book does not have the cards, it is fun to make a guess at that point. How would you solve the mystery?

There are constant reminders that we are reading a mystery story that unfolds as it is being written, and there are many possibilities that could be developed. At the same time, Hannah’s relationship with Leo seems to become darker and darker. How genuine are his offers of help, and where is it leading?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to mystery lovers, and especially to readers who are also interested in the art of storytelling. It provides fascinating insight into the world of authors and writing, and is fun as well, and very very clever.

Themes: Mystery, Murder, Writing, Writers.

Helen Eddy