The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill @SulariGentill @ultimopress

Source: Review copy
Publication: 1st June 2022 ebook from Ultimo Press; H/b 15 Sept 2022
PP: 266

My thanks to Ultimo Press for an advance copy for review

Hannah Tigone, bestselling Australian crime author, is crafting a new novel that begins in the Boston Public Library: four strangers; Winifred, Cain, Marigold and Whit are sitting at the same table when a bloodcurdling scream breaks the silence. A woman has been murdered. They are all suspects, and, as it turns out, each character has their own secrets and motivations – and one of them is a murderer.

While crafting this new thriller, Hannah shares each chapter with her biggest fan and aspirational novelist, Leo. But Leo seems to know a lot about violence, motive, and how exactly to kill someone. Perhaps he is not all that he seems…

The Woman in the Library is an unexpectedly twisty literary adventure that examines the complicated nature of friendship – and shows that words can be the most treacherous weapons of all.

I first became aware of Sulari Gentill when I read her stand-alone novel, Crossing The Lines, which I loved. In The Woman in the Library, another stand-alone, Gentill has again turned to metafiction, utilising the device of writers corresponding and thus telling stories within stories.

Hannah Tigone, is an Australian crime author. Her opus is about a murder in the Boston Public Library – a typical locked room mystery. Leo, her correspondent, is an aspiring author, as yet without an agent and with no manuscript accepted. He is Boston based and happy not just to beta read for Hannah, but to offer authoritative information on local customs and landmarks.

This book is a lot of fun. The heroine of Hannah’s book, Freddie Kinkaid, is an Australian in Boston on a writing fellowship. She is pondering her latest novel in the Reading Room of the Boston Library when she hears a curdling scream and soon after she, together with the three people sitting nearest to her, are all ushered out of the library.

It turns out that the body of journalist Caroline Palfrey has been discovered and she was murdered in the Library. Over coffee, the four library visitors – Cain, Marigold, Freddie and Whit discuss the murder and bond over their shared interest in finding out what happened.

So Hannah’s novel becomes Freddie’s story of solving the mystery of The Woman in the Library. And to further complicate matters, Hannah writes Leo into the story as a neighbour and helpful friend.

This pleases our correspondent and his namesake. As Hannah finishes a chapter, Leo reads it and offers feedback. Eager to be helpful in the beginning, he soon begins to offer more assertive suggestions and to query the direction of her novel.  It seems our beta reader hasstrongly held views about what Hannah should be writing…

The Woman in the Library is a murder mystery but the danger is both within the novel that Hannah is writing and from external sources. Both narratives come together and it seems that everyone in this fictional story has something to hide and our author may herself be under threat.

Verdict: I found The Woman in the Library hugely fun to read. The murder mystery stands up as a good read in its own right and the added layers of a chilling correspondent make for an extra frisson of interest. I especially love the exchanges between Leo and Hannah on what is important when writing her book. Gentill touches on the dilemmas every writer faces – do you include the pandemic in your story?  Should you be explicit about the race and colour of your characters, or leave it to the reader to form their own opinions? This is a brilliantly constructed novel. It is great fun, clever, thought-provoking and a joy to read.                                  Waterstones                                     Amazon

Sulari Gentill is the author of the multi- award-winning Rowland Sinclair Mysteries, a series of historical crime novels set in 1930s Australia.  Under the name S. D. Gentill, Sulari wrote the The Hero Trilogy – a fantasy adventure series based on the myths and legends of the ancient world. Her widely praised standalone novel, Crossing the Lines, won the Ned Kelly Award for Best Crime Novel, and was short-listed for the Davitt Award. Most recently, Sulari was awarded a Copyright Agency Cultural Fund Fellowship for The Woman in the Library. Sulari lives in a small country town in the Australian Snowy Mountains where she grows French Black Truffles and writes. She remains in love with the art of storytelling

Published by marypicken

Passionate book reader. Love all kind of books from 19th century novels to crime thrillers. My blog is predominantly crime, psychological thrillers and police procedurals with a good helping of literary fiction thrown in.

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