The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill is a highly recommended, entertaining story-within-a-mystery novel.
Australian mystery writer author Hannah Tigone
is writing a new novel and Leo Johnson, a fan and aspiring writer is
corresponding with her and offering to be a beta reader for her new
novel. In the novel Australian writer Winifred “Freddie” Kincaid has
received a writing fellowship that has her staying in Boston. While in
the Boston Public Library looking for writing inspiration, Freddie is
secretly observing her fellow table mates when a scream is heard that
starts a conversation between the four. Marigold, Whit, Cain, and
Freddie, become friends and we know from her first chapter that one of
them is a killer.
The dual narrative alternates between emails from Leo to Hannah which include writing suggestions and hope that the two writers can meet soon and chapters from the new mystery novel featuring Freddie. In both of the narratives there is a story that is unfolding. There is an impending sense of trepidation as the tension increases in the murder mystery Hannah is writing. Leo's correspondence is full of suggestions and initially is supportive but about half way through the book some outside information comes to light that results in Leo's letters take on a whole new dimension.
This is a fun, entertaining inventive novel with interesting characters. The dual narratives adds interest and both are unpredictable in very different ways. While I found the novel and the two perspectives entertaining, I can't say I was wholly invested in the totality of the novel until it was well underway. Some parts seemed slow moving, nevertheless, I was engaged enough to keep reading and was pleased with some of the turns the plot takes, the detective work of Freddie, and the unexpected surprises and new information that was revealed. This is a novel that would benefit from being able to read it quickly.
The characters are all sufficiently developed, with the exception of
the writer, Hannah, so readers will be guessing who is the killer. I did
find the sudden, intense friendship of the four a bit unrealistic, but
it is necessary to move that story along. The narrative with the four
instant friends does contrast nicely with Leo's epistolary narrative.
I enjoyed The Woman in the Library and found it entertaining.
One suggestion would be to stick this one out through the slow start
until you reach the point where the narratives both pick up and become
compelling. The conclusions of both narratives are very satisfying.