Friday, March 26, 2021

Murder Off the Page (42nd Street Library Mystery #3), by Con Lehane (author), Wayne Mitchell (narrator)

Dreamscape Media, November 2019

Raymond Ambler is a librarian at the New York Public Library, curator of the Crime Fiction Collection, and an amateur sleuth. The bartender at the nearby Library Tavern, favorite watering hole of at least some of the librarians, is a good friend, Brian McNulty. Another friend is Mike Cosgrove, an NYPD homicide detective. Adele Morgan is another librarian, a friend, and a potential love interest, if Ambler can figure out how human relationships work.

Ambler also has joint custody of his grandson, Johnny. His son, John, is in prison for second degree murder. Johnny's mother is deceased (apparently unrelated to John's case--hey, it's book three, and the first one I've read.) So Ambler has a lot on his plate without getting involved in a murder at a local hotel, that McNulty wants him to solve. But why? It seems a woman called Shannon Darling is involved.

Ambler and Adele first saw her at the Library Tavern, drunk, wild, and attracting men she didn't necessarily want to attract. The next time, she came into the Crime Fiction reading room, saying she was doing research on women crime writers. In particular, Jane Galloway, a favorite of Ambler's, who has recently donated her papers to the library. Yet Shannon Darling seems to have no idea how to do research, which seems inconsistent with her claim that she's a writer.

When she become connected to a murder, Ambler doesn't want to get involved.  When it becomes clear that she and McNulty are involved, and worse yet, when the two of them disappear together, Ambler's resistance remains strong. Well, pretty strong.

When Shannon is murdered and McNulty is the prime, no, the only suspect, that resistance crumbles.

Shannon turns out to have another name, and a complicated past, and a connection to Jane Galloway. And a daughter about the same age as Johnny.

It's a pretty interesting plot, but I found Ambler hard to warm up to. He's not an unpleasant person; just, for me, not an engaging one. He has no sense about human relationships at all, even with his grandson, whom he loves and is devoted to. He's maddening even to his friends, and has no idea why.

The narrator is also--not good. All the women sound like hysterical ditzes, even when the author intends them to sound intelligent and strong. It's a disservice to the book.

It is, nevertheless, an interesting mystery, and others are likely to find Ambler more likeable, or at least more engaging, than I do. But I would recommend reading, not listening.

I bought this audiobook.

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