Review: Death in the Stacks – Jenn McKinlay
by Jenn McKinlay
Series: Library Lover's Mystery #8
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Publication Date: November 14, 2017
Source: First to Read
I received an advance review copy of this book from First to Read. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
Lindsey Norris and her staff are gearing up for the Briar Creek Library’s annual Dinner in the Stacks fund-raiser. The night of dinner and dancing is not only a booklover’s dream—it’s the library’s biggest moneymaker of the year. But instead of raising funds, the new library board president is busy raising a stink and making the staff miserable.
Although Olive Boyle acts like a storybook villain, Lindsey is determined to work with her and make the event a success. But when Olive publicly threatens the library’s newest hire, Paula, Lindsey cracks like an old book spine and throws Olive out of the library.
The night of the fund-raiser, Lindsey dreads another altercation with Olive—but instead finds Paula crouched over Olive’s dead body. Paula may have secrets, but Lindsey and the rest of the crafternooners know she’s not the one who took Olive out of circulation. As the plot thickens, Lindsey must catch the real killer before the book closes on Paula’s future . . .
Cozy mystery in a library? Sign me up! This is the second Jenn McKinlay book I’ve read, and she definitely excels at cozy reads with humorous characters, strong friendships, and gentle romance. Though this is the eighth entry in the Library Lover’s mystery series, it’s my first introduction to it. I think it can definitely be read as a standalone, though I’m guessing I’m missing a lot of background and in-jokes. There’s definitely a feeling of a much larger story going on, with a full village of characters. As someone just jumping in, it took a bit to separate out which characters were actually important to this book versus those there to give long-term fans updates. If anything, I would’ve preferred to have less of the “old character pops in to say hi” (and then with attendant backstory) and more attention to the current book’s plot and characters.
The humorous characters are what really makes this book, including a couple of pun-offs courtesy of some visiting Brits (who appear to be characters from one of the author’s other mystery series). My personal favorite was the curmudgeonly old Ms. Cole, referred to as “the Lemon”:
“Lindsey blinked. Good ol’ Ms. Cole. Only she would be more outraged that they had raised their voices [in the library] than that they had accused someone of murder.”
Seriously, though, what library doesn’t have a “lemon” on its staff? The murder victim, Olive, was sufficiently nasty enough to make me initially wonder if there was some “Murder on the Orient Express”-style plot going on. While (minor spoiler) that’s not what happens, the mystery itself was satisfying. There were enough clues and red herrings given to keep the plot moving at a brisk pace. I wouldn’t say that it was un-put-down-able – these types of mysteries aren’t really meant to be that – but it definitely held my interest.
But, at heart, I felt like the mystery plot was secondary to the wonderful characters and its humor. Besides puns and quirky characters, the book also gently pokes fun at murder mystery stereotypes, like the Agatha Christie books the crafternooners discuss at one of their meetings:
“Oliver Boyle’s funeral was a packed house with a restless crowd, as if they were expecting some sort of spectacle like the murderer confessing or the police arresting someone in the middle of the eulogy. They were woefully disappointed.”
Recommended for anyone who loves cozy mysteries, libraries, and a cast of humorous characters!