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Familiar Diversions

I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.

Currently reading

How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom, Vol. 1
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Progress: 103/374 pages
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By Book or By Crook by Eva Gates

By Book or By Crook: A Lighthouse Library Mystery - Eva Gates

I finished this back in June, so some details are fuzzy.

Lucy previously worked at the Harvard Library and is now a new librarian at Bodie Island's public library, which is housed inside a lighthouse. There are a few folks who aren't thrilled that she got the job, but for the most part Lucy loves her new position. She's particularly excited about the Jane Austen first editions the library currently has on loan. That excitement turns to dismay and horror as one of the first editions goes missing and the chairman of the library board is found murdered.

I tend to be drawn to book and library-themed cozy mysteries, so I snatched this one up when I spotted it in a used bookstore. Unfortunately, it turned out to be terrible.

The author's bio doesn't mention any sort of library background, although she thanks a librarian in her acknowledgements, so I assume she spoke to that person as part of her research. Either her research wasn't very thorough or she didn't ask the right questions, because this book was filled with mistakes and difficult-to-believe details.

Cozy mystery authors seem to be fond of 30-year-old librarians who somehow already have 10 years of librarian experience under their belts. Library experience would be believable, but becoming a librarian by age 20 would really be pushing it, particularly a librarian at the Harvard Library. You need a bachelor's degree first (approximately 4 years), and then a Master's in Library Science (or Library and Information Science, depending on the school), which can take 1-2 years depending on what sort of course load you can handle. Lucy would have had to graduate early in both high school and college early in order to be a librarian by age 20.

But what really bothered me was the author's glaring lack of knowledge about library security. On page 129, there was this discussion between one of the library's employees and a police officer:

"'I don't suppose y'all have security on the door?'

'I do some crowd control,' Charlene said.

'Stopping little old ladies from stepping on each other's sensible shoes. I meant like a bar-code detector. Alarm. Things like that.'

'This is a library. Not a jewelry store. And we're in the Bodie Island Lighthouse, not the Bronx. No, we do not have alarms.'"

There's so much wrong with this passage that it's hard to know where to start. Yes, there are lots of small libraries out there that don't have much in the way of security - but those libraries would never be loaned a collection of Jane Austen first editions for a temporary display. And libraries that don't have any sort of security systems in place likely don't have them because they can't afford them, not because they think they don't need them - all libraries, even ones in small towns, are better off with some sort of security system in place (alarms, security gates, panic buttons, etc.), for the safety of their users and staff as well as to reduce the likelihood of theft. Charlene saying that this was "the Bodie Island Lighthouse, not the Bronx" struck me as both naive and potentially racist. Also, library security gates are not called bar-code detectors - I'll forgive that one because it was the police officer character who said it.

If I remember right, the above passage occurred after the first book went missing. That left five books and a notebook that could still be stolen. In addition to keeping the books locked up and only removing them when a staff member could be on hand to make sure it stayed safe, I'd have bought a webcam or two off Amazon and set them up. Instead, library staff felt that keeping the books locked up as much as possible (with the key easily accessible in the head librarian's unlocked office) was good enough. Considering how the story progressed (more thefts!), the continued library security issues were maddening.

Although I was able to figure out the murderer's identity a little early, I did think the murder mystery aspect was decent. It's too bad that everything was overshadowed by the glaringly awful library security details. No one in their right mind would lend a library like this anything even remotely rare and valuable. I very much agreed with the cop who said this: "I wouldn't want y'all guarding my doghouse." (226)

Sometimes terrible cozy mysteries can be at least somewhat saved by their characters. That wasn't the case here. Lucy annoyed me. Her views on books and library struck me as being old-fashioned, and she seemed to be very judgmental of everything from other people's tastes in recreational reading to the kind of music they listened to. Her two potential love interests (yes, there's already a love triangle in the works) were both bland and uninteresting. I'm assuming Connor (the guy Lucy had a crush on as a teen, and who is now the mayor) is being set up as the guy who appears to have the best chance with Lucy, while Butch (a local cop) is the guy Lucy's actually going to end up with. If she ever ends up with anyone.

I don't plan on reading more of this series.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)