The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill
For a story within a story (within a story?), for a lot of twistiness around writing and text and authors, for a good old fashioned murder mystery, for a lovely exploration of Boston!
The ornate reading room at the Boston Public Library is quiet, until the tranquility is shattered by a woman’s terrified scream. Security guards take charge immediately, instructing everyone inside to stay put until the threat is identified and contained. While they wait for the all-clear, four strangers, who’d happened to sit at the same table, pass the time in conversation and friendships are struck. Each has his or her own reasons for being in the reading room that morning—it just happens that one is a murderer.
Award-winning author Sulari Gentill delivers a sharply thrilling read with The Woman in the Library, an unexpectedly twisty literary adventure that examines the complicated nature of friendship and shows us that words can be the most treacherous weapons of all.
THIS. WAS. SO. GOOD. By chapter two or three I was so giddy with excitement over all that this book was already promising. There’s a text within the text, and it allowed me to come up with 4 or 5 wildly different theories as to what the resolution of the story would be. I got real creative, LET ME TELL YA. And that last line? BOY DO I HAVE THOUGHTS.
Okay. Obviously it’s a murder mystery, so I’ll keep the spoiler talk out (and/or hidden under a spoiler tag at the end). It was freaking fantastic though! It seemed like everyone at one point or another was a suspect. There was one point about 80% of the way through that made me go “OH okay, it’s obviously X.” And then the characters slowly came to that conclusion. But still — I had an extremely fun time all the way up to that point waiting to see what would happen.
The text within a text of the letters was a really exciting and fascinating element for me (have I mentioned that class I took on unreliable narrators and false texts?). The way the commentary would then be reflected in the next chapter with some of the suggestions was sometimes eerie and sometimes funny. I couldn’t tell what was real and what story was actually happening — IF ANY OF THEM! It was positively delightful, like being in a house of mirrors and not knowing which way to look (but liking what I saw in every direction 😎).
There’s a TON of local (and imagined) Boston businesses and landmarks in this story. From details on how to get from Copley Plaza to the airport with which stops on the Red and Green lines you’d take, to little notes about the weather and language that people use. Despite having lived in Boston for years, it made me want to go on a little “Woman in the Library” tour! It also made me want some fancy-ass donuts. And isn’t there something a little more immediate and real about a murder mystery set somewhere so concrete? Being able to vividly imagine the reading room they were in at the title library was thrilling in it’s own way.
Just read it, yo. This is so good. This probably a re-read and purchase for me. 🥰
8 thoughts on “Review: The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill”
Oh, neat! I had heard of this one, but hadn’t heard much about it, so thank you for the review. It sounds really good!
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Yeah, I thought it would make a bigger splash. I feel like I saw it pop up a lot before publication, but then no reviews or anything after… very odd. It’s so good!
I know a lot of the blogs I follow have a SFF focus, so I had assumed that was probably why I hadn’t seen it. I don’t see as many straight mysteries on the book blogs I follow.
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