Author: Con Lehane

Publisher: Minotaur Books, 2016

ISBN: 9781250009968

The cute title misled me. Librarian Raymond Ambler, a “reluctant sleuth,” is the hero of this new series by Con Lehane whose publicity suggests he will use it to further exploit the memorable locations and abundant stories of New Yorkers. The Big Apple is the background for his earlier mysteries solved by a bartender. Brian McNulty’s remains important in Murder at the 42nd Street Library as the “go-to” informant and protector for Ambler, who is presented as the rather hapless and concerned (but I would not say reluctant) witness when a library user gets shot in the back by someone who sneaks into the restricted reading room right behind this victim (ony the first).

In unraveling the tale, Lehane introduces us to the policies and peculiarities of this wonderful institution that is famous nationally, New York’s main library and educational source, not just for scholars but also countless residents who are auto-didacts.

I was excited about the auhor’s concept. I still look forward to the next in the series, perhaps set in a museum. However (full disclosure, I was recently relieved of a brain tumor) I find this first plot a little overly-complicated. At the center are characters who are relics of the Hippie generation of Greenwich Village. That is convincing. Then there is a mystery philanthropist who funded the collection of crime novels and personal archives that are Ambler’s responsibility. That’s interesting. Ambler has a pretty colleague and she is a potential girlfriend. Okay. I like that she is compassionate and follows a shoe shine boy age about 8 to his run-down apartment, worried about his safety. Where I broke down was when too many academic types turn out to be lecherous men – and women -- who contributed to the ruin of another major figure in this tragic story.

I also found it unnecessarily violent. It looks to me like the sexual exploitation of children is the theme of the hour, perhaps the decade. And the sex is violent, too, as sex without love. I have not read Lehane’s earlier novels so I cannot be sure, but it seems like he gets into sex in a way to appeal to the perverse tastes or perceived needs of his audience. Is it a marketing technique? Did he need more pages? He sort of half-covers up the lovers’ shame with the worries of the nicely developed police detective about his unsupervised 13-year-old daughter. But he doesn’t need the unsavory bits. He would only have had to further develop the lifestyle of the artists and writers of the 1960s-70s. The history in the plot is good enough.