murder at the 42nd street library book coverReviewed by Caleb Shadis

Cornelius Lehane has the Brian McNulty series about a bartender who seems to find himself helping solve and prevent crimes in New York. Murder at the 42nd Street Library seems to be a spin-off, where McNulty is just a minor background character.  This is important since the main character of this story, Raymond Ambler, seems to have a history we ‘should’ know something about but this book is the first of a series (as far as I can tell).

The morning of Adele’s mother’s funeral, a man is shot and killed in the Library where Adele and Raymond work. Right in front of another coworker, Harry, who was also shot at. The man killed was on his way to visit Harry but Harry claims he didn’t know the details of the visit.

Raymond is in charge of the crime fiction collection at the library and he tends to have a penchant for sniffing out mysteries and a curiosity that won’t leave them be. Even when the cops tell him to leave things well enough alone. The murdered man was the ex-husband of a woman working as a research assistant of Max, a man Raymond knew years ago (and had reason to dislike) and who is researching the life of Nelson Yates at the library.

It turns out the dead man, Max, his assistant, his wife, Harry and Nelson Yates all knew each other years previously when Nelson was a professor. Raymond thinks something from the past has reared its ugly head and the chickens have come home to roost.

Raymond met Nelson once, and liked him. He had the pleasure to meet him again, and discovered that he seemed to be having bouts of dementia or temporary lapses of awareness. He asked Raymond if he could find his missing and estranged daughter. Before Raymond can get very far in that investigation, Nelson himself is shot in full daylight in a park near to the Library, while waiting for Raymond to show up.

This book was a tangled skein with lots of other pieces and parts thrown in. I felt it was a good story, a decent mystery and a good strong look at how so many tend to ruin or throw away the good things in their life. Often for stupid reasons. Even the cop in charge of both murder investigations had a few skeletons in his closet. I will say that for such an elaborate story, everything seems to tie up with a neat little bow, almost too neat, considering the train wreck of so many of the lives.

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Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Minotaur Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.