The Woman in the Library | Review
Updated: May 26, 2022
Rating - ⭐⭐
"In every person's story, there is something to hide...
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."
The Woman in the Library is a standalone mystery thriller novel by Sulari Gentill.
First and foremost, I would like to thank NetGalley and Poisoned Pen Press for giving me the opportunity to review this in advance. Please note that this in no way affects my opinions. Also note that what I read was an ARC, and things may be subject to change for the official release.
This simply just didn't work for me. Despite initially liking the story, I found my interest dwindling and my rating slowly getting lower as more and more issues started to appear with the plot and characters. I didn't think this was particularly good at delivering either a good mystery or thriller. The closer I got to the end, the more I started to skim because I was over the story.
Let's get into the details.
Originally, what drew me to his book was the way the author presented the story. In fact, it was the only thing I found interesting as I found the story itself was rather plain and boring. I enjoyed the communication from Leo to Hannah through a series of letters critiquing her book as it broke the fourth wall a bit.
However, as I went on, the format lost its charm and only added to the confusing mess that was this book. I spent a lot of time during this book being very confused, which was both my fault and the books. My brain just kept going back and forth on whether or not this was a book about a book, which ended up pulling me out of the story.
This is a multi-layered story where the author chose to focus on the second layer instead of the first. The 'real' story, which is nothing but a series of letters from Leo to Hannah, the author of the story you are actually reading. What we are consuming is a book in the works by a character we do not get to meet, which is a bit of an odd choice.
Like the nature of this story, I had layers upon layers of issues with the plot to the point where I don't even know where to begin. It was predictable in an 'in your face' kind of way, and it simply just wasn't a very captivating mystery thriller. As I said earlier, I didn't mind the story at first, but once the charm of the format wore off, I was left with a clunky and hollow story.
Let's start with its predictability. The author very blatantly steers the story in one direction, which creates an issue because - either the person to who all the suspicion is pointed either did or didn't do it. Now, this is an issue because, from the start, the author left the reader with only two options and, after a while, you lose interest in what the outcome is going to actually be. It also just felt very forced because of how blatant the blame was pushed.
For the vast majority of the book, while there was a sprinkle of intense moments, the mystery was rather passive. A lot of time was spent with the characters when they weren't doing much. There was also space wasted where the author focused on things that didn't add anything to the story. As such, even for a book on the shorter side, it felt really dragged out.
One detail that I caught that I thought was funny, if anyone is curious, is that there is an actual Oh My Cod! restaurant in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. I have actually been there before, and the food was wonderful too.
I did not care about one single character in this book, not only because they just weren't interesting to follow, but also because they didn't feel like actual people most of the time. Freddie was unlikable, Cain was just there only to serve the mystery, and Whit and Marigold were shells of a character. Freddie was the one that bothered me the most though since I found her actions to be contradictory.
Another issue I had with the characters was that there was a lot of off-page interaction that occurred, which stilted the character relationships and dynamics. Freddie and Cain, as well as Whit and Marigold, while strangers, in the beginning, grow closer as the story progresses. The problem here, as I have said, is that we don't actually get to see them get to know each other. One second they are strangers, the next they are spending all their time together. There was just a lot of disconnect.
This sounded like this was going to be a good book, and I am sure people will enjoy it, but it didn't work out for me in the end.
The format for this book kind of reminded me of Until Dawn and The Dark Pictures Anthology games.