A review by carireadsbooksandtarot
The Woman in the Library, by Sulari Gentill

dark mysterious tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated


As a fan of Gentill’s Rowland Sinclair series, I was quick to request an ARC of her newest book from NetGalley and Poisoned Pen Press. Perhaps I just prefer my mysteries to be set in bygone eras, like the 1930s Australia setting of the Rowland Sinclair series, but this modern-day stand-alone just wasn’t my cup of tea. 
            Our main character Freddie is an Australian writer on a fellowship in Boston. One day as she is struggling to write at the Boston Public Library, surrounded by strangers, the silence is interrupted by a woman’s terrified scream. This strange occurrence leads her to befriend the three people sitting closest to her: Cain, also a novelist, Whit, a failing law student, and Marigold, a psychology graduate student. Later, they learn that a woman was killed in the library that day. Soon, Freddie is receiving strange calls and messages, suggesting that her new friends are in danger…and one of them might be a killer. 
            Thrillers are not my preferred genres and the more I read, the more I find that I prefer mysteries to have historical settings. In her Rowland Sinclair series, Gentill masterfully wove in political events of the day with each mystery. She also created a group of characters that were charming, witty, and fun to be with, characters that I was happy to visit with again and again. In the Woman in the Library, the characters never felt real, and none of them seemed like people I’d be particularly drawn to spending time with. They became strangely close and loyal to one another in a very short span of time which was necessary for the story but felt forced. There was also another story in the form of letters to the “author” of Freddie’s story, Hannah, and a reader named Leo. Leo praises Hannah’s work which feels strange as it’s basically Gentill praising her own writing, and offers suggestions, including that Hannah should include mentions of the pandemic and address the races of her characters. It was a strange and, in my opinion, unnecessary addition to the book to include these side letters. 
            This is a quick, short read tied up in an implausible explanation lacking a good motive- but maybe that’s the way with most thrillers. I will continue to read any historical mysteries Gentill writes in future, but I’ll stay away from modern-day thrillers. I might just be done with thrillers in general. 

Expand filter menu Content Warnings