Book Review: “The Librarian Always Rings Twice,” by Marty Wingate

It has been a wonderful weekend. I finished my January Wrap Up this weekend, which inspired me to back-review some books I read last month. The Librarian Always Rings Twice is book three in the First Edition Library Mystery series, which has one of the most fun premises of any bookish cozy series: a librarian sleuth that is the curator for a golden age of mystery library. So without further ado…


From The Publisher:

When a mysterious stranger turns up making claims that threaten Lady Fowling’s legacy, Hayley Burke must dig deep into her late-benefactor’s history to uncover the truth and catch a conniving killer in this new mystery from USA Today bestselling author Marty Wingate.

It has been nearly a year since I took up my position as curator of Lady Georgiana Fowling’s collection of Golden Age of Mystery writers’ first editions at her library in Middlebank House. I have learned that I need to take the good with the bad. The good: I have finally convinced Mrs. Woolgar to open up the collection to the public one day a week so that they too can share in Lady Fowling’s passion. The bad: although he would not be my first, or even tenth, choice, at the insistence of the board Charles Henry Dill, Lady Fowling’s unscrupulous nephew, is now my personal assistant.

On one of our first days open to the public, Mr. John Aubrey shows up at Middlebank House and insists that Lady Georgiana Fowling is his grandmother. Mrs. Woolgar is scandalized by his claims, and Charles Henry, who feels he has been cheated out of his rightful inheritance as Lady Fowling’s heir, is furious. I do not know that I believe Mr. Aubrey, yet he has knowledge of Lady Fowling’s life and writings that few possess. To further complicate matters, an associate of Mr. Aubrey’s intends to help us uncover the truth of John’s story. But before he can do that, he is murdered and the police have reason to suspect Charles Henry.

As much as I would like to lock up Charles Henry and throw away the key, I cannot believe he is a killer. And I also know there is something dead wrong about Mr. Aubrey’s tales regarding his “grandmother” Lady Fowling. I will need to make sense of her past in order to suss out the true villain of this story.


What I Loved:

  • Character Arcs. One of my biggest gripes in book 1 and book 2 was the character flaws that made our protagonist Hayley, Mrs. Woolgar, Val, and the rest of the cast unlikable. In Librarian Always Rings Twice, it feels like Ms. Gerber read my mind and changed the course of this series for the better. Hayley is listening to her gut and enjoying her life again, Mrs. Woolgar is finding happiness and learning to trust Hayley’s judgment, and even Dinah gets her license and grows up a bit. I finally feel invested in Hayley and the gang.
  • John Aubrey. I don’t frequently enjoy random characters that pop up and become quasi-leads, but John Aubrey is much too delightful not to enjoy. While he clearly has some undiagnosed mental issues, John’s love for the late Lady Fowling and her legacy is contagious, as is his good nature and creative brain. It also was a great opportunity for Hayley to demonstrate her great instincts, detective skills, and general negotiation skills as she navigates introducing John to the board members and Mrs. Woolgar. I really hope that John is here to stay! Who can beat pirates?
  • General Premise (ad nauseum). I know, I know – saying “general premise” to a book is a cop out, especially when we are on book 3. However, Librarian Always Rings Twice really brings together a lot of what drew me to this series in the first place. A middle aged curate who works in Golden Age detective novel mecca, who is surrounded by other strong women who all share a love of mystery novels and history, who spends her free time in seaside towns and boosting other female mystery writers? Yes please. Murders in the background are just icing on the cake.

What Didn’t Work as Well:

  • The Murderer. Without giving too much away, the murderer came way out of left field. One of the hallmarks of good Golden Age mysteries is that if you as the reader are savvy enough, you can guess the murderer. I don’t feel like Wingate emulated that here. While I still really enjoyed the mystery as a whole, the big reveal and actual conclusion could have been executed better.

That was honestly the only major drawback for me in this installation. Cheers!


Conclusion:

While the First Edition Library Series has been a bit “hit or miss” for me, The Librarian Always Rings Twice restored my faith in the talented Ms. Wingate. Perfect for fans of bookish themed books and cozy mysteries, I am happy to say this could even be read as a standalone if you please – 4.5 waves for me! However, if you are purist like me, pick up book one here (on sale in paperback at Bookshop!). If you want to dive right into this amazing book, pick up book three here!

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