Cozy crimes in libraries! Featuring stories by (in order of appearance): Deborah Lacy & Pat Hernas, Michael Bracken, Warren Bull, Sharon Marchisello, Jacqueline Seewald, Anne-Marie Sutton, Aislinn Batstone, John Lutz & Josh Pachter, Jennie MacDonald, Gwenda R. Jensen, LD Masterson, Kate Fellowes, KM Rockwood, DG Crichley, Richard Lau, Janet Raye Stevens, Michael Brandon, Edward Ahern, Amy Ballard, Barbara Schlichting, M. M. Elmendorf, Nupur Tustin, Albert Tucher, Michael Guillebeau
Andrew Macrae is a graduate of the inaugural Clarion South speculative fiction writers workshop in 2004.
Since then, he has had short fiction published in leading Australian speculative fiction markets such as Aurealis, Orb, Agog! Ripping Reads, Midnight Echo and Fantastical Journeys to Brisbane, edited by Zoran Živković, Geoff Maloney and Trent Jamieson. (from Amazon Author's Page)
Short story compilations are not usually hits for me. I always feel like there isn't enough there in such brief stories. This one had two things I usually enjoy - murder mysteries, cozies specifically and libraries - so I gave it a try. It was a miss.
I felt it was a bad sign right at the start because despite reading cozy mysteries frequently, I had not heard of a single one of the authors who have contributed stories to the book. Turned out I was right.
I read - or attempted - nearly 11 of the stories, and of those I enjoyed exactly one - probably because it was about Shakespeare and delivered with cheeky humour. Every other story I read or tried to felt trite or boring or completely unbelievable to me.
This obviously was just not the book for me. Moving on.
When I was a kid, libraries were solemn and very quiet places. Noise was frowned upon. Usually I got the frown right before being told, “Whisper, please.” Silence in the library was a way of life and was expected whether it was the school library or the Audelia Road Branch of the Dallas Public Library. These days, as I am back in the house I grew up in, the slightly closer branch is the Lochwood Branch of the Dallas Public Library and the place is rarely quiet. As they did in recent years out in Plano, even the librarians at Lochwood speak in a normal tone of voice. They even laugh at my jokes.
These days whether it is out in Frisco, at UTD, or somewhere else, every library I drag my cane or walker into seems to be a noisy and rambunctious place even if it is not story time for the kiddos. At least murders don’t happen in the libraries I frequent. That can’t be said in Shhhh…Murder! where Cozy Crimes in Libraries occur and it just might happen during the classic dark and stormy night. While a few of the twenty-four tales are previously published ones, most of the short stories presented here are new ones.
After a short introduction by Editor Andrew MacRae, the book begins with “Wuthering Stacks” by Deborah Lacy and Pat Hernas. Not only is this the first tale in the book, it starts off a new planned series featuring Bronte Williams who is a librarian and a solver of crimes. A member of her early morning shelving team is dead and this sort of thing does not normally happen at Piermont College located two hours from Sacramento. Greg is dead, the police need to be notified, the presentation for that seriously annoying ego maniac known by the name of Janet Myers has to be cancelled, among a number of other things has to be done. Librarian Bronte Williams has her hands increasing full as the morning wears on.
Michael Bracken’s, “Mr. Sugarman Visits the Bookmobile” is next up. The setting is Quarryville Texas. Mr. Graham Sugarman is, as those of us of a certain age would politely say here in Texas, “a unique individual.” He does not adjust well to the change in routine when the book mobile stops arriving every Tuesday at 9:00 am. Why it stopped, what happened, and how he copes are small fascinating parts of this engrossing tale.
“Elsinore Noir” by Warren Bull brings Shakespeare to the current times. The patron knows Dashiell, Hamlet and others, but has no idea at all about a crime fiction master, William Shakespeare. Hamlet is the subject of a lot of discussion in this amusing tale. After Mr. Bull is through, you might just look at the Hamlet in a total different way.
Finding the right writing group can be a challenge. That is the problem facing Shelly in “The Wrong Coffee Shop” by Sharon Marchisello. They used to meet at the DeKalb Public library, but that was years ago. At least one member seems to be happy to see her. Getting back into the writing groove by way of the Midtown Atlanta Writers Circle should be fun.
The land behind the circulation desk is an area where we regular mortals never get to tread. In “Ask a Librarian” by Jaqueline Seewald, readers get to take a peek. In this tale, originally published elsewhere in a slightly different form, newly hired librarian, Harold Stevens, works in a private library. That private library was endowed by its patrons and is very much off limits to the public rabble. There are secrets everywhere. That includes the secret of what happened to Robert Weber who Harold is replacing.
Funding for libraries is always an issue. Sometimes a library must consider selling prized items from its collection to survive. Such is the issue here in “The Adam Miniatures” by Anne-Marie Sutton. Sometimes a murder will happen to in an attempt to prevent such a sale.
Readers are next taken to a library at the University of Sydney in Australia by way of “Case Study on the Principals of Morals and Legislation” by Aislinn Batstone. There is a man dead in the Fisher Library and Kate Moseby is involved in the case. Somehow, after finding a very dead Silas Brown who was apparently involved in some sort of drug deal, she is still supposed to go about her duties including teaching her philosophy of law reading group.
Originally published in an anthology back in 1988, “DDS 10752 Libra” is by John Lutz and Josh Pachter. Somebody killed Dwight Stone and ransacked through his apartment looking for something. Nudger found the body and is aware of Stone’s last case. Detectives Byrnes and Allen are not thrilled that Nudger found the body nor are they thrilled with his refusal to just go away after he tells all he knows. Private investigators are difficult that way.
Next up is “Clean Cup” by Jennie MacDonald where the library is about to host the annual fundraiser. Things just need to be tidied up a little bit and that includes shelving the last few returns from the book drop. That includes one book so old it does not have the usual bar code on it. It will require special handling.
After a person dies, especially a wealthy one who clearly loved books, various things have to be done including dealing with the home library. Such is the case in “Different Lights” by Gwenda R. Jensen. Good thing Martin has Lindsay to help as this home library is a massive one.
What somebody is as a child is often their nature as an adult. John Wessel was trouble as a kid. He is trouble as an adult in “Drop Goes the Weasel” by LD Masteron. Considering his nickname is “Johnny Weasel” the fact he is trouble isn’t surprising. The fact that he suddenly has a library card and is checking out books is most definitely surprising. He is up to something. Librarian Grace Pernell means to find out exactly what he is doing as it can’t be good.
It is a dark and stormy November night and debut mystery author Francie Spencer isn’t sure how many folks will show up for the book signing. Silverdale Public Library Director Dale Swift has gone all out to make her feel welcome. Despite the foul weather, folks are showing up. In “Gotcha Covered” by Kate Fellows, the stage is set up for a classic locked room mystery. Is Francie Spencer up to it as fiction becomes reality regarding a legendary rare book?
Librarian Pricilla Mummert had known that Daphne Willow-Smythe, a frequent visitor in the special collections area of the library, was up to no good. Now she has proof. The library director better listen to her in “Map to Oblivion” by KM Rockwood.
Having a brother who is a genius is rather stressful at times. But, it is clear that he figured out how to make some things better so one puts up with what one has to in order that the movie gets made. Tom van der Grimmen is in that situation as “The Body in the Book Drop” by DA Critchley begins. A research trip down to the Lockhaven Public Library is in order. Finding one of the librarians hysterical and saying something about “blood” means his quick trip is no longer going to be quick as he calls the local sheriff.
Inspector Cosgrove is hard at work in “The Day the Librarian Checked Out” by Richard Lau. Librarian Emily Wilson is dead after being stabbed by scissors. Apparently, the brownies Mrs. Tuttle made were not the culprit. Considering her well known lack of skills in the kitchen, it remains rather surprising Mrs. Tuttle has not been arrested for murder by way of poisoning somebody. Since it happened before the library opened and thus only five people were inside, besides the now very deceased Emily Wilson, the pool of suspects is small in this locked room mystery.
It is January 1943 and librarian Emily Applegate is warm in the library despite the ongoing wintery onslaught outside. In “The Vanishing Volume” by Janet Raye Stevens, Miss Applegate deals with a lot including the motives of a certain policeman, Sargent Duffy. The book drop and what it contains-- and does not-- is the ongoing aspect of the tale that blends mystery with a touch of romance.
Librarians are dangerous as they know things. The NSA must be vigilant. Even when their surveillance subject is a sixty year old librarian in “Where Agents Go to Die” by Michael Brandon. Agents Ellis and Strickland are on the case, but much happens out of the sight of their car. They soon learn what happened and why and it is not surprising. After all, as Agent Strickland points out early on, “Libraries are a breeding ground of bitterness and disaffection.”
Next up is the previously published story, “The Fortune Teller” by Edward Ahern. Deep in the bowels of the Vatican Brother Willman seeks to find a pattern. He works with ancient texts that are writings condemned by the church. His mission is to find the links between the failings of the church in different points of time in the past to discern where are the areas where the church will fail at in the future. It has taken years of study, but a pattern of sorts is about to emerge.
Somebody apparently is living in the old library in “Bookish Dreams” by Amy Ballard. Theodora wants the police involved though Emma is reluctant to so as she does not see any real need. Theodora is the boss so Theodora has her way on this and many other issues.
Our protagonist had a little too much fun last night. Part of the morning after problem is what she consumed. Part of the morning after problem is that her ex was involved. Then there is the call from her boss, Pam Sterno. Summoned to the home of her boss, she is going to be assigned a mystery decades in the making in “Havoc in the Library” by Barbara Schliching.
History is also a major point of “The Lawrence Library Liquidation” by M. M. Elmendorf. Miles Watson is a librarian and has plenty to do at the library as it is. Mrs. Fischner, his boss, is not at all pleased with the world, the patrons who pass through the library doors, or the fact that Mr. Watson has still not taken the cart of resource books to the vault as she had instructed him to do so earlier in the day. Taking that cart is going to turn into an adventure worthy of any classic mystery.
The death of a neighbor gets Elsa, a librarian, involved in a case that strikes very close to home in the previously published story, “The Christmas Stalker” by Nupur Tustin. Taylor is dead, her soon to be husband found her, and Elsa had slept through it all until the cops pounded hard on her door. They had just recently moved in and Taylor had quickly proven to be a bit difficult. The murder shocks the small community of Greendale Village and Elsa, like many others, is scared to be at home each night.
Author Albert Tucher worked at the Newark Public Library for quite a number of years. He put that inspiration to work in his short story, “The Patience of the Dead.” Set before prohibition, the tale features Beatrice Winser, the real-life librarian who oversaw the place for decades. The flu is rampant and the governor has ordered the closure of places that people congregate at in large numbers. As she sees the order, that includes libraries though others may disagree and do so at their own peril. It has to be closed and no one knows for how long. Everyone must be accounted for to make sure the library is empty before the doors are locked and she relies on her head of security, Mr. Bradshaw to do just that.
“Keeping the Books” by Michael Guillebeau brings the anthology to a close. Liberians Hammer, Doom, and Carter have a problem. Actually, they have more than one problem considering the action by the library rat, Faulkner, which they just witnessed. The latest budget crisis will hit hard and require drastic action.
The twenty four tales in Shah… Murder! are all good ones showcasing variety in the cozy spectrum. While some are a bit easier to predict for seasoned mystery readers, every story in the anthology has several twists and turns. A nice touch is the short introduction to each tale explaining the author’s background and the context of the work. Shhhh… Murder! is a fun read from start to finish and well worth your time.
Shhhh…Murder! Editor Andrew MacRae Darkhouse Books http://www.darkhousebooks.com September 2018 ISBN# 978-1-945467-15-8 eBook (also available in print format) 251 Pages $2.99
Material was purchased shortly after the publication date to read and review.
I received Shhh...Murder!, edited by Andrew MacRae, as a free copy so that I could provide an honest review. There are 24 short stories in this volume, all involving a library and librarians. Just about all of them pay homage and reverence to the library. Many of them also lament the fact that libraries are underfunded, underused, and sometimes unappreciated. As is typical of all short story anthologies, there are several that you just do not take a liking to. But there are some that really stand out as little gems. "Mr. Sugarman Visits the Bookmobile", for example, is a delightful story involving a man with diminished mental faculties solving the murder of the bookmobile driver. "Drop Goes the Weasel" has a librarian uncovering a blackmailing operation and manages to get the corrupt mayor into trouble while also benefitting her library. And in "The Vanishing Volume", in 1943 Massachusetts, the librarian uncovers spies using her library to transfer encrypted messages. If you love books and appreciate libraries, you will enjoy many of the stories in Shhh...Murder!
This collection of enjoyable cozy mystery stories is well-edited by Andrew MacRae, an author himself, and publisher of Darkhouse Books. As Andrew observes in his introduction, this anthology offers great variety. Some of the stories are set in the present, others in the past. Some are set in public libraries, others in private, university, research, and even the Vatican Library. The book offers up “a smorgasbord of librarians.”
Most of all, the stories are clever and entertaining, often with a display of clever wit and humor that is refreshing. Many stories will surprise the reader. They are refreshing, engaging and original. I could discuss individual stories but I don’t one to select any above others because each one was chosen for its unique qualities. So I will just say how much I have enjoyed reading these stories and intend to reread them in the future.
About a 3.5. There was a good mix of stories, all on the theme of libraries or librarians and crime. The stories were a bit uneven; some so-so, some quite good. The anthology got off to a slow start for me, but there were definitely some gems.
As one of the story authors included in this anthology, I love that I get to brush shoulders with the likes of Michael Bracken! His cozy mystery "Mr. Sugarman Visits the Bookmobile" swept me away. The entire book is fun to read, perfect for fall and Halloween. With cozy and noir vibes, there's a story for every library lover.