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Miss Zukas #1

Miss Zukas and the Library Murders

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Meet Miss Zukas . . . the very proper, exceedingly conscientious, and relentlessly curious local librarian of tiny Bellehaven, Washington--and one heck of an amateur sleuth! The Bellehaven police are baffled when a dead body turns up right in the middle of the library's fiction stacks. But Miss Helma Zukas--who never fails to make note of the slightest deviation from the norm of everyday life--is not willing to let this rather nasty disruption stand. Her precious literary sanctuary has been violated, and if the local law cannot get to the bottom of this case, Miss Zukas certainly intends to--with the help of her not-so-proper best friend, Ruth, a six-foot-tall bohemian artist with a nose for gossip and a penchant for getting into trouble. But their research project is bringing them a little too close to a killer . . . who'd like nothing better than to write Helma and Ruth out of the story completely!

218 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published March 1, 1994

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About the author

Jo Dereske

23 books96 followers

I grew up in rural Michigan, greatly influenced by my Lithuanian roots. I'm one of those tedious people who wanted to write stories as soon as I learned to read, but believed I had to leave Michigan first. In fact, I couldn't wait to shake off that Michigan dust! Curiously, everything I write seems to have a connection to Michigan or my Lithuanian heritage.
I now live in the beautiful foothills of Mount Baker, near Bellingham, Washington.
I've loved being a librarian: libraries are one of our last truly public institutions, where the whole world, in all its zits and glory, passes through.
There are twelve titles in the Miss Zukas mystery series. Miss Zukas is tough, honest, crafty, a complicated woman with a deep but futile desire to perceive the world in black and white. And yes, Helma Zukas is what used to be called, a “real” librarian. You might say she embraces the stereotype. Helma is unapologetic.
Ruby Crane is a forgery specialist, a subject that's fascinated me since I forged my first absence excuse in fourth grade. There are three books in the series.
My three young people's books were written when my children were young.
Please visit me on my website!
jo 5/26/2013

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5 stars
407 (27%)
4 stars
471 (32%)
3 stars
421 (28%)
2 stars
124 (8%)
1 star
41 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 139 reviews
Profile Image for Wanda Pedersen.
1,866 reviews370 followers
September 10, 2016
I’ve been having a grand time of late reading books about libraries and librarians. This first book in the Miss Zukas series was quite enjoyable and an easy, quick read at the end of a long-feeling week.

The book is chock full of librarian stereotypes—enjoyably so, as the author was a librarian at one point and uses them kindly and fondly. Miss Zukas inhabits an area somewhere between Nancy Drew and Miss Marple. She is no longer so young as Nancy Drew, but still single & overbearingly precise about things, somewhat reminiscent of Miss Marple. The author also uses her Lithuanian background to supply a family for Helma Zukas, a case of writing what one knows.

I loved Helma’s friend Ruth and their long friendship based on their surnames starting with letters at the end of the alphabet—in school, they were always at the end of any activity requiring a roll call. I found that true to life—sometimes your childhood friendships hinge on these little quirks.

I’ve always been rather puzzled but the concept of a cozy mystery—how can anything involving murder actually be cozy? But this murder mystery will never made you look over your shoulder with any sense of dread (even if you work in a library, as I do). I would have to say that it gets sewn up satisfactorily and could probably be considered “cozy.”

I will definitely read more Miss Zukas at some point in the future, but it will be awhile. My public library doesn’t have the early volumes of the series, so I will have to interlibrary loan them, as I did with this volume.
Profile Image for Asta.
187 reviews22 followers
January 17, 2021
An entertaining whodunnit with a lovely heroine. Miss Zukas is an impeccable librarian, keeping an impeccable order in her personal life too. Her friendship with Ruth is unlikely but it was fun to read about their "trials and tribulations".
Miss Zukas world is worth escaping into. I will add this series to my other light-reading (slightly-)guilty-pleasure "shelves" together with Janet Evanovich, Genevieve Cogman ("Invisible Library" series), Alexander McCall-Smith (although his "No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series started getting too repetitive after the first 8 or so), and P.G. Wodehouse.

Oh, and as a Lithuanian myself, it was an extra pleasure to find all the bits of "Lithuanianism" in the book, as Jo Dereske has family roots in Lithuania.

"Labas, labas, Wilhelmina."

"Aunt Em was naming the old Lithuanians, children of the original early twentieth century immigrants, caught between two worlds all their lives and now in their seventies and eighties, like Aunt Em.
"Myliu tave", Aunt Em said before she hung up. I love you."

"E, T, A, O, N, R, I, S, and H make up seventy percent of the letters in the English language".
Profile Image for Ieva Andriuskeviciene.
217 reviews112 followers
June 28, 2021
Jo Dereske Mičigane gyvenanti išeivijos rašytoja išleidusi 17 knygų, iš kurių 12 yra Miss Zukas serijos. Visos labai stipriai pagrįstos jos lietuviškomis šaknimis. Jos tinklapis rašo, kad visose yra minimas kugelis nes tai jos mėgstamiausias patiekas!

Panelė Vilhelmina Žukas, bibliotekininkė mažame Bellehaven miestelyje. Jai 36eri, ji pedantė, išsilavinusi ir netekėjusi. Vieną dieną bibliotekoje randamas nežinomo vyro lavonas. Ar pavyks Helmai su drauge Rūta sutinkti užuomenas ir išspręsti kodą? Kodas labai lietuviškas😀 Daug lietuviškumo yra. Kad dėžutė šaldytuve su dešromis ir kitomis gėrybėmis!

Knyga nėra kažkoks literatūrinis šedevras, tiesiog smagus klasikinis detektyvas su šaradomis. Lietuviškai 2012 išleista tik šita kitos, taip ir liko tik angliškos.
Pasirodo turime lietuvių kilmės Agatą Kristi ir nieko apie ją nežinojom!
Rekomenduoju pramogai, bet didelių pretenzijų
Profile Image for Rasa|Knygų princesė.
316 reviews62 followers
June 30, 2021
Labai džiaugiuosi susipažinusi su panele Žukas. O šios pažinties nė nebūtų, jeigu viena skaitytoja nebūtų papasakojusi apie šią lietuviškų šaknų turinčią veikėją, kuri labai mėgsta kugelį.

Jo Dereske - Amerikos lietuvė rašytoja, kuri ir sukūrė Vilhelmą Žukas, bibliotekininkę, kuri laisvalaikiu nagrinėja įvairias bylas. Lietuviškai išversta tik pirmojo serijos knyga, kur lavonas randamas Helmos darvovietėje, nedidelio miesto bibliotekoje. Su drauge Ruta, kuri yra visišika Helmos priešingybė, įsivelia į įvykių sūkūrį. Deja, likusios 12 dalių cirkuliuoja angliškai.

Stipriausia romano dalis yra veikėjos. Rašytoja skrupulingai sukūrė tiek Helmos, tiek Rutos portretus Pati istorija nėra didelis šedevras, bet skaitosi lengvai ir įdomiai. Parašyta Mis Marpl stiliumi - paprasta moteris, tačiau aštrus protas. O labiausiai turbūt patiko užuominos apie lietuvybę.
September 30, 2018
I did not foresee giving “Miss Zukas And The Library Murders” two stars. Jo Dereske excels at cultural elements and that lovely feeling of people who knew you as a child. Family and friends often have traits that are not in common but Jo exaggerated contrasting personalities at a forced cardboard-character stretch. Ruth does not need to be slutty. Helma can be detail-oriented, like me but is too picky to enjoy! The most annoying aspect is creating “a thing” out of Ruth’s nickname for her friend. “Helm” either would have stopped caring decades ago, or would have told Ruth to eff-off and not shorten her name, decades ago. The authoress repeated this pointless protestation about ten times.

I love learning about races and am oblivious about Lithuanians but a great mystery needs to be in the forefront. At first I was intrigued. It is hard to locate criminals without identifying who died. A death is discovered in the library Helma runs, under a board head. She isolates important clues and we are glad she befriends a police chief. Unlike most “cozy” types, there is suspense and fear. At the end, is a heart-racing chase, bringing out an expression of friendship that make Ruth’s & Helma’s bond much more clear. The constant impression was that Helma could scarcely stand Ruth. I am pleased that false note was wiped away. Suspense-building and the climactic ordeal warranted three stars.

Alas, the ladies wound up in jeopardy on the stupidest string of pretexts that were easily avoided. The crook could have disposed of them in far more convenient places. Lastly, readers agree that Helma, who is younger than me, comes across like an eighty year-old. Being attracted to the chief should solve that and I do believe I will come to like this series!
5 reviews
March 4, 2012
One of my all-time favorite mystery series!! Miss Helma Zukas's love for order and attention to detail make her a great librarian . . . and a natural for ferreting out the truth in mysteries. The author gives us terrific details about Miss Zukas that help us to really feel that we know this person. For example, Helma hates hot-tubbing (who wants to sit around in warmed over water that other people have been bathing in???) It is an added bonus that this series is set just outside of Seattle with spectacular views of the Kitsap Peninsula and the water. There are 12 books in the series and I've read them all (except the last one, which is not yet available). If you like "light" murders and memorable characters, you will love this series
Profile Image for Elizabeth Olson.
615 reviews14 followers
September 9, 2011
The charms here are the setting (a thinly disguised version of the town where I live), the author's dry humor, and the titular Miss Zukas herself, a stereotypical librarian who rises above caricature, solving a mystery out of sheer need to bring order to the world. First in a series, I plan to read the rest.
Profile Image for Jenn Estepp.
2,021 reviews59 followers
January 26, 2016
Librarian mystery, because why not? I appreciated some of the professional details, but would love it if the main character would take the stick out of her butt. Also, super convoluted mystery aspect is no great shakes.
Profile Image for Patricia (Irishcharmer) Yarian.
289 reviews8 followers
May 30, 2021
Oh what good, fun this has been to read! And the heroine Helma...what a hoot! She reminds me totally of Aunt Bea of the Mayberry era...did you know that Aunt Bea lived her true life exactly as she portrays in Andy Griifin?! Well, she did..remained the stoic, mannered, aproned, but a little fun, right up to the end on her familian farm in Ohio...but I digress here...I have a habit of doing that hahaha!! So back to Miss Zukas and her library...

I found her friendship with Ruth at first a bit difficult to grasp. It at the beginning, makes you think Helma only tolerates her because of her wild, wily ways...but as the story progresses and you get to know the dynamics of both ladies, you come away with a "whew, they ARE friends deep rooted friends!"
And let's not forget Chief "Delicious"....ha, too bad we all can't have a police chief we'd describe as "delicious" !
So, to sum it up, this is a cute, fun read.And I enjoyed it thoroughly!!

And I think there's at least 5more stories about Miss Zukas!! And I'm about to start on #2!! So, go ahead, grab a copy-sit down in a comfortable chair, lounge, chaise -- have a snack and a beverage alongside and just enjoy a cozy read!!--P/
Profile Image for Kriste.
249 reviews18 followers
May 30, 2021
I do love the cozy detective stories and can't stop reading them. Montabano, 1st ladie's detctvive agency and lately honorary consul Nathan have all my love!

You may wander why not this one. And I tell you, Miss Zukas is hardlyvin her 30ies and I have impression the author tries us to believe she is passed her youth and lives kind of borring life, shower days, bath days, netting on her hair while sleeping....

Even if I will read the sequence I do not think person in her 30ies should be presented this way.

My God, I wasvall in the night clubs at that age and all over the world. Loved these times!
Profile Image for LORI CASWELL.
2,417 reviews274 followers
June 14, 2016
Dollycas’s Thoughts

Helma Zukas is a no nonsense woman, some would call her uptight, or obsessive compulsive, I call her entrenched in her ways. She does remind me of a few librarians back in the day. Hair in a bun, glasses set perfectly on her nose, clothes that cover and do not enhance her figure. She is only 36 but she is who she is and there is no changing her. She also has a keen attention to detail and that makes her a great amateur sleuth. Her best-friend, Ruth, is the total opposite of Helma in every way. She is the perfect Watson to Helma’s Sherlock.

I really enjoyed this mystery. A dead body in the library gives us a fantastic start. Helma is drawn to investigate because the murder has brought disorder to her very orderly life. The police don’t seem to have any suspects. When Helma finds a clue in the city directory she decides to figure things out for herself before sharing anything with the police. This probably wasn’t her brightest idea. There were several suspects and I missed some important clues because I put it together just before the killer was revealed.

Helma may not be the kind of main character we are used to reading about in cozy mysteries today. Maybe that is why I liked her, she is different. I even found her quite funny at times in a dry humorous kind of way.

This was a fast read, not overly complex, with interesting characters. The “Z” book for my challenge is complete. I plan to read the next one, Miss Zukas and the Island Murders, for the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge next year.
64 reviews
August 21, 2009
These are just fun mysteries to read (there are 8 in the series). Although we catalog as adult, YA readers may enjoy them as well.

Miss Zukas is the main character and is trying to solve a murder that occured in the library in the fiction aisle while the branch was closed.

Miss Zukas is very serious, single, a little social inept, librarian. Her friend Ruth is just the opposite. It's fun to read the interections that the two of them have.
The author is pretty good in decribing places...

This is a "waiting-for-a-flight" kind of book, nothing serious but funny.
Profile Image for JoAnne McMaster (Any Good Book).
1,250 reviews19 followers
November 7, 2016
This book is okay as far as the mystery, which is why I gave it 2 stars. However, the main character (Miss Zukas) is completely unlikeable. She is a librarian, only 36, but a prissy woman who acts like she is 90. She doesn't like anything about anyone; she makes disparaging remarks about her co-workers, and she can't understand why she is friends with Ruth (supposedly her best friend). These two are SO different, you can't imagine them as even wanting to spend time with each other. The friend is a slob, a drunk, and (shall I say it) a slut. The reason it doesn't make sense is because Miss Zukas is SO perfect - her apartment is perfect (after 14 years of living there?????) no gossip, smiling, anything out of place, etc; that someone like Ruth should horrify her. She doesn't even have any conversations with anyone that aren't somehow related back to the library. Everything she thinks reminds her she 'needs to look it up at the library'. She even formulates a thought that she didn't move into a certain apartment building because 'they allowed families with children." So she even dislikes children, and pets, since she makes a point of stating she lives in a 'pet-free' building, and thinks of possibly 'turning in a neighbor" because they MIGHT have a pet.
She "looks down" on everyone and everything, including her own mother, whom she barely tolerates. She also has no social life, no other friends (understandable), no answering machine because she "doesn't want to be disturbed during dinner", so if the phone rings, she ignores it. It appears she is so self-centered and selfish, that she is the only one that matters in life. (I spend my life trying to avoid these types of people).
It appears Miss Zukas is an opinionated, bigoted egotist, and has no endearing or redeeming qualities.
Profile Image for Denise Spicer.
Author 14 books61 followers
December 13, 2019
Set in a fictional Pacific Northwest small coastal town, librarian Miss Helma Zukas arrives at work one morning to find that police are investigating a murder. A body has been found in the Mo-Ne aisle of the fiction section. Lots of library details and descriptions of beautiful coastal scenery as Miss Zukas, along with her eccentric artist friend Ruth, does some detecting. Handsome Police Chief Gallant adds potential romance to the mix. And the cover is awesome!
Profile Image for Karen.
1,824 reviews36 followers
October 15, 2019
I really liked this first book in the Miss Zukas series. I loved Helma (short for Wilhemina) Zukas, the librarian and main character of the series. She was curious about everything (a key ingredient to being a good librarian). On to the next in the series.
19 reviews1 follower
January 24, 2020
Oh this is fun!

Miss Zukas and her funky friend Ruth are just plain fun. The portrayal of Miss Zukas as a rather uptight comfortable shoe wearing librarian is both funny and affectionate.

I’m going to read the whole series and look forward to Helma learning to loosen up and enjoy life.
Profile Image for Ann.
447 reviews19 followers
November 12, 2013
For those of us who have worked in public libraries, Jo Dereske has written a most entertaining cozy mystery. Helma Zukas is a wonderful, if compulsive character, and her friend Ruth is the perfect foil.

Actually "Miss Zukas and the Library Murders" is the first title in the twelve book series, which ends with "Farewell Miss Zukas." I originally read most of the titles in paperback years ago and notice that many are now available again if only for Kindle.

Helma Zukas, a very serious and precise person with Lithuanian roots in Michigan, now lives and works in Bellehaven, Washington at the public library. Her best friend Ruth, a flamboyant bohemian artist, has a way of causing Helma's ordered world to skew. It's all great fun.
2 reviews
February 28, 2017
I love this series.

Of course they are an intentional send-up of librarians. I don't get how people can miss the point so thoroughly so much of the time.

And yet they are a loving send-up. Sure, Miss Helma would drive you nuts if you were her friend, just as she drives her best friend, Ruth Winthrop, nuts, but she makes a great character.

And she is everything modern American society tends not to be: honest, modest, hard-working, tactful, observant of boundaries, organized, methodical, calm, tenacious, thoughtful, and self-controlled.

My bumper sticker reads "What Would Miss Helma Do?" and I stand by it.
Profile Image for Caitlin.
344 reviews3 followers
February 27, 2013
So I picked this up because it was in a book club book bag at one of the libraries I visited. I thought that being a book club pick would make it a some what good choice, boy was I wrong. The female heroine is what I would compare to the female version of Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory. She is very logical and speaks English very well. I just didn't relate to the character and while the writing was good, I just didn't find it funny when it was suppose to be, it didn't make up for the main character I didn't like.
Profile Image for Erika.
5 reviews1 follower
August 16, 2012
I finished this book only because I commit to finishing all my club reads, but the journey was painfully dull. Miss Zukas is simultaneously unpleasant and uninteresting. The book is not standing the test of time, either; while many books lacking reference to current technology and other modern trappings retain vibrancy, this one feels washed out and simple, like a seventies made-for-TV movie. Something is missing, and it's not just flashy, up-to-the-minute props and references.
Profile Image for Katharine Kimbriel.
Author 17 books97 followers
June 6, 2013
All right, just to be confusing, I'll say you'll have to check my other review connected to this series. I am ruling the series uneven. I happened to find the first one again and re-read it. Still a nice introduction. But I feel the author's handling of her characters has changed in later books, as if she's forgotten what made them charming.

This was what I really enjoyed about the series. Recommended.
Profile Image for ❂ Murder by Death .
1,071 reviews124 followers
April 12, 2011
I'm not sure what to think about this one - it started off with Miss Zukas being so prudish and prim that it wasn't enjoyable to read, but I could see character development as the story progressed. I guess the culprit almost from the beginning, but it was still a great storyline.
277 reviews1 follower
February 23, 2020
I like the clear chapter titles, instead of just Chapter 1 etc. Because I have already read later books in this series, I guessed pretty early on who the murderer was. But still, it was a gripping story that had me reading for long lengths of time. Miss Zukas is quite the fuddy-duddy here, always correcting everyone and not having much fun in communicating with other people - she gets better in later books. oh, and this book ends abruptly, like it just gets left off in mid-paragraph before the next book begins.

Librarian Helma Zukas arrives at work one morning to discover that an unknown man that she had helped with a reference question has been murdered in the library. When she finds a slip of paper with coded writing in the book he had used, another man comes to the reference desk and tries to make off with the paper, and she feels this man is following her. What is going on? With the help of Police Chief Gallant and her artsy friend Ruth Winthrop, she tries to discover who is behind all the mystery.
Profile Image for Ренета Кирова.
1,010 reviews24 followers
February 27, 2020
2,5* "Убийства в библиотеката" - Джо Дереске
Ами не можах повече от това да я харесам. Колкото и да обичам книги за библиотеки и книжарници, начинът, по който е написана, не ми допадна много.
Извършено е убийство в градската библиотека и библиотекарката мис Зукър се оказва въвлечена в криминално разследване. Само че тя имаше свойството много да ме дразни с действията си. Не каза на симпатичния полицай за намерената в библиотеката бележка. В моменти Хелма се държеше изнервящи, а в други проявяваше ум и съобразителност.
Имаше и интересни диалози от живота на библиотекарите:
"-Само помнете - по време на криза като тази не бива да пренебрегваме читателите.
-А, читателите и без това няма да ни позволят..."
"-Рафтове значи. Как сгряват те библиотекарската душа..."
"-Любознателният ум е задължително качество за един библиотекар."
Profile Image for Karen.
46 reviews12 followers
July 8, 2018
Thank goodness for Ruth...

who enlivens the book considerably. The protagonist, Miss Helma Zukas, is a most prim and proper librarian, so prim and proper that, at times, the book was boring. She did have her quirks such as never eating anything purple . She is also very sharp.

It is Ruth, so very different than Helma, who adds sparkle. Ruth and Helma would probably not be friends if they hadn’t grown up together. Ruth is flamboyant and drinks too much.

What a pair of unlikely sleuths! Together they solve the mystery of the library murders.
Profile Image for Noellasue.
70 reviews1 follower
June 11, 2022
I picked this up for a donation after a library book sale. I found the book uninteresting, the main character, Miss Wilhemina Zukas "Helma" (definitely not "Helm") was an uptight spinster - unlikable to me. Her friend, Ruth, had a bit more personality.

I felt the story was unrealistic and the ending even more so. It seemed as if the author just ran out of time or ideas and wrapped it up - just like that. This wasn't even just a little fun read, I had to work to get through the book.

It will go back into the donation pile.
956 reviews
February 26, 2018
The characters are stereotypes -- ultra-sensible librarian, flamboyant artist, gallant policeman (in fact, his name is Gallant) -- but they work to get me interested in their actions and fates. The plot reminds me of Nancy Drew (who gets a call-out early in the book); solution to the mystery comes from persistently stumbling forward, followed by resourcefulness to escape when the bad guys come after you, with luck assisting throughout.
14 reviews1 follower
December 20, 2021
This is the first of the series I have read. Miss Zukas comes across as extremely uptight and mechanical; she wasn't very likeable (I've been wondering how on earth any romance is possible... perhaps she gets a little softer...). The book was pretty well written to keep moving along, as cozies go. However, the denouement/solution/explanation was not believable and didn't tie up all the loose ends for the various plot events earlier.

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