In By Book or By Crook by Eva Gates, Lucy realizes she needs a new start on life after refusing the proposal of her longtime boyfriend. So she quits her job as a librarian for Harvard and goes to visit her favorite aunt in North Carolina to regroup. Before she knows it, Lucy has gotten a new job as Assistant Librarian for the nearby Bodie Island Lighthouse Library. The public library has just taken a three- month loan of a priceless set of first editions of all six of Jane Austen’s novels, and Lucy’s first introduction to the library board is the party to celebrate the opening of the new exhibit. The chair of the library board is furious to see that the head librarian, Bertie, has hired an assistant in Lucy, saying that the library should not waste money on a new employee. After antagonizing everyone else at the party, the chair of the board disappears upstairs, where Bertie finds him stabbed to death.
The Austen exhibit proves to be successful beyond anyone’s imagination, forcing the small staff to stretch their resources in order for Lucy to be able to hold lectures on topics related to Jane Austen. Then, the copy of Sense and Sensibility disappears, creating further chaos at the library. Could this be related to the murder? Lucy begins to wonder just what she has gotten herself involved in as she follows the trail of a murderer.
This book was enjoyable but not especially memorable. The plot did have some interesting details that kept me listening to the book. I really liked the details of including Austen as a major element in the plot. The way Gates works her into the book adds to the creative details, educating us about the famous author without seeming to teach. The conclusion to the plot came as a big surprise, though it was not unrealistic to me.
It is the characters that especially make or break a cozy mystery, and unfortunately I did not bond with them very much. I liked Lucy, though I didn’t find myself bonding with her too closely. But I didn’t connect a whole lot to the other employees of the library. However, I especially liked the library cat Charles, who has much character and saves the day.
Elise Arsenault performs this audiobook and does a very good job of it. She shifts smoothly between accents of the Bostonian Lucy, the Southern other characters, and British or other tourists coming to see the Austen collection. I thought her performance very effective.
In general, I had a good time listening to By Book or By Crook. I liked the concept of setting a library inside an active lighthouse. It didn’t connect to me very strongly, but it was a nice escape from reality. I give the book four stars.
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