A Book Club to Die For
Beloved Bookroom Mystery #3
By Dorothy St. James
Author Website: dorothystjames(.)com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
When a member of an exclusive book club is poisoned, spunky librarian Trudell Beckett must sort fact from fiction to solve the murder.
The Cypress Arete Society is the town’s oldest and most exclusive book club. When Trudell Beckett, the town’s spunky assistant librarian, is invited to speak to the club about the library, its modernization, and her efforts to bring printed books to the reading public, Trudell’s friend Flossie invites herself along. Flossie has been on the book club’s waiting list for five years, and she’s determined to find out why she’s never received an invitation to join.
When Tru and Flossie arrive early for the book club, they’re shocked to find the club leader, Rebecca White, dead in the kitchen. The main suspect: Detective Jace Bailey’s mother, the host for the evening. With Jace removed from the case due to the conflict of interest, Trudell must help him investigate and prove his mother’s innocence in a case where nothing is as it seems. (From Goodreads)
This novel is wonderful! The author has imaginatively taken a very new, different idea that has been experimented with and designed an excellent cozy mystery series. The characters are an engaging mix of small-town, Southern characters with a couple notable exceptions, and the protagonists are a perfect age to be considered modern but not inexperienced. The mystery was really intriguing and held my attention throughout.
The concept is a library without books. With the reason being to attract big tech companies to move to Cypress, South Carolina from the west coast, the town bigwigs eliminated every book, historical document, periodical, CD, and DVD. They installed state of the art computers for researching. All materials would be digital, available for loaning and sending to one’s phone or tablet. I was horrified, especially when I learned that this has been put into practice in various places.
When everything was packed up for removal, Tru, the assistant librarian, created a secret bookroom the basement in what had been a WWII bomb shelter. Away from the prying eyes of the rule-following head librarian and other people who were adamant about this new system, Tru found a way to save a variety of books for all age groups and genres and a collection of important local historical documents. For those who loved print books but couldn’t be trusted with a secret, Tru delivers books based on their preferences without explanation of where she gets them from.
A very special book club is in Cypress for the elite readers, the Arete Society, that has been around for a century. There are never more than ten specially chosen members. The president for the past few years has been Rebecca, a former soap opera actress. Tru isn’t high society or wealthy enough to qualify. She has been invited to speak at a meeting, though, and talk about how she brings print copies of books to those who haven’t come into the digital age yet.
Flossie, an author who won’t divulge her pen name or what books she has written, has tried for decades to get into the Society, but they won’t invite her. She comes with Tru to the meeting as moral support and to see what the club is currently like. The hostess is Hazel, a new member who is known for her elegant society dinners and is the mother of Jace, Tru’s boyfriend.
Tru and Flossie arrived early and heard Rebecca having fits about what Hazel is making. At one point, they heard a crash in the kitchen, Flossie hurried in, and Tru heard another crash. Tru went to the kitchen to find Rebecca lying on the floor, dead, with a broken casserole dish and its contents on the floor. Hazel had been taking the garbage out and didn’t think anyone else was in her home. Flossie was the only one in the kitchen when the second crash occurred, but she could not have hit Rebecca over the head. Flossie has been in a wheelchair for many years and is unable to walk.
Hazel is the prime suspect, even though she had been outdoors at the time. Jace, a detective, is put on leave from the police department, and Tru is ordered to not snoop into the police investigation. The next day Tru is taken to the clinic, and the doctor suspects she has been poisoned. A couple days later, she and a state police crime scene investigator are almost shot in Hazel’s yard.
I enjoyed this eclectic cast of characters. From Mama Eddy, Tru’s mother, to Marigold, one of Rebecca’s biggest fans, to LIFU, the prototype of the perfect robotic librarian, it is quite a troop of Southern women to keep up with (and yes, LIFU is a “she”). At least until LIFU attacked Tru and Marigold and had to be tackled to the floor.
When Hazel was arrested, the police stopped looking for any other suspects. Tru did what she could to learn about everyone in the club. The author uses plot twists expertly and redirects Tru and her friends more than once. There was one perfect red herring until Tru began to look at clues again. I was very surprised at who the real bad guy was, and what the motives were. There were some very pleasant surprises for Tru amidst the drama. All loose ends were tied up, and while it makes a fascinating novel, I hope that bookless libraries don’t catch on! I highly recommend this cozy mystery and series!