The Broken Spine

Beloved Bookroom Mystery #1

By Dorothy St. James

ISBN # 9780593098578

Author’s website:

Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie


The first in an exciting new series featuring Trudell Becket, a spunky librarian who will stop at nothing to save her beloved books and catch a killer!

Trudell Becket finds herself in a bind when her library is turned into a state-of-the-art bookless ‘technological center’. A library with no books breaks Trudell’s book-loving heart and she decides to rescue hundreds of beloved tomes slated for the recycle center. Under the cover of darkness, Trudell sets up a secret book room in the library’s basement and opens it to her loyal patrons.

When the town councilman, who was a vocal supporter of the library’s transformation is crushed by an overturned shelf of DVDs, Trudell becomes the prime suspect. She was the only person in the library at the time of his murder, or so the police believe. But the visitors to Trudell’s secret bookroom were actually all there too.

If she tells the police about the backdoor patrons who were in the library at the time of the murder, she’d have to explain about the secret book room and risk losing the books. To keep herself out of jail, Trudell–with the help of a group of dedicated readers–decides to investigate. She quickly finds herself on the same page with a killer who would love to write her final chapter.


A bookless library? That could be the start of a horror story, not a cozy mystery! Yet in this first in a new series, the town of Cypress, South Carolina is sending most of their books to the landfill. Only certain select books will be sold, and the rest are destined for the **gasp** landfill! This novel combines unique, book-loving librarians and a new generation who prefers computers, tablets, and e-readers. The mystery is creative and a challenge to solve. Many of the characters embody the gentility and propriety, not to mention humor, of the South.

Tru is the assistant librarian in Cypress. The town manager, Duggar, is leading the way into the 21st century. He claims that being the on cutting edge of digital materials and the technologies he and Mayor Goodvale have been drawing to town will make it the Silicon Valley of the South. The books are boxed up, awaiting to be hauled to the landfill, and each box indicates what is inside. Tru, a book lover who is appalled at the loss of these treasures, including rare and first editions and local historical documents, decides to break the rules. She, her best friend Tori, Tori’s new boyfriend Charlie, and older friend Flossie, choose the most important of the library’s collection, including beloved early editions of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys series. They will house the secret collection in what was once a WWII bomb shelter in the basement of the library. Only book lovers who could be trusted with the secret will be invited to visit. Tru will share books by hand with those who couldn’t be trusted to keep the secret.

Anne has been hired as the technology specialist for the library. She is from California’s Silicon Valley and loves the paperless world. Mrs. Farnsworth, head librarian, at age 79 has worked at the library over 50 years and has seen many changes. Despite her aversion to destroying books, she won’t break the rules to do anything about the books other than to allow Charlie, who is opening a used book store, to take those tomes he feels he can sell.

The morning after Tru and her friends have moved the rescued classics to the secret library, she hears a huge crash from the main floor and hurries upstairs. She finds that a huge shelf of DVD’s fell over in the media room, and Duggar, the town manager, was dead underneath it.

Tru becomes the main suspect, with Anne pointing the finger at her – while Tru thinks that Anne could be behind the deed. The detective in charge of the case is Jace Bailey, bringing better high school memories. He doesn’t remember her at first, but Tru remembers Jace. She tutored him so he could remain on the football team, then he betrayed and humiliated her in front of the whole school. He remembers how she said that books were her best friends, and has no trouble believing her to be guilty.

The characters are an eclectic group of very well-defined people. I like Tru the best, and Flossie, the octogenarian. They are both dedicated enough to doing something about saving the valuable tomes of the library, and I quickly felt a kinship with them. Several people could have done the deed, including Tori, Charlie, Anne, and even Mrs. Farnsworth. The one thing that I found less than endearing about Tru, however, was her yearning, at her age, to be a modern-day Nancy Drew, her childhood hero. Dewey, after the Dewey Decimal System, was a stray cat who decided he wanted to be the library’s mascot, and Tru adopts the furry friend with very unusual markings.

While I didn’t know the correct motive, I did have an idea who killed the town manager. Other suspects looked interesting but none of them fit quite as well. There were surprises to be had, including why Duggar wanted the paperless library to begin with. I am looking forward to seeing the future of the secret library, and highly recommend this start of a new series!