The Librarian Always Rings Twice
First Edition Library Mystery, Book #3
By Marty Wingate
Author Website: martywingate(.)com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
When a mysterious stranger turns up making claims that threaten Lady Fowling’s legacy, Hayley Burke must dig deep into her late-benefactor’s history to uncover the truth and catch a conniving killer in this new mystery from USA Today bestselling author Marty Wingate.
It has been nearly a year since I took up my position as curator of Lady Georgiana Fowling’s collection of Golden Age of Mystery writers’ first editions at her library in Middlebank House. I have learned that I need to take the good with the bad. The good: I have finally convinced Mrs. Woolgar to open up the collection to the public one day a week so that they too can share in Lady Fowling’s passion. The bad: although he would not be my first, or even tenth, choice, at the insistence of the board Charles Henry Dill, Lady Fowling’s unscrupulous nephew, is now my personal assistant.
On one of our first days open to the public, Mr. John Aubrey shows up at Middlebank House and insists that Lady Georgiana Fowling is his grandmother. Mrs. Woolgar is scandalized by his claims, and Charles Henry, who feels he has been cheated out of his rightful inheritance as Lady Fowling’s heir, is furious. I do not know that I believe Mr. Aubrey, yet he has knowledge of Lady Fowling’s life and writings that few possess. To further complicate matters, an associate of Mr. Aubrey’s intends to help us uncover the truth of John’s story. But before he can do that, he is murdered and the police have reason to suspect Charles Henry.
As much as I would like to lock up Charles Henry and throw away the key, I cannot believe he is a killer. And I also know there is something dead wrong about Mr. Aubrey’s tales regarding his “grandmother” Lady Fowling. I will need to make sense of her past in order to suss out the true villain of this story. (Goodreads)
This novel was fun, intriguing, and at times, scary. I always enjoy seeing England through this author’s experiences. Setting and character descriptions are excellent. I always learn something new, such as about narrow boats. Bath, England sounds like a great place to visit, and Middlebank House sounds architecturally elegant. The library is astounding, made up of first edition, rare, and valuable books authored by women during the Golden Age of Mysteries. Included are a series of mysteries penned by Lady Georgiana Fowling. They were not published, but she had sets printed in elegant leather bindings, one for each of her friends.
Charles Henry is Lady Fowling’s nephew. He resents that, being her only living relative, he didn’t inherit Middlebank and the library even though the bequest he received was substantial. He has tried to get involved with the inner workings of Middlebank and managed to get the board to allow him to work there a few hours a week for Hayley. She and the board secretary, Mrs. Woolgar, will not allow him access to anything sensitive or of value, especially since he had stolen valuable serving pieces during Georgiana’s funeral.
Hayley got the board’s approval to open Middlebank to the public one afternoon a week. Books can be gently read in-house, but not checked out. Visitors can meet and converse with like-minded readers. They hope to attract new members to the First Edition Society to keep it a vibrant, active group. At the first Wednesday opening, Celia, an avid mystery reader in town on holiday, spoke with Hayley at length. At closing time, Hayley met visitor John Aubrey. They spoke briefly of the stories Lady Georgiana wrote. He claimed that after the death of her husband left her a young widow, Georgiana had an extended stay in Brittany. Georgiana was the love of his grandfather’s life. They had a child, one of John’s parents. She left their baby with him and returned to Bath to oversee Middlebank and her late husband’s holdings. Hayley had many questions, and John promised to return. He didn’t want even a pence from the estate; he only wants to meet and hear memories of her from those who knew and loved her.
When Charles Henry heard about him, he was furious, even punching John. Mrs. Woolgar, who had worked for Lady Fowling for over 30 years, was also upset about this claim against the woman she had on a pedestal, thinking he was running a scam. John wasn’t forthcoming in answering Hayley’s questions, even what his grandfather’s name was. Milo, a friend of John who resembled him and put Hayley in contact with someone who could tell her more about John, was murdered. John was later attacked in a similar fashion. The police have focused on Charles Henry as the suspect. Hayley had helped the local police solve two murders already. At the request of a board member, could she do so again and find out if John really is Lady Fowling’s grandson?
We learn more about Hayley, her boyfriend Val, and the mostly elderly board members. Things are revealed this time that show Charles Henry and board member Maureen better than before. I hope to learn more about the very proper Mrs. Woolgar. She doesn’t seem like a warm, welcoming person, yet after her years working for Lady Fowling, she clearly has more depth.
This fast-paced, intriguing novel with its plot twists and eclectic characters held my attention, as did Hayley’s new discovery about Lady Fowling. Hayley and Val can see only a few potential suspects. Rascal that he is, Hayley knew Charles Henry didn’t kill anyone. I followed a red herring for longer than I should have, rejecting my instinctual first suspect. The end is surprising and tremendously satisfying, and I am looking forward to the next visit to Bath. I highly recommend this and the two earlier mysteries!