MURDER OFF THE PAGE
Minotaur Books (2019)
Reviewed by Jill Rey for Reader Views (07/2020)
Reading successfully as a standalone, Con Lehane graces us with another in his 42nd Street Library Mystery series, “Murder Off the Page,” as we follow Raymond Ambler and detective Mike Cosgrove.
“Ambler sat for some time after Mike left, disturbed more than he’d let on by Mike’s suggestion that the 42nd Street Library’s crime fiction collection somehow begat murders, not only on the pages of its mystery novels but off the page as well.” – p. 26
There are many characters introduced within the folds of this page-turner. From bartender, Brian McNulty, to co-worker and crush, Adele, the characters are as quirky as the mystery within. Primarily reading from Ambler’s point of view, readers are offered some glimpses into Cosgrove and Adele’s head as well, as the team seeks to clear their friend’s name in a succession of murders.
Beginning with scenes from the bar and library, the author builds the suspense as he introduces us to the history of our cast. From someone that hasn’t read books one or two of this series, “Murder Off the Page” reads successfully as a standalone, but there is certainly some history readers miss by not reading books one or two – none of which seems to detract from the overall story. This “missing” history surrounds the entrance of Adele as Ambler’s crush, Ambler’s friendship with Cosgrove and even his previously absent grandson. This chronicle of characters is briefly explained and quickly incorporated into Lehane’s third book of Ambler’s murder mysteries.
Regardless, this read starts slow, building momentum as readers are introduced to new settings. About halfway through the book, those immersed in the pages start to find themselves simultaneously rooting for Ambler to solve the crime and clear his friend’s name, while also finding themselves angry for his “investigative decisions” despite his financial woes and lack of law enforcement expertise. Ambler certainly lacks the resources and expertise afforded to Cosgrove and his team, but his motivation for clearing his friend’s name and uncovering the truth does exceptionally well in driving his justice.
This cozy murder mystery houses an at times comedic entourage of intrigue, sophistication, and secrecy – a whodunnit classic. Fall into the story of Ambler and friends as you work to stay a step ahead of the real killer.