While browsing Hoopla, this little book kept being recommended to me. I scooped it up on a whim because hey, it’s free. It turned out to be very relaxed and very … odd.
A librarian with a mysterious past, a war hero with a secret, and the heist of a magic painting. THE LIBRARIAN OF CROOKED LANE is an intriguing new fantasy from C.J. Archer, the USA Today bestselling author of the Glass and Steele series.
Librarian Sylvia Ashe knows nothing about her past, having grown up without a father and a mother who refused to discuss him. When she stumbles upon a diary that suggests she’s descended from magicians, she’s skeptical. After all, magicians are special, and she’s just an ordinary girl who loves books. She seeks the truth from a member of the most prominent family of magicians, but she quickly learns that finding the truth won’t be easy, especially when he turns out to be as artless as her, and more compelling and dangerous than books.
War hero Gabe is gifted with wealth, a loving family, and an incredible amount of luck that saw him survive four harrowing years of a brutal war without injury. But not all injuries are visible. Burying himself in his work as a consultant for Scotland Yard, Gabe is going through the motions as he investigates the theft of a magician-made painting. But his life changes when he unwittingly gets Sylvia dismissed from her job and places her in danger.
After securing her new employment in a library housing the world’s greatest collection of books about magic, Gabe and Sylvia’s lives become entwined as they work together to find both the painting and the truth about Sylvia’s past before powerful people can stop them.
But sometimes the past is better left buried…
So this book is very odd and slow-paced. It’s set in post-WWI London, in a world where there are magician craftsmen who create more beautiful things than nonmagicals do, to the point where they have to be under a luxury goods tax. But the story is a mystery about a girl who gets mixed up in the robbery of a magical painting.
While accompanying the handsome yet enigmatic detective around on his search for suspects and clues, they go the oddest places and meet the oddest characters. I felt like I was watching a BBC period drama. The kind where the detective interviews artists with the nude model in the background, and everyone drinks alcohol like it’s soda pop.
It’s very slow paced and not much violence. In fact, the book lamely tries to make up for its lack of violence by having false cliffhanger chapter endings. “And suddenly a dark shadow came up behind me … Next chapter: Hi! said my friend.” Aside from that annoyance, the story was what cozy mysteries used to be. Just the amateur sleuth talking to people and going interesting places. I read it every night before bed and it helped me relax and get sleepy, while giving me a few more clues and suspects to think about. It was just a pleasant read. I don’t know if I’m invested enough to read the second book, but I think other folks might be.