Friday, June 12, 2020

Checked Out by Elizabeth Spann Craig

Reviewed by Jeanne

Librarians end up doing a lot of things they don’t tell you about in library school.  A former director’s favorite example was having to climb a ladder in high heels in a downpour in order to check a leaky roof.  For Ann Beckett, one of those things is rescuing a kitten from a drainage ditch at the behest of two young patrons.  While the feline is saved (and adorable), Ann is thoroughly drenched in the process.  It’s already promising to be a difficult day since a long-time patron has talked her into a blind date with the patron’s nephew.  As Ann says, nothing good ever comes out of a blind date.

This one turns out to be even worse than she bargained for when she discovers her date is dead in his backyard, stabbed through the neck with a skewer at his backyard grill.

This is the first in the Village Library Mysteries series and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the book. Ann is more like a real librarian than many fictional librarians of my acquaintance; they’re always closing the library to chase clues or spending large amounts of uninterrupted time at the desk doing research.  I like Ann and I like the way she takes care of her patrons.  Naturally, this being a mystery, she can’t resist doing a bit of low level detecting, mostly involving talking to people and not, say, indulging in a bit of B&E. (Breaking and entering makes me nervous but somehow most get away with it and it seems to never come up at trial about information being gathered illegally.)

Also, I just like the way the library operates.  It felt more realistic than most, and I like the other librarians.  Also I thoroughly enjoyed all the title-dropping of books, from recommendations to patrons to what Ann was reading. The appropriately adorable kitten plays a role in the book and I have high hopes he will show up in later volumes.  

There could have been a bit more character development at times, but again for me the pros far outweighed the cons. For example, Ann is something of a workaholic, spending most of her time at the library.  She doesn’t have much of a social life because of it, but on the other hand, she doesn’t spend her time moping about it.  After all, it’s her choice. She isn’t down on romance but she isn’t desperately seeking a mate.  She seems to have her life together. Easy stereotypes are avoided for the most part.  Best of all, there isn’t a character who exists simply to make others’ lives miserable, which is a pet peeve of mine.

I liked the way the mystery was constructed, and the straight-forward feel.  There wasn’t a lot of extraneous information (no recipes, craft tips, or lectures on the Dewey Decimal system) which I sometimes enjoy but that just kept the focus on the mystery.  In short, I found this to be a very pleasant, entertaining book. 

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