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The Woman in the Library

by Sulari Gentill

GENRE: Books About Books, Contemporary Fiction, Suspense, Thriller

The ornate reading room at the Boston Public Library is quiet, until the tranquility is shattered by a woman's terrified scream. Security guards take charge immediately, instructing everyone inside to stay put until the threat is identified and contained. While they wait for the all-clear, four strangers, who'd happened to sit at the same table, pass the time in conversation and friendships are struck. Each has his or her own reasons for being in the reading room that morning—it just happens that one is a murderer.

Award-winning author Sulari Gentill delivers a sharply thrilling read with The Woman in the Library, an unexpectedly twisty literary adventure that examines the complicated nature of friendship and shows us that words can be the most treacherous weapons of all.

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Author Biography

Once upon a time, Sulari Gentill was a corporate lawyer serving as a director on public boards, with only a vague disquiet that there was something else she was meant to do. That feeling did not go away until she began to write. And so Sulari became the author of the Rowland Sinclair Mysteries: thus far, ten historical crime novels chronicling the life and adventures of her 1930s Australian gentleman artist, the Hero Trilogy, based on the myths and epics of the ancient world, and the Ned Kelly Award winning Crossing the Lines (published in the US as After She Wrote Hime). In 2014 she collaborated with National Gallery of Victoria to write a short story which was produced in audio to feature in the Fashion Detective Exhibition, and thereafter published by the NGV. IN 2019 Sulari was part of a 4-member delegation of Australian crime writers sponsored by the Australia Council to tour the US as ambassadors of Australian Crime Writing.

Sulari lives with her husband, Michael, and their boys, Edmund and Atticus, on a small farm in Batlow where she grows French Black Truffles and refers to her writing as “work” so that no one will suggest she get a real job. - Goodreads

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Reviews

Publisher’s Weekly

This thrilling excursion into metafiction from Australian author Gentill (Crossing the Lines) wittily examines the writing process itself. Australian mystery writer Winifred “Freddie” Kincaid has come to Boston after receiving a prestigious writers’ fellowship. While she’s seeking inspiration in the Boston Public Library, a woman’s scream breaks the silence. Freddie seizes on this incident as the ideal start for her new opus, which involves “a group of people united by a scream.” Each chapter of Freddie’s book includes a letter written to famous Australian author Hannah Tigone by a dedicated fan, Leo Johnson, a fellow writer in residence who offers to be her beta reader. Hannah is writing the story of Freddie Kincaid, who’s writing the story of the murder in the library. Leo’s emails influence 3Hannah’s view of her characters and subsequently Freddie’s story. Leo’s emails shift from sycophantic to profoundly disturbing when his novel is rejected by Hannah’s agent. The agent dies a few days later, and murders in the two realities begin to multiply. This elegantly constructed novel is intelligent, funny, and profound. Who could ask for more? Agent: Jill Marr, Sandra Dijkstra Literary.

Library Journal

Writer Freddie Kincaid studies the people sharing her table at the Boston Public Library, naming them "Freud Girl," "Heroic Chin," and "Handsome Man." They hear a scream and learn that a woman has been murdered--that's when Freddie says one of them is a killer. The subsequent story is Freddie's account of her growing friendship with those three, attacks on two of them, and the growing awareness that one is attacking the others. But Hannah Tignone, a best-selling Australian author, is actually writing the story of Freddie and her new friends. The story within a story alternates Hannah's writing with letters written to her by a wannabe author, Leo, who suggests changes to Hannah's plot and characters. Freddie's account of trying to discover which of her new friends is a killer is an engrossing mystery. At the same time, Hannah's communication from the FBI allows the reader a glimpse into the life of a writer with a fanatical correspondent. VERDICT Ned Kelly Award winner Gentill (Crossing the Lines) presents a complex, riveting story within a story. The fictional story of an author writing about another writer with messy, complicated friendships and suspicion is an innovative literary mystery.--Lesa Holstine

Kirkus Reviews

Feedback can be deadly.Sycophantic fan and aspiring writer Leo charms his way into a friendship with successful author Hannah Tigone through a series of flattering letters. In return, she shares a strange incident that happened in the Boston Public Library, where she’s working on her new novel, an episode that begins with a scream and ends with this provocative sentence: “And so we go to the Map Room to found a friendship, and I have my first coffee with a killer.” This, it turns out, is actually the beginning of Hannah’s new novel, sent in morsels to Leo, who faithfully offers thoughts and encouragement after every chapter. Gentill mines similar metafictional territory as in After She Wrote Him (2020), teasing readers with the challenge of deducing which of two narrative threads presents the author and which his or her story. As the mystery unfolds, the book expands into psychological thriller territory, with Leo becoming increasingly unhinged and describing the world as a rage-filled dystopia. Winifred “Freddie” Kincaid, Hannah's mystery-writer protagonist, is as curious and resourceful as Miss Marple, and Hannah’s buoyant whodunit provides a bracing contrast to Leo’s dark world. Based on their appearances and their behavior in the library, Hannah gives her suspects names like Heroic Chin, Handsome Man, and Freud Girl. Lines blur. Freddie is so caught up in the twists and turns of the puzzle that she feels unable to write. Does Hannah have the same problem? Can Leo help her, does he genuinely want to, and where does he fit into the larger picture?A sharply drawn fictional hall of mirrors sure to tantalize and occasionally frustrate.

Booklist

Australian author Winifred “Freddie” Kincaid is writing in the reading room of the Boston Public Library when she hears a woman scream. This bonds her to her neighboring patrons, writer Cain, psych grad student Marigold, and failing law student Whit, and when they hear that a woman’s body has been discovered several days later, they work together to solve the crime. But someone is sending threatening messages to Freddie, and Cain is hiding a past that makes him look very guilty. In between chapters of the story are letters from Leo, an American offering writing advice to Hannah Tigone, the Australian author of Freddie’s story. Soon it becomes clear that Leo is no ordinary critique partner, as he collects gruesome evidence to make Freddie’s story more believable. Gentill’s latest is a departure from her historical Rowland Sinclair novels (Where There’s a Will, 2022). It is a mystery-within-a-mystery, with the clues in Freddie’s story becoming more intriguing as Leo’s advice becomes more sinister. The two storylines work together beautifully, amping up the suspense before reaching a surprising conclusion. —Susan Maguire

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