A biographer is killed inside one of the world’s premier research libraries.
The New York Public Library of the 1990s, edged by wino-infested Bryant Park, would have seemed a more likely scene for murder than the contemporary version, with the park full of “sculpted ivy beds, a small, cheerful merry-go-round, and fashionable Manhattanites sipping lattes from a kiosk,” muses librarian Raymond Ambler, who works in the crime-fiction collection. Still, somebody shot Dr. James Donnelly in the office of Harry Larkin, who runs the Special Collections Division. NYPD homicide detective Mike Cosgrove wants to know who, and he can’t think of anyone better to ask than Ray. Their friendship runs deep. Not only do they share histories involving alcoholic spouses and screwed-up kids—though Ray’s son, John, is a convicted felon while Mike’s daughter, Denise, is just a rebellious teenager—but Ray has helped Mike solve earlier cases. The librarian gives the cop a rundown of the major players in the case: Donnelly, who was preparing a book about crime writer Nelson Yates; professor Maximilian Wagner, Donnelly’s rival biographer; Donnelly’s ex-wife, Kay, who now works for Max; and Max’s wife, Laura Lee McGlynn, the ex-wife of professor Arthur Woods, who died mysteriously in the presence of Yates’s daughter Emily when he, Wagner, the Donnellys, and Yates all worked at Hudson Highlands University. But as Ray’s friendship with fellow librarian Adele Morgan deepens, he finds himself increasingly having to edit his story to Cosgrove. Ray continues to walk the fine line between protecting the innocent and obstructing justice even as the threat of more violence looms.
Lehane (Death at the Old Hotel, 2007, etc.) awards his previous detective, bartender Brian McNulty, a cameo but focuses on the complicated Ray, who looks like a promising newcomer in the talented-amateur ranks.