Con Lehane: Author of the 42nd Street Library Mysteries

What They’re Saying

Murder at the 42nd Street Library

“Con Lehane’s Murder at the 42nd Street Library offers up a masterful tale of intrigue, jealousy, and revenge in the grand tradition of Ross Macdonald. Not to be missed.”

Megan Abbott, Edgar winning author of The Fever

“A sly and witty new mystery.”

Reed Farrel Coleman, award winning author of The Hollow Girl
and Robert B. Parker’s The Devil Wins

“An inventive tale of murder and mayhem. Con Lehane, like his librarian sleuth Ray  Ambler, knows how to keep his readers happy.”

  Daniel Stashower, Edgar winning  author of The Hour of Peril

“In Murder at the 42nd Street Library Con Lehane provides a riveting ride through a tangled web of intrigue where nothing is as it seems and dark secrets of the past are only moments away. Jam packed with surprises!”

Katherine Neville, New York Times and #1 internationally bestselling author

Raymond Ambler is the perfect character to show off Con Lehane’s deep love and almost encyclopedic knowledge of crime fiction. The New York City librarian truly knows both his fictional and real mean streets.

Ace Atkins, NYT bestselling author of The Redeemers and Robert B. Parker’s Kickback

Death At the Old Hotel

A Season for SleuthingRead the Wall Street Journal article which reviews Death At the Old Hotel

Con Lehane’s mysteries about a genial Irish-American bartender named Brian McNulty are as cruelly charming as those Irish saloon storytellers who make sure you’re laughing before they flatten you with the sad stories of their lives… Lehane has an honest feel for the working-class life of New York. And he’s clear-eyed about those crimes of the heart that have nothing to do with class.

– Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Sunday Book Review
Like all fine bartenders, Brian McNulty listens well, tells great stories and mixes a mean martini. But unlike your typical booze slinger, McNulty is also a master detective… Lehane’s novel is steeped in Irish lore, union history and the stale-beer smell of a bar after closing time. Death at the Old Hotel is much more than a linear mystery. It’s also a generational saga of McNulty, his father and his wayward son. Lehane knows this world. He was a bartender and a union organizer and is a natural storyteller. There’s a lot of action, but the fascinating part of the book is getting inside McNulty’s mind and seeing what makes this man tick.

(read the full article)

-William McKeen, Special to the St. Petersburg Times

What Goes Around Comes Around

Long-time-no-see friend John, now regional hotel manager, offers NYC bartender Brian McNulty a temporary job as bar manager as a way to help out a mutual friend, Greg. But a dockside murder mars Brian’s first night at his new job, the victim turns out to be another mutual friend from long ago, and Greg goes missing along with the day’s receipts. Brian follows a trail-littered with drugs, scams, and more-that leads back to the Atlantic City bar the friends all have in common. Mainstream prose, clever plotting, and a sympathetic hero recommend this sequel to Lehane’s debut, Beware the Solitary Drinker. Devotees of Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder hard-boiled series may enjoy.

– Library Journal

Once again bartender Brian McNulty, as he was in Beware the Solitary Drinker, is surrounded by a bizarre group of sleazy weirdos, this time as he searches for a friend who has disappeared under suspicious circumstances possibly connected with a body floating in the East River near Brian’s tony new supper club. As the scene moves through Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and the Jersey shore, running up against Serbians, West Africans and Chileans, among others, Brian, who doesn’t strike one as particularly brave, proves to be extremely tenacious.

Some of Lehane’s characters are quite memorable, especially “Big John” Wolinsky, the boy from the wrong side of the tracks who has, through hard work and a generally winning personality and the ability to instill loyalty in his friends, has risen far.

And Brian is funny. Or Lehane is funny. “Humorous” mystery writers generally don’t make me laugh, but Lehane certainly does. You keep waiting for McNulty to fall down an open manhole, but though he has various misadventures, falls down several times, and sometimes descends into farce, he avoids that.

Yet there is a certain profound moralism here that reaches back to Raymond Chandler (who never was funny, even in his “comic” short story). McNulty is a middle-aged man, a frustrated actor for whom nothing really has turned out the way he hoped, but who still hopes, while knowing it will never happen, for a moral order to be restored. He is in for some rude surprises in this fine book.

– Mystery Fiend (Brooklyn, NY)


New York bartender Brian McNulty makes his second appearance in WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND. This time he gets involved with John and Greg, whom he worked with 15 years before in Atlantic City. ³Big John² talks him into joining them again, as a bar manager at an upscale hotel. Almost immediately Greg disappears. Just before he does, he desperately implores Brian to call him, but Brian doesn¹t have a chance to find out why. Then a third former co-worker is found murdered and Greg is the prime suspect.

Brian feels indebted to Greg for taking him under his wing 15 years ago and teaching him the bartending trade, so he resolves to find Greg and clear his name through the nighttime and working side of New York and Atlantic City, through bars, hotels, casinos, and nearby backwater towns. We meet Brian¹s communist father, his game son Kevin, numerous small-time gangsters, and high school friends of Greg and John disappearance.

In a way, Brian reminded me of Leopold Bloom wandering around Dublin in James Joyce¹s ULYSSES, giving a tour of the town and introducing colorful characters. The parallel could go back even further, to the original Ulysses¹ odyssey. Brian¹s on a quest to find and rescue Greg (instead of Helen). There are ordeals to survive, dangerous “caves” to penetrate, sirens to tempt him.

But WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND is mostly is a study of characters of whom, Brian finds, are contradictions. As for Brian himself, he spends much of the book hobbling around on crutches, which may be a good metaphor for his progress through life. He¹s handicapped by his perpetual unhappiness, lack of direction, and general cluelessness. But he has good qualities, too, and is likable, sort of like a dumb, faithful dog. Even when he suspects his friends may not be his friends, he keeps on the search because he wants an explanation. He thinks of himself as Lew Archer hunting down his partner¹s killer. My personal favorite character in the book is Brian¹s friend Ntango, a brave Eritrean cab driver who has lost so much and looks out for his bumbling friend.

WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND has lots of atmospherics and gives insider details about tending bar heavily sprinkled with dark slapstick and has a lovely noir ending.

– Reviewed by Verna Suit of Silver Spring, Maryland

Lehane knows New York inside out, and lets this knowledge of the city’s grimy underbelly and bar culture shine through in the second novel to feature bartender detective Brian McNulty… [T]his is really about character — be it Brian and his ability and inability to help others and evaluate them objectively, or the city itself. If you like Lawrence Block’s Scudder novels (espec the early and middle ones) this book’s for you.

– Sarah Weinman, Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind


The writing is often lyrical, sometimes brooding, evoking in this reader nostalgia for the streets of long-ago Brooklyn…, and richly capturing the flavor of New York in some of its seedier areas.

– Gloria Feit, reviewing on DorothyL mystery group


Beware the Solitary Drinker

The characters who inhabit Oscar’s bar on New York’s Upper West Side are serious drinkers with more than their share of quirks, shames, secrets and strengths. In this strong debut novel, Lehane exhibits a sensitive empathy for those who find solace in drink and drugs and the ambience at Oscar’s, where one can be solitary but not alone. Mostly older, mostly men, Oscar’s patrons are captivated by Angelina, an alluring, available young woman, who begins to frequent their bar. Even bartender Brian McNulty, a participant/observer-presiding, absorbing, but never probing-is drawn into her orbit. But when the beautiful, troubled Angelina is murdered and Brian’s customers and friends become suspects, he reluctantly abandons his bartender’s code: “I enter my friend’s house deaf; I leave dumb.” Instead, prodded by the arrival of Angelina’s sister, Janet, from their hometown of Springfield, Mass., Brian begins to learn more than he wants about Angelina’s past. Brian is a wonderfully complex character, and Lehane reveals him to the reader with exquisite skill. Brian takes shape, developing substance and form, just as his stumbling investigation does. Set in 1983 but timeless in its depiction of men and women struggling to cope with whatever demons beset them, Lehane’s assured debut merits a warm welcome from readers who prize originality and insight.

– Publishers Weekly starred review

At his New York apartment, bartender Brian McNulty shelters Angelina, a young woman he meets at work. They don’t have sex but become good friends, despite her subsequent frequent changes of lovers. Angelina enlivens his bar, befriending everyone until she’s found murdered in the park. Her sister then arrives, looking for the murderer and asking for Brian’s help. The resultant sleuthing uncovers more than a few surprises about Angelina’s life, including experiences with women and porn. Brian’s bar-focused outlook (the author was a former bartender), the bar “family,” and an abundance of booze, drugs, and sex make for colorful reading. For larger collections.

– Library Journal

On the Upper West Side of Broadway, there is a bar called Oscar’s and the night bartender, forty-year-old Brian McNulty is familiar to the regulars who drink there every night. One night Angelina shows up, a beautiful, vibrant and enchanting young woman who ensorcells the men fortunate enough to catch her eye. She is a bit promiscuous but even when she stays in Brian’s apartment, she doesn’t sleep with him. One day she comes in throwing money around saying she’s got a sugar daddy. Shortly thereafter, her dead body is found with no clue who did it because there are so many known suspects, never mind the unknown ones. Brian, who is egged on by Angelina’s sister Janet, decides to conduct an independent investigation because he knows that some of the people involved won’t talk to the police. As the investigation progresses, another person dies and Brian almost becomes the killer’s third victim. The hero is an ‘everyman’ sort of guy, making him appealing to both genders. For an amateur, he is a very good detective and he actually unearths some very decent clues that lead to possible suspects. Any New Yorker will realize that the story line is an actual portrayal of life in the Big Apple (at least the Manhattan borough). BEWARE THE SOLITARY DRINKER has much to recommend it.

– Midwest Book Review

Another man with the soul of a bartender is Cornelius Lehane, a man who used to tend bar, but is now a journalist in Washington, D.C. Lehane’s book, Beware the Solitary Drinker, is a neat little murder mystery set in Manhattan, and centered around a joint on the Upper West Side , but rather than tell you about the plot, we’ll just give you a short sample of his work here–it’s a piece that proves that Lehane put his time in behind the stick: ‘I’d learned to pour with both hands, to make sure that the bar stations were all set up when I took over a shift, and to make sure that the bar was clean and stocked when I left a shift. I learned about working with my head up and always knowing everything that was happening at every moment. I learned how to make a good living, which means being alert for walkouts, for spotters, controlling the waiters and waitresses so they didn’t become independent contractors. I learned to know who was trouble the second he or she entered the bar.’ We wish Lehane would quit his journalist job and get back behind the stick where he belongs–he’d be a credit to the industry, and he’d have more time to pen a whole series of wonderful books like this one. Buy this book, too.

– Ardent Spirits

Lehane’s narrative vividly evokes a melancholy city in decline, and a sullen man who, when forced to act, rises above the alcoholic despair that surrounds him.

– Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine