“Murder Off the Page’” by Con Lehane; Minotaur (323 pages, $26.99)
The 42nd Street Library in New York City is an iconic building — a treasure trove of books (naturally!), special collections and historical artifacts. It also makes an intriguing setting for Con Lehane’s spirited series about librarian Raymond Ambler, curator of the Manhattan library’s crime fiction collection.
As Lehane again proves in his third novel, librarians make insightful sleuths, knowing how to ferret out information, piece together far-flung clues and uncover credible solutions. Lehane joins at least 10 other authors who set their mysteries in libraries.
“Murder Off the Page” is Lehane’s most complex plot as Ray is forced to investigate his friend, bartender and actor Brian McNulty. It begins when Ray helps Shannon Darling research the papers of mystery writer Jayne Galloway. Ray is thrilled that Shannon is interested in Jayne, whom he considers an overlooked author. Then Shannon disappears with Brian, shortly after a man is killed in her hotel room. When another murder occurs, Brian is the prime suspect.
Ray and fellow librarian Adele Morgan, who he is secretly in love with, follow a labyrinth of clues that uncover that Shannon had another identity.
Lehane molds a tight plot that spins on believable twists. Ray is an affable character with a complicated personal life that includes being guardian of his young grandson. As usual, the 42nd Street Library with its hidden crevices and private rooms emerges as a fully-realized character.