Excerpt from Murder at the 42nd Street Library by Con Lehane, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Murder at the 42nd Street Library

A Mystery

by Con Lehane

Murder at the 42nd Street Library by Con Lehane X
Murder at the 42nd Street Library by Con Lehane
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  • Published:
    Apr 2016, 320 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Rory L. Aronsky
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Chapter 1

The morning was chilly, damp, and gray, an April Friday morning in a Brooklyn cemetery. Early April shouldn't be so cold, but such cruel days descended on New York almost every spring. The damp, chilly air, portending rain, reminded Raymond Ambler of playing baseball as a boy on such a day, the grass recently starting to grow in green, forsythia bright yellow against the dull gray of the day, daffodils bobbing in the cold wind in the yards of row houses across the street from the parade grounds in Windsor Terrace. Your hand stung if you caught a line drive and both hands stung unmercifully if you held the bat too loosely when you hit the ball.

Ambler shivered as he waited in the chilly wind, flecked with drops of rain, for Harry Larkin, his friend and supervisor at the 42nd Street library. That Harry was late wasn't surprising. A medieval historian, former Jesuit, and absent-minded scholar, Harry wasn't noted for his promptness. He ran the library's Special Collections Division as haphazardly as the proprietor of one of the dust-covered odds-and-ends stores you once found along Broadway below 34th Street before the garment district began to gentrify. What you were looking for might be there in the store, but the proprietor was the only person with a hope of finding it.

Adele Morgan, who also worked in Special Collections, where Ambler was the curator of the collection in crime fiction, asked Harry, even though he was no longer a priest, to perform the Catholic burial service for her mother. Ambler hadn't known Adele was Catholic. He came to the funeral because in recent years she'd become his best friend.

For reasons not clear to Ambler, Adele took a liking to him the first day she arrived at the main branch of the library and hung her diploma from the School of Library and Information Science at the University of Iowa on the wall of the cubicle next to his. Since then, with the exuberance of an Iowa cheerleader and the smart-alecky cynicism of a Brooklyn roller-rink queen, she'd taken him under her wing, defending him against the not infrequent fallout from his lack of social graces, pugnacity, and proclivity to take on quixotic battles for truth and justice that no one else much cared about.

He didn't know how old her mother was when she died. He suspected still in her fifties, not much older than him. She'd died quickly after a diagnosis of lung cancer from a lifetime of smoking—Brooklyn girls of her era began smoking cigarettes in front of candy stores and on neighborhood stoops when they were around thirteen.

On the morning of the funeral, he rode in the funeral home limousine with Adele, an arrangement that caused him some embarrassment because Adele's on-again, off-again boyfriend Peter should by rights have been her escort. With no explanation, she took his arm and walked with him from the church to the car, leaving Peter standing on the sidewalk in front of the church. Wearing a black dress, a black veil over her pale face, her lips red with a thin line of lipstick, his friend, whom he'd always thought pretty, became, in her grief, hauntingly beautiful.

"It's not that she died young, still in her prime," Adele said three days earlier when she told Ambler of her mother's death. "She never lived. She died four blocks from the house she grew up in, married young, never left the neighborhood. She went into Manhattan a half-dozen times in her life."

Adele cried in his arms after that, her head pressed against his chest, her tears dampening his shirt. He'd gone with her from the hospital back to the house where she'd lived with her mother since she was a child, except for her time away at college. She'd made him dinner, leftover chicken casserole of some sort that seemed appropriate to the modest, working-class neighborhood in South Brooklyn.

Excerpted from Murder at the 42nd Street Library by Con Lehane. Copyright © 2016 by Con Lehane. Excerpted by permission of Minotaur Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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