Book Review: A Book Club to Die For

When a member of an exclusive book club is checked out, spunky librarian Trudell Becket must sort fact from fiction to solve the murder in Dorothy St James's newest book, A Book Club to Die For. Read on for Doreen Sheridan's review!

Librarian and secret provider of contraband books Trudell Beckett – Tru to her friends – is having second thoughts about giving a speech to the Arete Society, Cypress, South Carolina’s most exclusive book club. For a start, her boss Lida Farnsworth is a member, and has no idea of Tru’s clandestine operation, running a lending library in the basement of their own high-tech establishment. 

A year ago, Cypress’ town leaders decided to woo high-tech industries by converting the library into a paperless technological center, throwing out all the physical books in the process. Tru was properly horrified:

Books provide escape, comfort and knowledge. Sure, ebooks could do the same thing. But there was something magical about wandering through a library and stumbling upon the perfect book without ever realizing you were looking for it in the first place.

 

I had no choice but to do something to save the books that had been boxed up as if they were worthless tchotchkes collected by a distant relative who’d recently passed.

And so the basement bookroom was born, a super-secret service shared only with the most trustworthy of Cypress’ residents. Tru isn’t the only person helping to run the place, but her double life is starting to take a toll, as she combines maintaining the bookroom with her regular duties as a librarian. Even so, she’s flattered to be asked to take time out of her busy schedule to speak to the Arete Society, especially when it becomes an opportunity for her good friend Flossie Finnegan-Baker to tag along. Flossie, a fellow book lover as well as a novelist, has been turned down for membership in the book club for years, and is eager for the opportunity to pin down club president Rebecca White and ask why.

Unfortunately for them both, Rebecca is whacked on the head and killed before the meeting even has a chance to start. Suspicion immediately falls on Hazel Bailey, the only other person in the building at the time. Hazel just happens to be the mother of Jace, the police officer Tru is dating. Given his relationship to the lead suspect and the smallness of the police department in their usually sleepy town, Jace is put on leave for the duration of the investigation. He chafes at this, as he’s positive that his mother had nothing to do with Rebecca’s murder. Tru feels similarly. Trouble is, she’s a little worried that Flossie might have somehow been involved instead.

But former soap star Rebecca had plenty of enemies, as Tru discovers when she starts surreptitiously investigating on Jace’s behalf. She also learns that Rebecca had an incredibly obnoxious attitude towards reading, with Rebecca’s best friend admitting to her:

[“]She showed me that books shouldn’t entertain me. Books are meant to challenge us, she liked to say.”

 

“Romances and thrillers can challenge the reader, while also entertaining them,” I pointed out. “There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a book you’re reading.”

 

“That’s kind of you to say, I know that as a librarian you must be diplomatic. You can’t judge the readers who come looking for this book or that. But you can be honest with me, we know some books are superior to others.”

 

I shook my head but decided not to make a big deal about disagreeing with her.

While Tru knows how to pick her battles, she soon finds herself constantly getting sidetracked from uncovering the truth of Rebecca’s murder. First, a rogue robot prototype terrorizes patrons at Cypress’ high-tech library. Then her engineer father goes missing, sending her formidable mother into hysterics, never mind that the two have been divorced for ages. But after Tru herself is poisoned, she has to seriously wonder if this is the case where she’ll finally be forced to leave the investigating to the professionals, if only for her own continued safety.

A Book Club To Die For is absolutely the cozy mystery for modern book lovers. From its championing of multiple ways to access books, to its refusal to cater to book snobbery, this is a love letter to bibliophilia in every form. It’s also a cunningly constructed murder mystery, as Tru finds herself cutting through a thicket of distractions in order to bring a killer to justice. I love all of Dorothy St James’ books, with their quirky, kind heroines, and this latest novel was just as satisfying as the rest of her oeuvre.

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    “A Book Club to Die For” is a thrilling mystery novel that keeps readers on the edge of their seats. The plot is well-crafted and the characters are engaging and relatable. The book’s setting, a small-town book club, adds a unique twist to the traditional murder mystery genre. The pacing is perfect, with just enough suspense to keep you turning the pages. Overall, this is a highly enjoyable and entertaining read that will keep you guessing until the very end. If you’re a fan of mystery novels, this one is definitely worth checking out.

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