Book Review: A Margin for Murder by Lauren Elliott
By Janet WebbApril 27, 2022
A Margin for Murder is catnip for lovers of historical libraries and rare books as well as small town aficionadas, admirers of miniature doggies, folks who swoon at burgeoning relationships, and those who rejoice in female friendships and solidarity. Let us not forget the importance of garden clubs. The eighth book in Lauren Elliott’s Beyond the Page series has all that and more. Addie Greyborne, the owner of Beyond the Page bookstore, and her assistant manager Paige Stringer, embark on a road trip guaranteed to appeal to bibliophiles. Pen Hollow, the next town over, is having “a book sale at a library that is closing due to lack of funding.” Addie’s birthday is around the corner and Paige wants to treat her friend and boss to a girls’ getaway. The birthday girl is sanguine about putting Greyborne Harbor in the rearview mirror for a few days because her relationship with Simon Emerson, the town coroner, is blowing hot and cold. It’s not her biological clock that is ticking à la My Cousin Vinnie, but rather her engagement clock. Why hasn’t her boyfriend proposed? No matter, the two girls, along with Addie’s precious little dog Pippi, take off—who knows what first editions might await them at the library sale? They check into a delightful bed and breakfast and serendipitously, Mrs. Price—a lovely lady who’s an acquaintance of Paige—spots them checking into the B&B and offers to entertain Pippi.
Driving through town, Addie spots her first love, Tony, the one who got away by disappearing. An old-fashioned way to describe ghosting? She never expected he’d reappear as the “local bestselling author” of Pen Hallow.
“You’re the Anthony Radcliff?” Addie stared widemouthed at him. “The mysterious author of some of my favorite gothic horror novels?”
“Guilty as charged.” He grinned impishly. “But don’t feel bad for not recognizing me as him. I don’t like being in the limelight, so I don’t allow photos of me to be published.”
You’ll want to search out your nearest Carnegie Library after following Addie’s adventures in Pen Hallow. Addie is dazzled by what she sees.
Addie scanned the room and dashed over to a bookshelf. “Come see this. It’s an Italian Neoclassical bookcase from the early nineteen hundreds.” Addie gaped as she once again scanned the room. “Look, there’s a Gustav Stickley library table over against that wall and a Craftsman bookcase complete with sliding-glass doors.”
Addie soon learns that not everyone in Pen Hallow approves of the library sale. The leading light behind it is domineering Luella Higgins, “the mayor, president of the town council, and the head of the library committee.” She offers to show Addie the library’s bookmobile which is also for sale. Addie considers how useful a bookmobile would be when her bookstore participates in the summer festivals that are a part of life by the seashore. Not only is the bookmobile in great shape, but Addie is also delighted by what’s on the shelves: “several classic first editions and an early edition of Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses.” But Addie being Addie, she’s confused and troubled by the existence of the rare books on the shelves. Paige joins in the speculation.
“It would have to have been someone who would be preparing the bus for the weekly seasonal runs.”
“We need to find out who conducted the bookmobile runs.”
“Addie, I know you love a good mystery, but does it really matter?”
So often rare books go hand-in-hand with murder in Addie’s world.
Addie purchases the bookmobile but before she can take delivery, there’s a fatal accident: Luella is behind the wheel. Interestingly, an autopsy shows Luella died of poisoning. What’s more, when Addie returns to check out the bus (now her possession) the first editions she spotted are no longer on the shelves.
No one seems too broken up by Louella’s passing. Addie also discovers the first editions were quite recently the property of Tony’s very wealthy grandmother, who suffered from dementia before her death—and was “persuaded” to donate the rare books to the library. Tony has no fond feelings for Luella.
“Is it just me or doesn’t she seem fazed in the least about Luella’s death?”
“I told you,” said Tony, “not many people around here will be sad at her passing.”
The most unpopular woman in town dies of poisoning. Who ya gonna charge? Unbelievably, the decision is made to charge Addie and Paige, the two outsiders/outliers in town. It’s ridiculous but the police chief is lazy, he’s getting close to retirement, and he sure doesn’t want to arrest a local.
Literary allusions, like to Daphne du Maurier’s Mrs. Danvers, abound, Tony’s late grandmother’s mansion was built during the Gilded Age, the poison that killed Luella “may” have been discussed at the local garden club—A Margin for Murder really does have it all. A delightfully dogged heroine and an enjoyable cast of characters make this another winner for Lauren Elliot.