Review: Shelved Under Murder by Victoria Gilbert
Shelved Under Murder is the second installment in Victoria Gilbert’s Blue Ridge Library Mystery series, where autumn leaves aren’t the only things falling in the historic Virginia village of Taylorsford―so are some cherished memories, and a few bodies.
Victoria Gilbert’s clever, well-paced Shelved Under Murder shines at its heart—the character’s relationships and the town they inhabit.
It’s a coup that Amy Webber’s best friend and fellow librarian was able to acquire paintings by Rachel LeBlanc, a locally famous artist, to sell at the annual Harvest Festival to benefit the library. However, when the pair goes to pick up the paintings, they find the artist dead on her studio floor. Stakes intensify when police find a secret stash of forged paintings in the murdered woman’s home and both her husband and daughter go missing. Amy volunteers to use her undergrad experience in art history to help with the investigation until more professional help arrives. As she dives further into the source of the forgeries, she finds her discoveries have her digging deeper into her own family history.
Amy’s naturally inquisitive personality and her penchant for being in the wrong place at the wrong time make her the perfect amateur detective candidate. It’s a joy to watch her get swept away into her research and fall into an old interest.
Even better, though, are her relationships with the people surrounding her. Amy lives with her Aunt Lydia, whose artist husband passed away years ago in a car accident. They’re fiercely protective of each other, and their relationship deepens as a result of Amy’s investigation into her uncle’s history. Amy’s best friend, Sunny, works at the library with Amy and is certainly deserving of her name. Richard is her adorably thoughtful boyfriend and next-door neighbor—their burgeoning relationship is charming to watch unfold. Amy and her supporting characters are lively and fun in their interactions with each other, and you can feel their love—evidenced by a surprise trip Aunt Lydia and Sunny plan for Amy. I’m invested in these relationships, and I’m excited to see how they grow in the next book.
Amy’s relationships—both with the people she loves and those she’d rather not run into—richly fill in the small-town setting. My favorite place in the book, of course, is the library. Gilbert’s descriptions of Amy’s workplace remind me fondly of different bits and pieces of libraries I’ve called mine over the years, like when Amy reflects on the well-worn, original-to-the-building circulation desk:
But the desk would not be replaced as long as I was in charge. Like the vaulted ceiling, deep-silled windows, and thick plaster walls, it exuded a well-worn elegance that could never be replicated.
I do wish more of the mystery took place in the library—most of Amy’s focus throughout the book was prepping for the Harvest Festival and flexing her art history knowledge.
Although, art being one of Amy’s primary focuses isn’t a negative quality. It was interesting to learn more about art forgeries. For example, forgers will often paint “studies” of famous works of art—essentially, practice paintings that artists would make prior to producing their final piece—because there often isn’t a way to prove whether or not the study existed in the first place.
The novel’s pacing is tight throughout. Almost every other chapter had an ominous occurrence, and there were many suspects to point fingers at until the very end. There was just enough tension that I found myself stopping to take a quick look over my shoulder every time I heard an out-of-the-ordinary sound while I was reading.
The dialogue at the denouement does get a little clunky from time to time. For example, a suspect with a gun threatens to “blast” his potential hostage:
“If I see any of you outside before that black Jag is out the entrance gate, I blast him. Get it?”
Despite this, the ending was satisfying—even the one question that seemed like it would go unanswered was charmingly tied up at a holiday party, as all questions should be. I’m eagerly looking forward to book three in this wonderful series.