Sunday, October 11, 2020

REVIEW: Twelve Angry Librarians (book) by Miranda James

Twelve Angry Librarians is the 8th book in James' A Cat in the Stacks cozy mystery series. I bought my copy used.


Due to events in the previous book (which I haven't read and which this book's text was vague about, probably to avoid spoilers for those reading the series out of order), Charlie Harris is now the interim library director at Athena College's library. This year's Southern Academic Libraries Association (SALA) conference is being held at Athena College, so Charlie has that on his plate, as well various personal concerns. His interim position is prompting him to think whether he might want to be library director on a more permanent basis, his daughter and her husband might be moving away shortly after she gives birth, and his son's wife is also pregnant.

Charlie is less than pleased when he learns that one of the conference's keynote speakers is Gavin Fong, a slimeball who hit on his wife back in library school and was generally unpleasant. It doesn't take long to see that Gavin hasn't improved over the years, and he manages to make a few more people angry before dying, apparently of cyanide poisoning.

I've been reading this series all out of order. I started with the first book, listened to the tenth on audio, and then went back and read this, the eighth book. At the start of the series, Charlie was a part-time archivist at Athena College and, I think, a part-time public librarian. In this book, he'd somehow become interim director of Athena College's library - I guess the library didn't have any other senior members who wanted or were able to take the role? At some point I need to read the previous book.

At any rate, this book was probably the best of the three I've read. The mystery was interesting, especially as things became a little more complicated. Charlie and Chief Deputy Kanesha Berry had a good rhythm, compared to the first book. Charlie poked around for info but repeatedly reminded himself that this wasn't his job and he needed to back off sometimes. If he did find out anything potentially useful, he passed it on to Kanesha ASAP. Meanwhile, she did her job and only kept him in the loop as much as necessary. At the end of the book, instead of a dramatic Big Reveal or confrontation at the conference, Charlie sat down with Kanesha and told her his theory about what happened, which she could confirm or deny based on the results of her own more in-depth investigation.

I enjoyed the library aspects, which were generally accurate but did have some issues. The conference felt like a real library conference, with believable session topics. I think this is the first fiction book I've ever read that has mentioned AACR2 and RDA (the previous and current cataloging rules). And yes, Gavin's speech would definitely have angered everyone in the room. There was a bit more drama than I'm used to at real library conferences (I'm not just talking about murder), but I suppose it wasn't too far-fetched.

A couple things I thought were a little off: the overall reaction to the murder and Charlie's line of thought concerning liaison librarians. 

If a person was murdered at a conference, wouldn't the police potentially have had to keep everyone there longer than expected? I thought it was odd that not a single person seemed to be worried that they might not be able to leave when planned. No one even asked about it.

And then the liaison librarian thing. Charlie was having trouble figuring out how the killer might have gotten their hands on cyanide, and his theory was that a science liaison librarian might have contacts with their institution's Chemistry Department and could either access their supplies or convince someone to give them cyanide. By that logic, I would be a likely murder suspect. I'm the liaison librarian for nearly all of the sciences at my university. However, in reality, I have difficulty getting faculty members to read or respond to my emails, even when I'm offering interesting vendor freebies, and I definitely don't have access to their labs or store room. Charlie did stumble across one or two liaison librarians who could believably have had better Chemistry connections than me, but, in general, I found Charlie's theory to be more ridiculous than promising.

Liaison librarian issues aside, I enjoyed this and plan to read more of this series.

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