Death Overdue by Allison Brook is the first cozy mystery I have read. I came across it on Overdrive one afternoon and after scanning the synopsis, checked it right out.
There are so many cozy mystery series out there and as I mentioned, the genre is not one I have dipped my foot in before. Death Overdue sounded right up my alley because it’s set in a library and the main character is a librarian. I decided to give it a go, and had many thoughts while reading the book. While the ending was somewhat satisfying, the beginning and middle dragged on and I debated about even finishing the book. I ultimately did, but it was only because I wanted to see if my notions about who was the killer were right.
*plot spoilers ahead*
Here are the three areas I took issue with in this book: the writing style, the approach to relationships, and the unrealistic depictions of libraries and the library world in general.
When I first began reading Death Overdue, the writing style wasn’t something I immediately noticed. I was trying to get into the story and focus on Carrie and how she ended up in Clover Ridge. But by about the second or third chapter I found the short, choppy sentences to be distracting. The dialogue did not come across as being realistic, and Carrie would narrate every single action unnecessarily.
The second issue I had was with the relationship between Carrie and Jared Foster. I was disappointed to see Carrie become involved with someone who is essentially a murder suspect. She jumped right into partnership with Jared to investigate more about his mother’s murder, which I thought was incredibly short-sighted. All the while, Jared is taking her to dinner and kissing her hello and goodbye, and treating her as if they are dating; this wouldn’t be a problem if not for the fact that Carrie acts shocked when he expresses affection, and repeatedly reflects on the fact that she doesn’t like him in that way. She knowingly leads him on for no apparent reason.
Over a phone call one evening when Jared invites Carrie to dinner with his family, she protests by saying that they aren’t a couple and she would feel uncomfortable with it. He becomes angry and says “it’s just dinner” and she agrees and ends up going, only leading him on even further. She waited until the absolute last minute and with the worst timing possible to tell him she wasn’t interested in anything more. As much as I wanted to believe this was a character fault within Carrie herself, I think there was a greater issue here with abusive behavior in relationships that the author glossed over and may have unintentionally presented as being normal.
Lastly and perhaps most pressing was my issue with how the library world was depicted in this book. From my own personal experience, Carrie’s time working at Clover Ridge Public Library was unrealistic in ways that shouldn’t be overlooked. Firstly, Carrie is told her purple hair and dark clothing are inappropriate for a professional job in a library. She is more or less forced to re-dye her hair a shade of brown and buy a new wardrobe in order to fit in. Libraries, especially public libraries, are growing increasingly open and tolerant these days, including with employee dress and appearance. This may not be common knowledge to those outside the library world, but the author appears to have a lot of first hand knowledge of librarianship, so I thought it was odd that she would push the stereotype of how librarians are “supposed” to look.
There was mention towards the end of the book of an attic in the library where reference librarian Dorothy Hawkins kept some of her reference materials. When Carrie ventures up there to do some sleuthing, she is confronted with a room covered in dust, filled with books and furniture placed haphazardly throughout the room, all in disarray. The fact is that no library would ever have such a room in existence. For one, library materials would never be mixed in with those that are to be discarded. Second, preservation of reference materials, especially older materials like what Dorothy Hawkins was retrieving, would of the utmost importance; meaning, reference materials would not be left in a dusty attic without protection from the elements and so on. Not to mention, librarians catalog everything. I cannot fathom a library where anything, let alone reference books, are not in some kind of order.
Other issues I had included the presence of Evelyn Hastings, the so-called library ghost that only Carrie and her young cousin can see. Evelyn acts as more of a conscience to Carrie and doesn’t reveal anything to Carrie that ends up being especially important or valuable; the tricks she helps Carrie play on Dorothy do nothing to advance the plot. Evelyn’s character either needed more development Orto be cut from the story completely.
Finally, it was difficult to tell what exactly Carrie’s role is going to be in this upcoming Haunted Library series. After reading this book, I honestly couldn’t tell you. Carrie appears to be someone who just happens to be there when things are going on, more of a “best friend’ character than a “hero” of her own story. Yes, she stumbles upon so-called clues but then she blabs about them to anyone who will listen and in actuality she’s getting herself stuck in dangerous situations. It only serves to make her appear short-sighted and not very smart. Based on this, I’d imagine the next book will be much of the same of what Death Overdue consisted of. On a final note, the series title “Haunted Library” is incredibly misleading but I guess that just means Evelyn Hasting will be making appearances in subsequent books.
Ultimately, if you happen to be a librarian or have any firsthand knowledge of the library world, there’s a good chance you’ll take issue with this book. Not to mention if you have any awareness of relationship red-flags and abusive tendencies. You may also be disappointed if you were looking for a more robust mystery, or perhaps even a more likable and inspiring lead character.
I know that this book made me crave an actual mystery and since reading it I have read a handful of very good and satisfying books, and I can’t wait to share those reviews in the coming weeks.