Friday, October 28, 2016


Title: Better Late Than Never
Author: Jenn McKinlay
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 304

The main reason why I chose to read this book was the fact that it was set in a library. I love books and for a brief while, I wanted to become a librarian when I grew up. I thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to get free books that I could read all day, while occasionally helping people check books out. Then I read somewhere that librarians barely get time to read on the job, and I changed my aspirations.

Better Late Than Never is set in the Briar Creek Public Library, whose director Lindsey Norris announces a day of amnesty for overdue books. No fines will be charged no matter how late, or in what condition, books are being returned.

One of the books to be returned is The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger. The book had been checked out by a local school teacher, Candice Whitley, on the day she was murdered, 20 years ago.

Lindsey believes that the book may have been returned by her murderer, and begins asking questions in an attempt to solve the cold case.

The book contained interesting information about books. For instance, we learn that Salinger didn’t want a cover design for his book in order to avoid distracting the reader. Though those references were interesting, they couldn’t raise this book above the ordinary.

Ms Cole is repeatedly referred to as the lemon, a tendency which would have understandable if the book had been written in Lindsey’s first person Point of view. In a 3rd person PoV, this tendency feels biased and awkward and somehow wrong as if the author were forcing us to think in a certain way. It is also downright annoying, as are the one-too-many uses of the words, buttinsky, and the L-word.

The writing is far from distinctive in any way. Of course, mystery writing isn’t meant to be literary fiction, but a few gems worth quoting would have helped. Instead you have nearly all the characters shuddering and getting goose bumps at the thought of the murdered woman checking out the book on the day of her murder.

All the characters are involved in far too much drama. From Mary being pregnant, to Lindsey’s on-off romance with Sully, to Paula’s interest in Hannah, to the dog, Heathcliff, I couldn’t wait for the murder investigation. And then there is Ms Cole hyperventilating on learning that the book checked out by Candice has returned.

The other characters are Ms Cole, the senior librarian, Beth Stanley, who works at the library and is also Lindsey’s best friend, Paula Turner, the new hire, and a few women from the crafternoon group. Robbie Vine, a British actor who now resides in Briar Creek, and Sully are both vying for Lindsey’s affections.

Together these characters account for much of the unnecessary drama in this book, taking away from the mystery that should have occupied the author’s sole attention. There was altogether too much time spent in showing the friendly banter and the camaraderie between the other characters. Consequently it took ages to talk about the actual murder investigation to begin.

Not that all this time spent helped. None of the characters actually stood out. They were all flat and insipid.

Lindsey’s third person PoV didn’t sit well with the running commentary of what was going on in her mind. Instead the author should have used the first person viewpoint; that would have made it far more direct and believable.

To make matters worse, there was the romance between Sully and Lindsey. It was such a huge part of the book that it overshadowed the murder. What’s more, it felt drab. When Lindsey describes what she had with Sully as intoxicating, it didn’t feel like that at all. A romance writer ought to make the reader feel a character is interesting too. But Sully was hands-down the most boring hero ever.

I disliked Lindsey as a character. She kept imagining people close to Candice as being bloodthirsty murderers and she spoke bad English too. I hope that is corrected by the author. For example, in one place, she says, would have been too easy of an answer. Incidentally, the mystery of who was spying on Lindsey was not resolved at all.

If it were possible for a reader to murder an author’s characters, I would finish Sully and Lindsey both, and allow Robbie to get on with life and the investigation. He seemed far more interesting, although the pretend-heart-attack in the library was taxing on my nerves.

Of course, in spite of everything that is going on in this book, the mystery is resolved, and it is someone that we'd never have suspected.

This was not a cozy mystery at all. I wish someone had warned me.

(I got an ARC from First to read.)

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