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by Amanda Flower
Five Star, June 2010
282 pages
ISBN: 1594148643

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It's a commonly held truth that librarians are avid mystery readers—lovers of capers, whodunits, and thrillers of every stripe. And while perhaps this enthusiasm may not jibe with some people's image of the staid and stern 'shush-er,' it does make a lot of sense. Librarians are professional researchers, trained to suss out facts and information that might elude the average person. Clearly, the stakes are lower than in a police investigation, but the fact remains: librarians, though you may laugh, are a little like detectives. Who better then to write a mystery—and to solve one—than a than a reference librarian?

Enter debut author Amanda Flower, whose entertaining MAID OF MURDER is a fine addition to the 'bibliomystery' genre, as well as a charming cozy about the perils of friendship, unrequited love, and reference work in a small Ohio college town. Flower's plucky heroine, India Hayes, works as an academic librarian at a small, middling college where most of her days are spent teaching research skills to apathetic undergrads, listening to her colleagues debate the (de)merits of the Dewey Decimal system, and trying to remain on the good side of the college bureaucracy. Not exactly a glamorous life, but a reasonably happy one, which India supplements with her love of painting, a close friendship with a fellow librarian named Bobby, and the daily dramas brought on by her eccentric family: her former flower children and outspoken activist parents, her domineering sister, and her younger brother Mark, whose emotional frailty is only superseded by an obsession with advanced mathematics.

When India reluctantly agrees to act as a bridesmaid for her childhood friend Olivia—the woman who sent her brother into a nervous breakdown from which he's never really recovered—India knows that she's in for a hectic summer. But when Olivia is murdered and Mark becomes the prime suspect, India finds herself much more deeply involved in the investigation than she could have ever expected.

India is a witty and resourceful character—self-deprecating without being passive, and clever without being too polished. Although her one-liners sometimes go awry (and there are a few notable clunkers), she delivers most with aplomb. Substituting a small college town for the traditional English village of cozies, Flower delivers plenty of colorful and quirky sub-characters (such as India's enthusiastically faux-Irish landlord), as well as enough simmering suburban tension to keep the stakes high and reasonably unpredictable throughout the story.

MAID OF MURDER has something for readers of many tastes. Librarians will be amused by tangential discussions on reference desk placement, and chick lit enthusiasts will enjoy the trials of gold lamé bridesmaids gowns and the hints of romance between India and the more-than-professionally-interested detective assigned to the case. Here's hoping that this formerly quiet Ohio suburb produces enough nefarious crime for a second appearance of India Hayes.

§ Larissa Kyzer lives in Brooklyn, New York where she is learning Danish and working towards a master's degree in Library and Information Science.

Reviewed by Larissa Kyzer, June 2010

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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