By Sulari Gentill
This is a mystery inside a mystery — or perhaps a mystery wrapped around a mystery.
Hannah Tigone is an Australian writer who has set a mystery novel in the Reading Room of the Boston Public Library. Her protagonist, Winnifred (Freddy) Kincaid, is observing the patrons around her trying to inspire her muse. She gives nicknames to them: Handsome Man, Heroic Chin and Freud Girl.
Freud Girl (Marigold Anastas) is reading Freud and is solidly tattooed from collarbones to wrists. Heroic Chin (Whit Metters) is wearing a Harvard Law sweatshirt and lethargically reading law books. Handsome Man (Cain McLeod) is working on a laptop; Freddy imagines him to be another writer.
A scream, “ragged and terrified,” rips through the library’s silence. Security guards hustle everyone out. Freddy and her seat mates decide to go to the library’s Map Room Tea Lounge. There they make introductions. Marigold insists that because they were present for the victim’s final scream, they must find out who killed her.
When the chapter ends, there’s a letter from someone named Leo. Leo lives in Boston and offers to be Hannah’s “feet on the ground,” vetting sites for scenes, reporting on the weather, reading her manuscript and pointing out where Hannah has used Australian idioms rather than American ones. Leo is suffering the disappointments of repeated rejections from agents and publishers for his own draft novel.
Hannah even includes a character named Leo, who like Freddy, is a writer-in-residence at Carrington Square in Boston’s Back Bay. Originally from Alabama, fictional Leo lives a few doors down from Freddy.
The mysterious murder in the library hooks you immediately. More odd and chilling things happen: Cain’s cell phone is stolen, but Freddy gets a call from it and a recording of the scream; a photo of her door is sent from the stolen phone; and Whit is mugged.
Leo’s letters show that he is guessing who the murderer is along with the readers. But as the story moves forward, Leo’s comments evolve from the casual and professional to the demanding and possessive — he starts referring to “our” story rather than “your” story.
In Freddy’s fictional story, Cain becomes more and more suspect as his background is revealed. Freddy finds him increasingly attractive and can’t believe that he could be a killer.
Meanwhile, new “real” letters appear at the end of chapters from law enforcement warning Hannah that Leo is a person of interest to them and has a possibly dangerous obsession with her.
This is a truly twisted story that keeps the reader popping from “fiction” to “reality.” Both mysteries — who killed the woman in the library and will Leo kill Hannah — are equally suspenseful.
This is a wonderfully creative approach to a mystery.
The Author: Sulari Gentill
Sulari Gentill was a corporate lawyer before she became a writer. Her award-winning Rowland Sinclair series is set in the 1930s and features Rowland Sinclair, a gentleman artist / amateur detective. Under the name S.D. Gentill, she writes a fantasy adventure series called The Hero Trilogy. She has also written a stand-alone novel, CROSSING THE LINES
She was born in Sri Lanka and raised in Zambia and Brisbane, Australia. She lives on a farm in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales with her husband Michael and two children. She grows French black truffles and breeds miniature cattle.