Murder Off the Page by Con Lehane

Murder Off the Page by Con Lehane
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full length (323 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

A note from bartender Brian McNulty, Raymond Ambler’s friend, confidant, and sometimes adviser, sets the librarian sleuth off on a murder investigation, one that he pursues reluctantly until a second murder upends the world as he knows it. The second victim is a lady friend of McNulty’s―and the prime suspect is McNulty himself.

As Ambler pursues his investigation, he discovers that the murdered woman had a double life. Her intermittent visits to the city―a whirlwind of reckless drinking and illicit liaisons with men she met in the cocktail lounges―had their counterpart in suburban Fairfield County Connecticut where, as Dr. Sandra Dean, she practiced dermatology and lived in a gated community with a doting husband and a young daughter.
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While Ambler looks into the past of Dr. Sandra Dean to understand the murder of Shannon Darling in the present, NYPD homicide detective Mike Cosgrove investigates the men in Shannon Darling’s life. She might have been murdered because she frustrated the wrong man. It could have been a jealous wife. In fact, any number of people might have murdered Shannon Darling. Or, as Ambler suspects, did someone murder Dr. Sandra Dean?

Yet, no matter which way he turns, McNulty emerges as a suspect. Ambler’s dilemma seems insurmountable: Should he keep searching for the truth behind the murders if the deeper he probes, the more evidence he finds that points to the morally rumpled bartender as a murderer?

I enjoyed a story which has a mild-mannered amateur detective in the plot. I also thought the other characters were interesting. However, much of the interaction between the characters was very subtle so it took me a while to discover what the relationship was between them.

I used the word subtle previously and I think it’s the right terminology to use for the whole story. This was a plot that you really had to pay attention in order to create your own mental image of what was happening. I wouldn’t say any of this was bad; more like a mystery for intellectuals. Or maybe you might call it a “softcore” mystery genre.

I’m not familiar with the LeHane books and I must admit I was a little confused at first. I think it was because there were a lot of side stories or subplots going on at the time. Maybe it was more that I was not used to LeHane’s writing style or possibly it’s not wise to read this as a stand-alone.  Nonetheless, it was still an enjoyable book worth my reading time.

This is Book 3 in a series titled “The 42nd Street Library Mysteries” . Con Lehane also has another series called “Bartender Brian McNulty Mysteries”. Be sure to check them out.

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