Librarians—don’t they seem a little staid and boring? Think again. Here are two novels in which librarians bust right out of that tote bag/cardigan/bun/and shushing finger stereotype to lead dramatic lives of crime. After reading these books, you’ll never approach the reference desk the same way again.
In Neighborhood Watch by Cammie McGovern, a librarian has just been released from prison. After twelve years behind bars, new DNA evidence proves that Betsy Treading was wrongly convicted of murdering her neighbor. Betsy, a librarian by day and somnambulist by night, simply can’t remember committing the crime. She only confessed in the first place because there was just enough evidence to suggest she’d done the deed in her sleep. Once free and back in her old cul-de-sac, Betsy sets out to find the truth about who really killed Linda Sue. She finds out more about herself and her neighbors than she ever expected or maybe even wanted to know. When you consider that detectives are information-gatherers, who better to act as detective than a librarian?
In The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai, Lucy Hull is a small town children’s librarian who accidentally kidnaps her favorite patron, ten-year-old Ian Drake. Ian, a voracious reader and a precocious child, runs away from his overbearing mother into the safety of the library. When Lucy finds him, she puts Ian in her car, intending to drive him home. Instead, the pair end up on a week-long road trip. Lucy gets herself deeper and deeper in trouble—and further and further from home—as she tries to make things right and to save Ian from his family. Lucy’s own family—part of the Russian mafia—complicates the heist ever so slightly. This stylish book is laced with fun references to children’s literature.
I’ve worked at the Everett Public Library for long enough to know that Betsy and Lucy are pretty far out there as librarians go. Truth be told, my coworkers are dull, law-abiding citizens. Fortunately, sometimes fiction is stranger than truth.