"With its countless revelations about the dusty realms of rare books, a likable librarian sleuth who has just the right balance of compassion and wit, and a library setting that is teeming with secrets, The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections is a rare treat for readers. I loved this book!"—Matthew Sullivan, author of Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore
Anxious People meets the delights of bookish fiction in a stunning debut following a librarian whose quiet life is turned upside down when a priceless manuscript goes missing. Soon she has to ask: what holds more secrets in the library—the ancient books shelved in the stacks, or the people who preserve them?
Liesl Weiss long ago learned to be content working behind the scenes in the distinguished rare books department of a large university, managing details and working behind the scenes to make the head of the department look good. But when her boss has a stroke and she's left to run things, she discovers that the library's most prized manuscript is missing.
Liesl tries to sound the alarm and inform the police about the missing priceless book, but is told repeatedly to keep quiet, to keep the doors open and the donors happy. But then a librarian unexpectedly stops showing up to work. Liesl must investigate both disappearances, unspooling her colleagues' pasts like the threads of a rare book binding as it becomes clear that someone in the department must be responsible for the theft. What Liesl discovers about the dusty manuscripts she has worked among for so long—and about the people who care for and revere them—shakes the very foundation on which she has built her life.
The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections is a sparkling book-club read about a woman struggling to step out from behind the shadows of powerful and unreliable men, and reveals the dark edge of obsession running through the most devoted bookworms.
Librarian Liesl Weiss, the protagonist of Jurczyk's underwhelming debut, is asked to return to Toronto from her sabbatical after the library director of the unnamed university where she works suffers a stroke. When a newly purchased manuscript vanishes from a locked vault and a missing female colleague is suspected of the theft, Liesl must dig deep into the university's ugly underbelly to find the truth, despite her male colleagues' attempts to bully her into silence. Jurczyk paints Liesl's oppressors with a heavy hand, from Lawrence Garber, the triathlon-obsessed college president, to Percy T. Pickens III, the vulgar, glad-handing donor. Mystery readers are likely to be disappointed by the crimes and their solutions, and bibliophiles may feel that the rare books themselves are given short shrift, despite the author's obvious research. This works best as an unflinching appraisal of the personal and professional effects of a woman's aging into invisibility. Fans of women's fiction may want to check it out. Agent: Erin Clyburn, Jennifer De Chiara Literary.