Lydia’s job at the library is her world—she never expected to be a suspect to a murder. And now she must rely on the one man she’s not sure she can trust.
Just months after the closure of the Chicago World’s Fair, librarian Lydia Bancroft finds herself fascinated by a mysterious dark-haired and dark-eyed patron. He has never given her his name; he actually never speaks to a single person. All she knows about him is that he loves books as much as she does.
Only when he rescues her in the lobby of the Hartman Hotel does she discover that his name is Sebastian Marks. She also discovers that he lives at the top of the prestigious hotel and that most everyone in Chicago is intrigued by him.
Lydia and Sebastian form a fragile friendship, but when she discovers that Mr. Marks isn’t merely a very wealthy gentleman, but also the proprietor of an infamous saloon and gambling club, she is shocked.
Lydia insists on visiting the club one fateful night and suddenly is a suspect to a murder. She must determine who she can trust, who is innocent, and if Sebastian Marks—the man so many people fear—is actually everything her heart believes him to be.
“Shelley Gray writes a well-paced story full of historical detail that will invite you into the romance, the glamour . . . and the mystery surrounding the Chicago World’s Fair.” —Colleen Coble, USA Today bestselling author of Rosemary Cottage and the Hope Beach series
The Chicago World Fair Mystery seriesBook 1—Secrets of Sloane HouseBook 2—Deception on Sable HillBook 3—Whispers in the Reading RoomBook length: 86,000 wordsIncludes discussion questions for book clubs
Beautiful evocative world.
Third book in series!
Whispers in the Reading Room by Shelley Gray is the third book in The Chicago World's Fair Mystery series (though the fair is over in this book). I have read all the books in the series, and this one was my favorite (probably because I could relate to the main character). It is 1894 in Chicago and Lydia Bancroft is a librarian in a small lending library. Lydia loves books and enjoys her job. Sebastian Marks has been coming into the library for quite a while, but he never has checked out a book. He spends the afternoons reading in the reading room.
Sebastian Marks runs the Silver Grotto in Camp Creek Alley section of Chicago (a bad section of town). Sebastian dresses like a gentleman (and acts like a gentleman), but he is not. He has educated himself through books. Sebastian does not feel that he is good enough for a lady like Lydia Bancroft (and Lydia, not knowing that he owns a club, believes she is not good enough for Sebastian). One day Sebastian runs into Lydia and her fiancé, Jason Avondale (a gentleman who is a real bottom feeder) at the hotel where he lives. They are having afternoon tea as their first outing as an engaged couple (and without a chaperone). Jason hurts Lydia (grabs her wrist and twists it) and Sebastian intervenes. It is the beginning of their friendship. Could it lead to more? One night Lydia insists on visiting the Silver Grotto (not a good idea). Jason Avondale is killed and left in front of the club. Lydia and Sebastian are suspects in the crime. Who really killed Jason?
I found Whispers in the Reading Room to be more of a romance book than a mystery. The mystery was child’s play to solve (very, very easy which was so disappointing). We have the typical back and forth romance. I found the lesser characters to be more interesting. I liked Bridget O’Connell (Sebastian’s personal maid) and Vincent Hunt (manager of Silver Grotto and Sebastian’s personal assistant) to be very compelling characters. Whispers in the Reading Room is supposed to be a Christian book but you would not know it. There is only one very short discussion on religion in the whole book (and it is between Vincent and Bridget). I found Lydia to be a contradiction. In some ways she is a typical bookworm (loves to read, nose always in a book, and very little real life experience). But then Lydia wants to experience life (understandable). When she gets an opportunity, she promptly falls asleep with a book! That makes no sense (especially in a club). This novel felt like it was not edited (needed more work to polish it). I give Whispers in the Reading Room 3 out of 5 stars.
I received a complimentary copy of Whispers in the Reading Room from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.