Monday, April 25, 2016

"Murder at the 42nd Street Library"

Con Lehane is a mystery writer who lives outside Washington, DC. He's published three crime novels featuring New York City bartender Brian McNulty. Over the years, he has worked as a college professor, a union organizer, a labor journalist, and has tended bar at two dozen or so drinking establishments.

Lehane applied the Page 69 Test to Murder at the 42nd Street Library, the first novel in a new series featuring Raymond Ambler, curator of the 42nd Street Library’s (fictional) crime fiction collection, and reported the following:
From page 69:
When McNulty got a break, Ambler explained the situation.

McNulty gave Benny the lawyer’s contact information. “He’s gonna quote you a big number.”

McNulty said. “He likes to think of himself as high-priced. You tell him I sent you and to see me about the bill. He’ll curse a lot, but he’ll do it.”

Poor Benny, his eyes tearing, his expression helpless, grateful, and befuddled, could barely speak. Ambler left him outside the bar on the corner calling the lawyer on his cell phone.
When he got back to his desk he called Mike Cosgrove.

“You’ve scared my friend Benny half to death,” he said as soon as he heard “Cosgrove” at the other end of the line.

“That’s not something I can talk to you about.”

“He’s a suspect? You’re going to arrest him?”

“You’re not hearing what I said?” It took a few seconds for Ambler to understand that his friend was embarrassed because he couldn’t talk openly and angry because he was embarrassed.

“I know. You have a job to do. Maybe it’s not even you. Still, let me tell you this. I don’t know about the Donnelly woman. But I can tell you for sure Benny isn’t a guy who comes up on someone from behind. If you spent—”

“Ray, please. … I can’t talk about this. But I do have some information on the girl you asked about.”

Ten minutes later, Ambler got off the phone and sat staring in front of him. What Cosgrove told him about Emily Yates hit close to home.
This is the end of chapter six of Murder at the 42nd Street Library. Looking at the page in isolation, there’s a lot readers wouldn't know. They’d get that Benny was a suspect, since it’s a mystery, probably a suspect in a murder. They could get that Cosgrove is a cop, since he’s in a position to make Benny a suspect and might arrest him. But who the hell is McNulty, what’s Ambler got to do with anything, and why is he upset by what Cosgrove has told him about Emily Yates?

Ray Ambler is my main guy in this series. He’s the curator of the (fictional) crime fiction collection at the New York Public Library’s flagship, the Humanities and Social Sciences Library, recently christened the Schwarzman Building but known to New Yorkers as the 42nd Library, based on its location at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue. More important, he has something of a track record as crime solver, grudgingly acknowledged by his friend and sometimes adversary, Mike Cosgrove, a NYPD homicide detective. McNulty is the bartender at the Library Tavern, the joint where the library staff often stop off for beer after work. McNulty is actually the hero of my earlier series, The Bartender Brian McNulty Mysteries, that I’ve kept on in the new series.

The situation they’re dealing with is an unsolved murder at the library, where there are plenty of suspects in addition to Benny, and an uneasy sense that the first murder might not be the last. Emily Yates, of the disturbing news, is the missing daughter of a mystery novelist, Nelson Yates, whose donation of his papers to the library, seems to have set off the events that led to the murder Benny is suspected of. To put all of this together, one would definitely need to read more than page 69.
Visit Con Lehane's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Con Lehane & Lola.

--Marshal Zeringue