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Review of The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections

When Liesl Weiss’s boss has a stroke, she must take over running the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections.  First order of business, find the missing, very expensive book.  With uncooperative co-workers, a demanding college president and the ever-present entitled donors, Liesl’s job just went from satisfying to stressful.  

In every job I’ve had, the more trying the situation, the more people knuckled down and worked together.  Not the bunch at this library.  Avoiding blame and placing it seem to be everyone’s strategy.  Sounds like politicians.   The result was a bunch of characters that left me unsympathetic.  Which means I didn’t get engaged in the story.   Liesl, the heroine, struggles through the entire book to gain my sympathy, but always falls short – as a manager, as a wife, as a friend.  I’m not saying that heroines have to be strong and nearly perfect.  However, I would have enjoyed Liesl a little more if she had a bit more backbone.

Not everyone who reads this book will feel the same way.  Others might get excited about university politics and departmental infighting.  Some might be into rare books.  I prefer accessible books.  Other readers may really like solving the mystery to find the thief.  Half-way through the book, I knew who the culprit was, so there wasn’t even much of a puzzle. 

There were a couple of themes that the author put out there.  One of the side-stories was about mental illness.  There was also the subject of good old boys doing things their way while those that disagree (women) have to find a way to work around them.

This was a disappointing book for me, though was good enough to read to the end.  And in the end, Liesl did the right thing. 

Through Netgalley, the publisher provided a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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About The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections by Eva Jurczyk

What holds more secrets in the library: the ancient books shelved in the stacks or the people who preserve them?

Liesl Weiss has been (mostly) happy working in the 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 goes missing as well. 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 preserve and revere them—shakes the very foundation on which she has built her life.

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