As part of the long-ongoing series where I look at the most popular and recommended Cozy mystery series put forward by site readers, I’m once again moving into unfamiliar territory – at least by series – with the Dorothy St. James title, The Broken Spine. I specify unfamiliar with the series because I have read books by Dorothy St. James before, but nothing in this, the Beloved Bookroom Mystery Series, which only started last year in 2021. That definitely puts this in the running as one of the most recent series that I’ve read for this series.
As is likely obvious from the title of both series and book, this is one of the more popular topics in Cozy fiction – books about books – very “meta”. Trudell Becket (sometimes “Tru” to her friends), the librarian of a library in the town of Cypress, South Carolina, is campaigning against the conversion of the library to a “bookless” library, one that focuses primarily on the lending of electronic books. When the books are finally all scheduled to be removed and dumped in a landfill, Trudell and a group of friends break into the library at night, determined to save at least some of the books from destruction by housing them in a now-abandoned bomb shelter built in World War II under the library.
Unfortunately, while moving books down into the basement, Trudell and her friends are surprised by the sound of a crash, which Trudell quickly determines came from a shelf of DVDs falling onto the town manager – the very person who had led the campaign to move the library to a bookless format. Naturally, Trudell is a leading candidate for the murder – not only was she vocally opposed to the transition, she was also in the library at the time of the death. Also naturally, she also has a somewhat complicated relationship with one of the local detectives, a former high school classmate of hers, though in this case he is the one who has recently returned to the town.
There’s definitely an obvious irony in the method of how I read this particular book – on my Kindle, taking advantage of the variable type size. My eyes aren’t what they once were, and while I was initially skeptical of moving to an electronic format, the option of having several hundred books in a single package lighter than a paperback and lit for easy bedroom reading has definitely made the transition smoother. That said, I personally don’t think that the electronic format should fully replace the printed word, and certainly still appreciate the charm of actual paper books – there’s a certain physicality to them that isn’t possible for Kindles, and I still find browsing through pages for a detail I want to recall easier than working backwards through a Kindle. So I can see both sides of the paper vs. electronic argument.
I really enjoyed reading this book. Being a Cozy about books and book lovers, it certainly covers a lot of old ground, but it also discusses newer issues like electronic books – though admittedly in an often obviously biased way.
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