Allison and Busby, March 2007
Reviewed by Sunnie Gill
Fiction - Crime
Vanessa Weatherburn is a wife and the mother of two young children. In
1896 this means she has had to curtail one of her passions, that of being
an amateur detective. When she is approached by two professors from a
London university to investigate the death of one of their colleagues,
Vanessa is so intrigued that she cannot say no.
Professor Ralston has been shot with his own gun in his library. There are
signs of a violent struggle but no obvious perpetrator. The only visible
escape route for a killer appears to have witnesses who attest that no one
left the room. There certainly is no shortage of suspects. Professor
Ralston was rabidly anti-Semitic. His testimony was instrumental in
sending a Jewish man to the gallows a number of years earlier.
Police arrest a young Jewish man who was first on the scene. Their
reasoning is that if it wasn't possible for anyone to escape then someone
must be lying and for many, being Jewish in 1896 London is sufficient
grounds in itself.
Vanessa is unconvinced of his guilt and sets out to track down an elderly
Rabbi the young man claims he saw leaving the premises as he was arriving.
As no one else saw this Rabbi, most believe he has been invented as an
alibi. Vanessa's investigations take her into London's East End Hassidic
Jewish community where her eyes are opened to a way of life previously
unknown to her.
The title of the book, THE LIBRARY PARADOX has a double meaning. It's not
just the puzzle of what happened to the professor, it is also the name
given to a mathematical paradox. This is explained in the form of a
conversation at a party. I have to confess that maths was my weak subject
at school. All but the basics eluded me and while I get the connection in
the title, I found the explanation of this mathematical paradox to be
something of a tangent with little bearing on the plot.
THE LIBRARY PARADOX seemed a little slow to take off, with more time
devoted to explaining the details of how Vanessa organises to free herself
from her family commitments than was really necessary. However, once that
was done with, the plot does take over.
To be honest, I didn't find the mystery all that challenging. I arrived at
the solution before the protagonist. However, the author seems to have
captured the difficulties of daily life for an independent woman quite
well and the insight into Jewish life in London in the nineteenth century
was particularly interesting.
While THE LIBRARY PARADOX does have a few minor weaknesses, overall I
found it be an enjoyable read.
June 2007 Review originally published on Murder & Mayhem
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