Review of How Can I Help You? by Laura Sims

How Can I Help You?

by Laura Sims
read by Carlotta Brentan and Maggi-Meg Reed

Books on Tape, 2023. 7 hours, 38 minutes.
Review written January 26, 2024, from a library eaudiobook

I was completely delighted with the premise of this book — a psychopath gets a job as a circulation aide in a small-town public library. Margo used to be a nurse, but after a few too many unexpected deaths, she fled her most recent hospital and got a job at the nice, peaceful library.

And it’s all going well until their new reference librarian, Patricia, shows up. Patricia didn’t want to be a librarian — she wanted to be a writer. But her book wasn’t finding an agent and she packed it up and vowed to give up writing.

Those two lives begin to get entangled when a patron dies in the ladies’ restroom. Was she dead before Margo got there? Nobody questions that. But Patricia walked in on Margo doing something odd. And later she learns that Margo was once a nurse — and finds a story that gets her writing again. She swears she’s just making up her story….

Now, did I get some satisfaction about some annoying library patrons getting a comeuppance? I plead the fifth. The author did portray some common behaviors in library patrons that might well drive a psychopath to murder.

Some details about working in a library didn’t quite ring true for me, the most notable being that I don’t think the only reference librarian in a library, no matter how small, could get away with intense writing time with notebook and pen. It’s up there with folks who believe librarians get to read all day. (Wouldn’t it be nice if we could write a novel!) There also was no staff entrance and no desks in a staff room (Where did they keep their purses?) except the library branch manager who for some odd reason never worked on the public desk — not even before they hired the reference librarian. And there were more little things — but as for annoying patrons, they nailed it! And that is probably what was most important in this story.

Now, the plot did kind of go over the edge. But hey, she was a psychopathic killer, so the author wasn’t going for ordinary. And I must admit, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

This book isn’t so much a mystery as a thriller, set in a small-town library. I hope you won’t worry about me when I say listening to it was a lot of fun.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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