Archive for the ‘Berkley’ Tag

The Personal Librarian   Leave a comment

The story of Belle da Costa Greene is important on many levels: her contributions to the art world; her success as a female in the male-dominated society of the early 1900s; and achieving the above as a woman of color.

Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray have crafted a novel based on da Costa Greene, nee Belle Marion Greener the daughter of Black parents. Their fair skin tones were passed along to their children allowing them to pass as Caucasians. The deceit led to the Greeners’ divorce, but allowed Belle and her siblings to live free of racial prejudices.

J.P. Morgan hired Belle as his personal librarian to curate rare books, art, manuscripts and more. Belle proved herself to be a formidable negotiator at auctions when she was often the only woman in the room. The J. Pierpont Morgan Library in New York City holds invaluable collections thanks to Belle’s acquisitions. She was also instrumental in ensuring the library be a public one.

The fast-paced narrative is taut with tension. The importance of Belle hiding her identity is paramount as her prominence among the rich and powerful grows. Although her role as personal librarian allowed her to provide well for her mother and siblings, this was much more than a job to Belle. It was her passion.

The authors allude to speculation that Belle and Morgan had more than a professional relationship; but that remains a mystery. Nonetheless, the shared passion for the one-of-a-kind works was the mainstay of their bond.

The Personal Librarian

Four+ Bookmarks

Berkley, 2021

341 pages (includes author’s notes and acknowledgements)

Digging Up the Past   Leave a comment

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When reading a mystery I want to be surprised; I also want to reach the solution on my own. This might seem contradictory, but it’s my benchmarks for a good thriller.

Both were achieved in Fiona Barton’s The Child. I was pleased to be right. Of course, it took most of the book to fit all of the pieces together, but I did. Rather than feel disappointed once I suspected how things would end, I was proud of my sleuthing abilities.

Three main characters move the story: Kate, a journalist intrigued by the discovery of an infant’s skeleton when an old house is demolished; Angela, whose infant daughter was kidnapped from the maternity ward more than 40 years ago; and Emma, a middle-aged woman with secrets, including a teen pregnancy. Emma’s mother, Jude, has a pivotal role in the novel’s progression.

Kate is convinced there’s more to the story than the gruesome discovery at a construction site. Meanwhile, Angela’s begins to hope that she will finally have an explanation of what happened to her daughter. Emma fears that her past has literally been uncovered. Meanwhile, Jude has no interest in looking in the rear-view mirror and dismisses Emma’s anxieties as part of the strained relationship between the two.

Through Kate, the author methodically reveals the heartbreaks and fears each woman has suffered in their respective lives while fitting together the ways in which they’re all connected. If intrigue isn’t enough, there’s also a bit of science thrown into the mix.

The Child
Four Bookmarks
Berkley, 2017
365 pages