Shelley Gray. Whispers in the Reading Room. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015.
It’s almost Christmas! While I’ve been busy with Christmas concerts at church, decorating the house, and the many random activities that seem to land in December, I’ve also been inundated by some rather spectacular books this month!
The third book in Shelley Gray’s Chicago World’s Fair Mystery series, Whispers in the Reading Room takes place in the city of Chicago in the months following the Columbian Exposition. Lydia Bancroft loves her job as a librarian, even as the rest of her privileged world has fallen apart following her father’s death. Her mother hopes that Lydia’s engagement to a wealthy man will offer a way out of their reduced circumstances. However, Lydia finds herself being physically abused by her fiancé in public. Fortunately, the mysterious patron of Lydia’s library comes to her rescue. Sebastian Marks has made a name for himself in Chicago as the owner of an infamous saloon and gambling club. His time at Lydia’s reading room has remained his sanctuary from the otherwise unsavory world from which he has garnered his wealth. While he never anticipated befriending the librarian, Sebastian and his staff find themselves intimately involved in her life. When a murder at his club makes Sebastian a suspect, Lydia’s cultured life also comes under public suspicion.
Before Whispers in the Reading Room, I had only read Ms. Gray’s entry in Among the Fair Magnolias, a compilation of novellas by several other Christian authors whom I am much more familiar with from their novels. Overall, I was quite impressed with her writing and story development in this book. Although I am relatively unfamiliar with the other novels in the series (Secrets of Sloane House and Deception on Sable Hill), I found Whispers in the Reading Room to be quite accessible as an independent work. The nature of Ms. Gray’s characters and historical storyline felt somewhat similar to those developed by Elizabeth Camden and Deeanne Gist. In comparison to their works, I would have like to see more emphasis on historical research and details in this novel that would have furthered the overall story, particularly in connecting it more firmly to the World’s Fair. However, Ms. Gray produced an intriguing novel that will likely result in me reading the other works in the series.
Fans of Ms. Gray’s historical fiction works, especially her novels in the Chicago World’s Fair Mystery series, will definitely enjoy Whispers in the Reading Room. Additionally, readers who enjoy historical fiction with mystery/suspense elements will find this to be an intriguing book. In comparison to the other works in the series, Whispers in the Reading Room may not be of as much interest to readers looking for books related to the Chicago World’s Fair. While many novels have been recently released on this topic, this book had few historical details to convincingly place it within that category. However, Ms. Gray’s characters and writing style made it a decent selection within the Christian historical fiction genre.
Special thanks to The Fiction Guild for the promotional copy of Whispers in the Reading Room!
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