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Liesl Weiss, who works in a university's rare books department, is in a bit of a bind: her boss suffers a stroke, and just as she steps up to take over his position temporarily a priceless series of books goes missing. It's obvious that one of her coworkers took the books. But who and why? With library donors demanding to see what they've paid for, Liesl must navigate politics, lies, and her own inadequacies to get to the bottom of the mystery.
The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections is a cozy mystery to curl up with in the dark days of winter. Unlike many thrillers, the stakes remain realistic and Liesl's challenges relatable: the need to protect her professional reputation and determine which of her colleagues are lying to her. This is a mystery more focused on characters than on body count. Nearly everyone in this book is over the age of 40, which makes for a mature, thoughtful puzzle. Jurcyzk's writing style is breezy and meanly funny, and her dialogue is pitch-perfect for a bunch of irritated academics wanting to get through the day and onto their next whiskey. I thoroughly enjoyed this small slice-of-life mystery and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys books about books.
— Whitney, Snail Readers Circle
February 2022 Indie Next List
“Missing manuscripts, disappearing librarians, and university politics — Leisl Weiss is tasked with dealing with it all. The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections hits the mark. No book lover could ask for more!”
— Jann Griffiths, BookSmart, Morgan Hill, CA
"With its countless revelations about the dusty realms of rare books, a likable librarian sleuth who has just the right balance of compassion and wit, and a library setting that is teeming with secrets, The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections is a rare treat for readers. I loved this book!"—Matthew Sullivan, author of Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore
Anxious People meets the delights of bookish fiction in a stunning debut following a librarian whose quiet life is turned upside down when a priceless manuscript goes missing. Soon she has to ask: what holds more secrets in the library—the ancient books shelved in the stacks, or the people who preserve them?
Liesl Weiss long ago learned to be content working behind the scenes in the distinguished rare books department of a large university, managing details and working behind the scenes to make the head of the department look good. But when her boss has a stroke and she's left to run things, she discovers that the library's most prized manuscript is missing.
Liesl tries to sound the alarm and inform the police about the missing priceless book, but is told repeatedly to keep quiet, to keep the doors open and the donors happy. But then a librarian unexpectedly stops showing up to work. Liesl must investigate both disappearances, unspooling her colleagues' pasts like the threads of a rare book binding as it becomes clear that someone in the department must be responsible for the theft. What Liesl discovers about the dusty manuscripts she has worked among for so long—and about the people who care for and revere them—shakes the very foundation on which she has built her life.
The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections is a sparkling book-club read about a woman struggling to step out from behind the shadows of powerful and unreliable men, and reveals the dark edge of obsession running through the most devoted bookworms.
"This intricately woven literary mystery brings readers into the cut-throat world of academia where rare book collections compete for money and prestige, and where those in power will do whatever it takes to protect their institution. A strong female protagonist and complex relationships drive this impressive, genre-bending debut." — Wendy Walker, international bestselling author of Don't Look for Me
"Who doesn't love a mystery involving rare books and bad librarians? This clever, deftly written story has all that and more. A great pleasure from beginning to end." — Karen Joy Fowler, New York Times bestselling author