JO DERESKE – Miss Zukas and the Library Murders. Avon, paperback, 2006. Originally published by Avon as a paperback original in 1994.


   Miss Zukas is a middle-aged, spinsterish librarian in Bellehaven, Washington, a transplanted Lithuanian from the upper Midwest. She’s fairly rigid, certain of her “rightness,” and largely intolerant of the masses, who include most of the people she works with or comes into contact with.

   She reminded me of a librarian in the Little Rock Public Library who — without saying a word — communicated her disapproval of a Peter Arno collection with one of Arno’s scantily clad females on the book’s jacket that I checked out from the Little Rock Public Library when I was a warty teenager.

   In spite of Miss Zukas’ thorny personality (or maybe because of it), I rather enjoyed this low-key mystery. The library setting and staff seem real, and I reflected that a protagonist who irritates me probably suggests the writer has some skill at characterization.

   There’s a cop who’s somewhat attracted to Miss Z. (whether she’s attracted to him is not very clear, but she doesn’t come across as introspective), a bohemian artist friend (Ruth) whose track record in men is deplorable, and a tendency in Miss Z. to withhold vital evidence from the police that puts both her and Ruth and the solving of the case at risk.

   Will I read another in the series? I’m not sure.

           Editorial Comment:

   There are eleven books in the Miss Zukas series, of which Library Murders is the first. There’s a complete bibliography for Jo Dereske’s mystery fiction on this blog back here where I reviewed #6, Final Notice.


   I called reading it a “sneaky pleasure,” and otherwise agreeing in all essentials to all of Walter’s observations. Although I’ve not read more than two or three books in the series myself, I fully intend to get to all of them, eventually.

   When I sent a copy of that earlier review to Jo Dereske, I also asked her about the rumors I’d heard that #11, Index to Murder (2008) was going to be the last appearance of Miss Zukas.

   Here’s her reply, in part:

    “As to what you’ve heard about Miss Zukas’s future, you are correct. At the moment, there isn’t another contract for more adventures, but who knows what the future may bring. She’s been such a fun character to portray. I’m currently working on another series which my agent is shopping around.

    “Congratulations on your blog. I’ll put a link to it in my next website update.”