By Book or By Crook by Eva Gates

October 10, 2019 Book Reviews 7 ★★★★

By Book or By Crook by Eva GatesBy Book or By Crook by Eva Gates
Series: Lighthouse Library Mystery #1
Published by NAL on February 3, 2015
Genres: Cozy Mystery, Mystery
Pages: 339
Format: Kindle or ebook
Source: purchased
Purchase: Amazon | Bookshop | Barnes & Noble | Audible
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Also in this series: Read and Buried
Also by this author: Read and Buried

Get bound up in murder in the first Lighthouse Library mystery!

For ten years Lucy has enjoyed her job poring over rare tomes of literature for the Harvard Library, but she has not enjoyed the demands of her family’s social whorl or her sort-of-engagement to the staid son of her father’s law partner. But when her ten-year relationship implodes, Lucy realizes that the plot of her life is in need of a serious rewrite.

Calling on her aunt Ellen, Lucy hopes that a little fun in the Outer Banks sun—and some confections from her cousin Josie’s bakery—will help clear her head. But her retreat quickly turns into an unexpected opportunity when Aunt Ellen gets her involved in the lighthouse library tucked away on Bodie Island.

Lucy is thrilled to land a librarian job in her favorite place in the world. But when a priceless first edition Jane Austen novel is stolen and the chair of the library board is murdered, Lucy suddenly finds herself ensnared in a real-life mystery—and she’s not so sure there’s going to be a happy ending....


By Book or By Crook kicks off a delightful cozy mystery series by Eva Gates, a pen name of Canadian mystery author Vicki Delany.

Lucy Richardson, a 20-something librarian newly arrived on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, makes a charming (and reliable) first-person narrator. The library and town are full of interesting characters, some sympathetic, some decidedly not. Lucy is fiercely loyal to her new boss, head librarian Bertie, and loves her new job as assistant librarian and her little apartment on the fourth floor of the Bodie Island Lighthouse Library, just below the big light. And she’s excited about the library’s upcoming exhibit: a complete set of Jane Austen first editions. But when one copy goes missing, and the unpleasant chair of the library board is murdered, Lucy’s innate curiosity and desire to recover the book lead her to investigate… with or without the approval of the police.

I thoroughly enjoyed making Lucy’s acquaintance, along with her library, her fellow librarians, her aunt, uncle, and cousin Josie (a fantastic baker — the descriptions of her confections had me practically drooling!), detectives Sam Watson and Butch Greenblatt, and mayor (and former heartthrob) Connor McNeil. Oh, and I mustn’t forget Charles, the library cat, who is as much a character as any of them (though not in the least anthropomorphised.) Even the less sympathetic characters, like the arrogant young woman who wants Lucy’s job despite her lack of qualifications and an eccentric local book collector, are interesting; Gates avoids turning them into mere caricatures (a pet peeve of mine, since it has become quite common in light cozy series.)

Gates (Delany) knows how to plot a good mystery. There are plenty of red herrings, and I can honestly say that the real culprit only crossed my mind once or twice as I considered the suspects. Lucy’s involvement in the investigation arises naturally out of her character, and her relationship with the police is more plausible than in many cozy mysteries. She’s also smart. If there’s one thing I hate in a mystery series, it’s a protagonist who is TSTL*, constantly getting herself (it’s almost always a woman) into dangerous situations that any reasonable person would have seen coming. Thankfully, Gates avoids this pet peeve as well. Lucy may occasionally find herself in a dangerous situation, but it’s not through any major fault of her own… and furthermore, she keeps her wits about her when she does.

There’s a hint of possible romance in Lucy’s attraction to two of the characters, but it’s clear that any romantic relationship, if one does develop, will do so slowly, over several books.

About the only thing I had a hard time swallowing is the library itself. Not that it doesn’t sound charming — who can resist a library in a lighthouse, after all? But this library/lighthouse seems to resemble the Tardis: it’s bigger on the inside. The truth is, no lighthouse tower could encompass the library described in this book; there simply wouldn’t be room. A lighthouse with an attached house could do so, perhaps, but not a single tower like the real and iconic Bodie Island Lighthouse. (To be fair, Gates/Delany acknowledges this in the afterword.) You’ll have to forcibly suspend your disbelief on that one point… but it’s worth it for this appealing series.

* TSTL = too stupid to live


About Eva Gates

Eva Gates is a pen name of Vicki Delany, one of Canada’s most varied and prolific crime writers. Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Vicki was raised mostly in Ontario. She majored in modern history at Carleton College in Minnesota, discovering that her interest lay more in the lives of ordinary women and men and the circumstances of their times than ‘big men’ and their wars — an interest she has brought to her mystery novels. After leaving college before the end of her senior year, she married and spent 11 years in South Africa before returning to Canada with her three daughters. In 2007, Ms. Delany retired from a career as systems analyst for a major bank, and settled in Ontario. Since then, she has focused on her writing.

Ms. Delany is the author of the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series from Crooked Lane and the Year Round Christmas series from Penguin, as well as the Constable Molly Smith series (Poisoned Pen Press), and the The Klondike Gold Rush series (Dundurn Press.) As Eva Gates, she also writes the Lighthouse Library Series (Penguin NAL and Crooked Lane.)

Bio adapted from Ms. Delany’s website and Goodreads.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • The Backlist Reader Challenge 2019

7 Responses to “By Book or By Crook by Eva Gates”

  1. Lark

    Gotta love a character who’s a librarian! Especially when she’s involved in a mystery like this one. 🙂

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      I go in and out of the cozy mood, too, and generally they have to be both good and believable for me to enjoy them. But I like this series.