Today we have The Broken Spine, a book about a rule-breaking librarian. Be still my heart! Let’s save all those discarded books because you are literally throwing away an adventure for somebody, somewhere. Dorothy St. James was kind enough to answer some questions for us and brought a giveaway with her!
About The Broken Spine
The Broken Spine (A Beloved Bookroom Mystery)
1st in Series
Publisher: Berkley (January 19, 2021)
The first in an exciting new series featuring Trudell Becket, a spunky librarian who will stop at nothing to save her beloved books and catch a killer!
Trudell Becket, book-loving librarian, finds herself in a bind when the library where she works is turned into a state-of-the-art bookless library. In a rare move of rebellion, Trudell rescues hundreds of her library’s beloved books slated for the recycle center. She sets up a secret book room in the library’s basement and opens it to anyone who shares her love of the printed book.
When the town councilman, who was the vocal proponent of the library’s transformation into a “futuristic technological center,” is crushed under an overturned shelf of DVDs, Trudell becomes the police’s prime suspect for his murder. She was the only person in the library at the time of his death, or so the police believe. But that’s not true. For the past month, Trudell had been letting a few dozen residents into the building through the basement entrance so they could read and check out the printed books.
But if she tells the police about the backdoor patrons who were in the library at the time of the murder, she’d have to explain about the secret book room and risk losing the books. In order to protect herself from being arrested for a murder she didn’t commit, Trudell–with the help of a group of dedicated readers–decides to investigate. She quickly discovers you can’t always judge a book by its cover.
Read an Excerpt
The Broken Spine
No one in the moderately sized rural southern town of Cypress would ever suspect their stalwart assistant librarian of breaking into the library where she worked. Why would they? A bronze plaque hangs on my kitchen wall. It was personally presented to me by Mayor Goodvale. He declared me an asset to the town. I’d received the award because I always performed my job with the highest level of pride and professionalism. For the past thirteen years I put the town and library first, often to the detriment of my personal life.
An even bigger honor occurred a few years ago when Mrs. Lida Farnsworth, the town’s head librarian, whispered (she always whispered) while we busily returned books to their shelves: “Trudell Becket, I couldn’t be more pleased to be wrong about my first impression of you. I would have hired any other candidate for the position. But, alas, the only other person who’d applied was that drunkard Cooper Berry. I honestly didn’t think you had it in you, honey. But, bless your heart, you’ve become the model of a perfect librarian.”
And she was right. I was perfect. Until . . .
Well, let’s just say someone needed to do this.
As a general rule, librarians don’t speak in loud voices. Librarians don’t exceed the speed limit when driving to work. And librarians certainly don’t dress head-to-toe in black ninja-wear while attempting to pick the library’s backdoor lock.
Yet, librarians can always be counted on to get things done.
“Don’t look at me like that,” I muttered to a lanky brown cat with black tiger stripes. It had emerged from the darkened back alleyway to stand next to library’s cool pearly-pink granite wall and watch me. “Someone needs to protect those books before they all end up destroyed. They’re sending them to the landfill.” The small metal flashlight clenched between my teeth caused the words to come out garbled. Both of my hands were busy working the lock.
A textbook for locksmiths that I’d borrowed from the library’s reference section sat open to the page featuring a diagram of a lock. Since I didn’t own a lockpick kit—why would I?—I’d improvised with a few sturdy paperclips bent to resemble the tools depicted on the book’s previous page. Every little sound, every scrape and rumble in Cypress’s quaint downtown, boomed in my ears. I jumped at the soft cough of a car engine. And with that cat watching me, I felt an itchy need to scurry into the nearest mousehole to hide.
But I couldn’t run. I had to finish what I’d set my mind to finishing.
After what felt like a million thundering heartbeats while I fumbled with the paperclips, the lock clicked. The door opened. I rose on shaky legs, gathering up the reference book and the stack of flattened moving boxes I’d brought with me. My gaze darted to the darkest corners of the alleyway before I slipped inside.
Just as the door started to close, the cat that had been watching with such a judgmental glare shimmied between my legs and into the library before the heavy metal back door clanked closed.
“Hey!” I called in a harsh whisper because shouting in a library simply wasn’t done. Whispering seemed even more important in the middle of the night as I sneaked inside on my clandestine mission.
The brown cat ignored me. With a yeow loud enough to have me instinctively hissing, “Shhhh!” the little beast darted upstairs and disappeared into the shadows of the stacks.
“Tru, you’re in for it now,” I muttered before dropping the stack of boxes. I sprinted after that darn cat.
Mrs. Farnsworth would have a heart attack if she discovered a flea-bitten kitty wandering among her books in the morning. I needed to get him out. The head librarian was already on edge with having to deal with the changes coming to the library. If I didn’t know the tough older woman better, I would have suspected she was busy plotting a murder.
And now a word from Dorothy…
How did you come with an idea for your book?
I have always been intrigued by the story surrounding the Grand Library of Alexander. I love how the library attempted to collect all written knowledge and store it in one place. I grieved when reading how the library burned. This story has stuck with me and tugged at me for decades. I finally decided I wanted to write about it, but two things stopped me. First, I’m not an expert of ancient times. Second, I hate how the story ends, with the library’s burning. If I were writing about the famous library, I’d be temped to try and change history. So, I decided to take the story and modernize it. I picked a small town in South Carolina as the setting for the story, since that’s my backyard. And I gave my heroine—an assistant librarian for the town’s public library—the task of saving the books that were about to be destroyed thanks to a modernization scheme that the town leaders have all embraced. With this as my backdrop, I knew I had the makings of a novel I simply had to write. And that’s how the idea for The Broken Spine was born.
What scene do you hope your readers enjoy the most?
All the scenes! What? That’s not the best answer? I get it. The scene that really inspired me is the opening scene. It’s where Trudell Becket, my assistant librarian and consummate rule-follower, makes the decision to break into her beloved library and save the print books that are slated to be destroyed. She believes in her library and the work she’s been doing at the library so much that she steps far, far outside of her comfort zone. I love that about her. I love her conviction. I wish I possessed more of it in my own life sometimes. But, on the other hand, her actions did cause all sorts of trouble for herself.
What other things have you written or what projects might we see in the future?
The Broken Spine is the first book in the Beloved Bookroom Mystery series being published by Berkley Prime Crime. The second book in the series, A Perfect Bind, should be released in the Fall. And I’m writing the third book in the series now.
The Beloved Bookroom Mystery series is my third cozy mystery series. I also have written the White House Gardener Mystery series (also for Berkley Prime Crime) and the Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery series. All my series have their roots firmly based in South Carolina, my home state. I also have a couple of standalone mysteries available. There’s a little something for everyone!
If you could write any other genre what would that be?
As Dorothy McFalls, I’ve written romantic suspense, paranormal romance, and historical romance novels. I love writing in both the mystery and the romance genres. I am so glad that I have had the freedom to explore different ways to tell the stories playing out in my mind. I think I have one literary story within me, but I’m not ready to write it yet.
With that said, I do hope to be able to keep writing mystery novels for many, many years to come. I love the genre!
Is there a giveaway or promotion with this book?
Yes! There’s a giveaway associated with this blog tour. Also, I’ll be holding giveaways and contests on my Facebook page, so be sure to visit the page and hit “Like.” Occasionally, I’ll announce contests through my email list. You can sign up for that on my website. I don’t send out an email often, so don’t worry about my filling up your inbox.
Where can readers leave reviews of your book?
I love it when readers leave reviews! It helps other readers find my books. I think the best kind of reviews are word-of-mouth. Tell your friends and neighbors about my books if you enjoy them. Also, you can leave a review in several places. Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Bookbub are all places where readers look for books. You can also post reviews on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or even make a TikTok video. You could literally sing my book’s praises. Wouldn’t that be fun?
About Dorothy St. James
Mystery author Dorothy St. James was born in New York but raised in South Carolina. She makes her home on an artsy island community in South Carolina with her husband, a crazy dog, and fluffy cat. Though writing has always been a passion for her, she pursued an undergraduate degree in Wildlife Biology and a graduate degree in Public Administration and Urban Planning. She put her educational experience to use, having worked in all branches and all levels of government including local, regional, state, and federal. She even spent time during college working for a non-profit environmental watchdog organization.
Switching from government service and community planning to fiction writing wasn’t as big of a change as some might think. Her government work was all about the stories of the people and the places where they live. As an urban planner, Dorothy loved telling the stories of the people she met. And from that, her desire to tell the tales that were so alive in her heart grew until she could not ignore it any longer. In 2001, she took a leap of faith and pursued her dream of writing fiction full-time.
* Dorothy St. James is the alter-ego of award-winning multi-published author, Dorothy McFalls. She enjoys writing in several different genres. Her works have been nominated for many awards including: Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, Reviewers International Organization Award, National Reader’s Choice Award, CataRomance Reviewers’ Choice Award, and The Romance Reviews Today Perfect 10! Award. Reviewers have called her work: “amazing”, “perfect”, “filled with emotion”, and “lined with danger.”
Purchase Links – Amazon – IndieBound – Bookshop – B&N –
Thank you for featuring The Broken Spine on your blog today!
You’re welcome! I love it that your librarian hates it when they discard paper books. What will we do when all we have to snuggle up with is a screen with a low battery?