Coward puts a new spin on the body in the library by making it a public library.
North London’s Bath Street Library is only a few years old and relatively successful, but the new administration, determined to stamp out all its political predecessors’ works, plans to close it. Enter Libraries Open For Everyone (LOFE), whose eight members stage a sit-in that comes to a premature end when they find that one of the LOFE-ers won’t be rising ever again. Someone has garroted ancient Bolshevist Bert Rosen with a belt pinched from the library lost and found. Who would kill an inoffensive octogenarian activist everybody loved and nobody took very seriously? And why did the killer have no fear of either detection by the other LOFE members lurking about or the handgun Bert was carrying in his pocket? DC Frank Mitchell and his boss, DI Don Packham of the Cowden CID (In and Out, 2001, etc.), question the seven suspects—the branch librarian, an ex-soldier turned window cleaner, a teenaged union rep, a gay libertarian Tory on the Cowden Council, the Jamaican-born liaison with the Friends of the Library, a midge who’s divorced three wives and the impecunious LOFE secretary/treasurer—till they find out.
The facetious mystery never gathers much momentum, but Coward, a short-story master who doesn’t have the architectural instincts of a novelist, gets maximum mileage out of his variously interesting suspects.