Green Girl remarked recently that she was reading about the NY Navy Pier and wished she’d been able to tour there when she was in NYC last year.  She minded me how fortunate Auntie M is to have once lived there and seen the glories that international city has to offer.

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Auntie M loves the New York Public Library and its Lions guarding the main entrance.  They were namedPatience and Fortitude by Fiorello LaGuardia  as the two qualities New Yorkers exhibited that would help them out of the Depression.  At Christmas they are usually garlanded with enormous wreaths around their necks.

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The glorious architecture of the Great Hall alone is worth a pop inside to check it out.  On its right hand side is also a compact but interesting gift shop you can visit without entering the library proper.

Auntie M favorite bit is the magnificent reading room with its unparelled ceiling, the rows upon rows of work tables, now renovated to include plug-ins for laptops–these all make me feel even with the Internet and E-publishing there will always be books in this world.

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So I picked up Linda Fairstein’s newest Alexandra Cooper novel this week with great expectation, as the murder that savvy DA is helping to solve has taken place within the hallowed halls of this great library.  And I haven’t been disappointed.

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A novelist of lesser sway would never get away with throwing this much extraneous history into a book, but Lethal Legacy is Fairstein’s eleventh Cooper novel, so she gets carte blanche on this.

The mystery in this case revolves around the death of a talented young conservator, but in all honesty, the story is not the main character.   The pace is slow but the novel is rich with detailed descriptions of the interior of this lovely building and even more interestingly, of the history behind it.  The infighting between collectors, library trustees and wealthy donors is probably very close to the reality of the situation.  Fairstein must have the ear of quite a few insiders.

Fairstein recounts the layout of the huge building so well you can almost feel yourself traveling down to the lower stacks, where the books are sent up on pneumatic tubes to a central call desk.  This is not a lending library, but a great research center, known throughout the world, and how it came to be that way is largely due to its wealthy endowers at the beginning of the 20th century trying to compete with ancient European libraries.

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Few New Yorkers realize the stacks continue along under Bryant Park, which borders the library grounds.  As they gather there for relaxation by the fountain, concerts on the lawn, or ice skating in winter, they are treading above the millions of books stored beneath their feet.

Fairstein ran the Sex Crimes Unit of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for over twenty years, so the workings inside the case are also spot on.  If you enjoy learning about historical places in the midst of a modern mystery, give this one a read.

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