cover image The Lions of Fifth Avenue

The Lions of Fifth Avenue

Fiona Davis. Dutton, $27 (368p) ISBN 978-1-5247-4461-8

Davis (The Address) delves into the history of the New York Public Library in this delightful mystery. It’s 1913, and Jack and Laura Lyons have spent the past two years living in an apartment on a mezzanine tucked inside the library, since it opened. Jack is the library’s superintendent, while Laura raises their two children and studies journalism at Columbia. Tension builds when valuable first edition books start disappearing and Jack is the suspected thief. Davis then shifts to 1993, when Laura’s granddaughter Sadie is the library’s rare books curator, and a new wave of thefts begin. As the story transitions between Sadie and Laura, their differences stand out: Sadie is a quirky book lover who’s uneasy around people, while Laura blooms when she meets the revolutionary women of Greenwich Village, who fight for rights in a club called Heterodoxy. Laura’s journalism professor dismisses the club for “trying too hard to be intellectual,” prompting Laura to prove him wrong. Eventually she goes on to become a leading feminist essayist. Davis illuminates the world of special books through keen descriptions of the library and rare book dealers, while leading readers through the twin mysteries of the missing books. The characters and story are stellar, but the real star of the show is the library, which Davis evokes beautifully. (July)