Long Overdue

Image of Long Overdue
Release Date: 
August 1, 2013
StoneHouse Ink
Reviewed by: 

Jeff Ayers, one-time Seattle Public Library (SPL) employee and freelance reviewer, takes us into the SPL with this amateur thriller. A serial killer is doling out poetic justice to library patrons: cut the eyes out of the art books and the killer takes out the patron’s eyes in turn.

The opening sequence of Long Overdue is highly enjoyable: the reader is given a brief window into the murderer’s mind as he stalks his prey and then kills. Meanwhile, as these murders are occurring, librarian Nicholas Hardy, his vacation cancelled by his overbearing boss, comes into work only to deal with the sudden announcement of layoffs.

As a librarian, l read with a great deal of sympathy the situations faced by the main character, Nicholas Hardy, and his colleagues: the demanding and self-righteous patrons, the persistent and somewhat inane daily questions, the bureaucracy and rules handed from top down that did not make any sense for those who actually dealt with a library’s day-to-day functions, etc.

I grew indignant and felt the sting along with Nick as he was forced to fire library employees he knew and cared about all for the sake of some blurred idea of efficiency.

Nick’s boss was entirely unsympathetic. And while almost anyone of working age can recall a toxic boss, the boss in this book came out a bit flat. Even my own worst boss had some redeeming qualities for which I was grateful.

The killer is on his own private apocalyptic mission to clean up the Seattle Public Library. There were chances to solidify him as a character, but overall he becomes the stock villain, a war vet who needed psychiatric help and created himself a new mission in life—to care for the library. What librarian hasn’t privately thought about avenging the damaged books or dealing with certain patrons in a less-than-ideal manner? But here the killer was drawn over the top.

Eventually the killer seeks vengeance for all he feels he has done for the library, which means Nicholas Hardy and others are now on his hit list. Meanwhile, readers are given a thorough tour through SPL replete with architectural details, and it’s quite clear that Nicholas hates—or perhaps it’s really author Ayers who hates—the SPL décor and layout. Unfortunately, when the author finds someone or something bad, it is thoroughly bad and therefore rather wooden.

I devoured the book at a fast clip, eager to read more despite the quick giveaway on the killer’s identity, but I was soon overwhelmed by disbelief. After an attempt on Nicholas’s life, he is saved by his dead brother’s ex-fiancé, Detective Holly Parker.

The detective has her secretive past, let out in awkward slices; however, there’s no good reason for the romantic plot twist—the manner in which it is handled and offered provides no extra spice to the novel. If this little tidbit had been left out, I would have liked the detective just fine.

This is only a minor bump along the fast finish of the novel—as a SWAT team is called in after explosives go off in the SPL and the director has been taken hostage, readers are meant to believe that Nick would be allowed to go into such a dangerous situation with a SWAT team. Fine, suspend disbelief on that point, but the Seattle SWAT team turns out to be a bunch of bumbling idiots, walking into booby traps set by the killer, getting at least half the team killed.

Mr. Ayers clearly has a soft spot for animals because the one member of the team spared by the killer is the bomb-sniffing dog, but readers are meant to believe the dog would not put up any resistance to being manhandled or otherwise torn away from his handler.

And the fact that Nicholas is now in this building and suddenly has command of the SWAT team because he has some sort of intimate knowledge of the building’s layout? Nowhere was it ever considered one of Nick’s little idiosyncrasies that he was some sort of architectural savant, and it is just awkward that he knows about sight lines and the ideal places a shooter could pick off SWAT team members instead of the SWAT team leader knowing this.

Because this is set in a library, naturally Nick the librarian has to consult books in certain sections. When Detective Parker is shot, he rushes to the first aid section to see what he can learn to help her. This was mildly amusing but not unexpected in a book by a librarian about librarians and in a library setting.

What is teeth-grindingly unlikely was when Nick consulted a judo manual to learn basic moves before confronting the ex-military killer. You cannot learn judo just by reading about a move once, and then actually win a fight . . . unless this was The Matrix and he downloaded the muscle memory into himself.

In the end, this book is recommended to those less critical of thrillers or to those readers who have the ability to suspend disbelief when faced with plot holes and character flubs. More could’ve been done to draw out the suspense and mystery and to build more believable characters and connections.

Long Overdue was otherwise enjoyable, true to many library experiences (except the whole SWAT team thing) and provided a nice enough way to spend my hours on the night shift in the reference section.