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Death Checked Out (Larkspur Library Mysteries, #1) by Leah Dobrinska 

With its likable librarian heroine and smart amateur investigation, I was hooked. 

Greta Plank, the new library director for the Larkspur Library, is an optimistic sort. After a failed relationship drove her away from Green Bay, the quaint little town of Larkspur, Wisconsin, was a warm and welcoming refuge. She quickly became friends with her two librarian employees, Josie and Iris, a number of other city employees, and several of the library’s patrons. 

One new friend was her neighbor on the lake, Franklin Halloway, who, after an accident, used a wheelchair. Franklin didn’t get out much and wasn’t naturally friendly anyway, so he had few close friends but he still liked to keep up with the local news and gossip. He preferred the comfort of his lakefront cottage, reading, and building quite a notable collection of rare books. Greta personally delivered the books he had on hold and would stay for cozy chats about what was going on in town. 

On one such visit, Franklin greeted Greta at the door as he talked on his cell phone. He was just concluding what appeared to be a rather unpleasant conversation with someone who wanted to buy him out of his cottage. The call ended quickly with Franklin’s emphatic refusal. Stopping by again several days later, Greta found his front door standing open: something Franklin would never do because he wouldn’t want his cat to get out. Receiving no answer to her knocking or calling his name, she entered and found her friend deceased at the bottom of the deck stairs, his wheelchair upended on top of him. 

Greta called for emergency services and was questioned by the new police detective. Detective Mark McHenry was a good-looking man and a recent transplant from Chicago, but his gruff manner and rude questioning put Greta’s back up immediately. She did her best to be as helpful as possible and shrug it off. However, the following day when Franklin’s death is revealed as a homicide, McHenry’s questions take an accusatory turn in Greta’s direction. 

Death Checked Out is the entertaining debut of Leah Dobrinska’s new series, the Larkspur Library Mysteries. Greta is a highly likable heroine, and her fellow librarians are engaging sidekicks. Detective Mark McHenry, a formidable investigator with zero bedside manner, has a secret sweet spot for the new library director. 

The small town of Larkspur is picture-perfect with its lakeside location and fall in full swing. Several local businesses make their way into the story, which rounds out the cozy visual image. I came away wanting to attend the town’s upcoming Fall Festival the mayor and Greta were planning. Larkspur is a town of contrasts, though. While it is the typical small town where everyone knows everyone else and all their business and rumors streak through the grapevine, the story demonstrates that there can still be some surprising and shocking, and very well-kept secrets. 

Greta, Josie, and Iris do an excellent job of ferreting out critical information, as librarians are wont to do, that identifies several potential suspects and other individuals vital to solving the crime. I liked that Greta and Josie consciously considered the ramifications and possible dangers of talking to some of these suspects and planned accordingly before deciding to pursue a meeting. We aren’t privy to much of McHenry’s initial investigation, but he (the professional) seems to be two steps behind the women throughout. 

With its likable librarian heroine and nicely paced and plausible amateur investigation, I was hooked by the story from start to finish. I recommend DEATH CHECKED OUT to cozy mystery readers who enjoy library settings, librarian sleuths, and small towns in Wisconsin with a crisp autumn feel. 

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours.