Adventure-hungry Quinn Ellington solves mundane mysteries for library patrons while indulging her taste for intrigue with her favorite spy novels. But her latest research project entangles her in a mission to decode the whereabouts of a weapons cache from a priceless work of art before arms dealers beat her to it. Her adventure is filled with fast cars, stolen treasures, international intrigue, and a budding romance with suave, handsome “insurance” agent James Lockwood. Daring rescues and intense covert flirting ensue.
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The Librarian and the Spy
By Susan Mann
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2017 Susan Mann
All rights reserved.
Quinn's grandfather always said being a librarian is a lot like being a secret agent. Like a good spy, a librarian has to be quick thinking, resourceful, and tenacious. Chester Ellington assured her he knew about such things since he'd read just about every spy novel ever published.
Quinn Ellington appreciated his elevated opinion of those in her chosen profession. To her, though, the comparison was more than a little over the top. She liked to believe she was quick thinking, resourceful, and tenacious, especially since she was known to follow bits of bibliographic data like a bloodhound after a rabbit. But she knew being just a librarian would never fully quench the thirst for adventure she inherited from her spy-novel-loving grandfather. As it stood right now, the likelihood of her being called upon to disable a death ray pointed at the White House from space by a maniacal villain bent on world domination was pretty low.
She snipped off another strip of red book repair tape from a roll and used it to attach the swag of fake green garland and colored twinkle lights to the front of her metal desk. She smiled when she thought of how her grandfather would approve of her unconventional use of library supplies, as tame as they might be.
The trimming secured, she crawled under the desk most likely manufactured during the Eisenhower administration and plugged the lights into the power strip. She grunted when her head banged against one side of the desk and a hollow bong reverberated around her as she backed out from the tiny space. Good thing for her skull it sounded worse than it felt.
Clear of the desk, she scrambled to her feet and stepped around to the front again. She folded her arms across her chest, tipped her head to one side, and turned a critical eye on the trimmings. Martha Stewart she wasn't.
She glanced up at the clock attached to the wall of the Bullpen, the large office that housed the desks of the reference librarians at Westside Library, and realized it was time for her to cover her duties at the desk. Any additional decorating would have to wait. After draining the last of the barely warm Earl Grey from a mug with the Dewey decimal number for tea emblazoned on the side, she snagged a book review magazine to peruse in case it was slow at the desk and left the office.
She walked behind the main library counter — a monument to wood laminates that stood at the center of the main reading room — and climbed up onto the high bar stool–like seat. She had just set the magazine down when she looked up to see a thirtyish-year-old man, briefcase in hand, striding toward the desk.
He stopped in front of her and Quinn gave him a smile. In her best librarian voice, she said, "Good morning. What can I do for you?"
"Hello. I'm hoping you can help me," he replied in a BBC news anchor accent that made her heart skip a beat.
"That's why I'm here."
"I need to find out the history and value of a brooch."
Her eyebrows shot up. "A brooch?"
"Am I not the brooch type?" he asked with a crooked smile.
"Well, as long as it matches your tie," she said, nodding at the red vintage convertible sports car repeated over the tie's black background. She also noticed his jeans and brown leather jacket, her favorite look on a man. "You do seem a little too young and male to wear a brooch."
Delight flashed in his sky blue eyes. "Well, for what it's worth, you seem a little young and, ah" — he paused and he squinted at her — "denim wearing to be a librarian."
"I get that a lot." Feeling cheeky, she swung her legs to the side and lifted a foot, showing off her high-heeled leather boot. "You'll also note I'm not wearing sensible shoes today, nor is my hair in a bun." While she occasionally wore her blond hair in a ponytail, today, as usual, it was loose around her shoulders.
She lowered her foot and faced forward again. "Now, about this brooch. I have to warn you up front that unless you're talking about tracking down the value of one that's already been appraised, I can't tell you how much it's worth. I'm not qualified. I can help you get a list together of local appraisers if you'd like."
"I understand. That's not what I'm looking for. Can you help me learn more about its history?"
"Again, unless it's a well-known piece, I doubt we'll find much. You'd be better off taking it to a jeweler." But her curiosity was getting the better of her and before her brain could stop her mouth, she found herself saying, "But since you're already here, I guess it couldn't hurt to take a quick look."
"Brilliant," he said. He lifted his briefcase and laid it flat on the counter.
"You have it with you?"
"No, not the brooch itself. I have a photograph of it." He rummaged through the papers in his briefcase.
Quinn tried not to be too obvious as she studied his features. He was extremely handsome, with a wide brow and strong jaw that tapered to a pointed chin. His nose was slightly crooked and sported a small bump. She supposed it had been broken at some point in his life. Still, it in no way detracted from his good looks — if anything, it added character to his face.
"Ah, here it is." He handed her an eight-by-ten.
She blew out a low whistle. "This isn't what I was expecting at all. I thought we were talking gold flowers or gem-encrusted bumblebees. You know, like the brooches Queen Elizabeth wears."
"Yes, well, this is very different than the ones worn by Her Majesty."
She brought the picture close to her face and examined the intricate details of the round, flat ring. Absently, she said, "I read recently that forty-two thousand schoolchildren in Southern Rhodesia donated pocket money toward a diamond brooch to give to then Princess Elizabeth as a present for her twenty-first birthday. It was presented to her when she visited with her parents and sister in 1947. It's called the Flame Lily brooch and apparently it's one of her favorites." She looked up and when she saw the mixture of amusement and bemusement on his face, she cleared her throat and squinted at the paper again.
"I'm no expert, but my guess is this is Celtic. And old." It reminded Quinn a little bit of a belt buckle, only rounder. The flat ring was inlaid with panels of intricately patterned silver. A long, thick pin was attached to the top half of the hoop and appeared to be able to move around the ring. There were a number of empty settings dotting the silver where Quinn assumed gemstones had once adorned the brooch. "Maybe Anglo-Saxon." She looked up and asked, "What makes you call it a brooch?"
"That's what the inventory calls it."
"I work for the insurance company that will be covering it."
"So you need to figure out if it's worth what the client says it's worth? And not something you can buy for twenty bucks on eBay?"
"Or has MADE IN CHINA stamped on the back."
She sighed. "I'd love to dig into this, but like I said before, this is really a job for an appraiser." Her eyebrows lowered when she inspected the photo again. "Or a professor of archaeology, if this thing is authentic." She set the picture on the counter and looked at him. "Doesn't your insurance company have people who do stuff like this?"
He shuffled some of his papers, clearly ordering his thoughts. "It's a bit complicated, with client confidentiality and all. For what it's worth, I can assure you a professional appraiser is already in the process of evaluating this piece." He shrugged. "I want to do my own due diligence."
"You want to see if what they come back with is the same as what you found out on your own?"
"If not the same, at least close. I tried to do some Internet research myself, but almost everything I ran across was new, and for sale on Etsy." His gaze remained unwavering as he considered her. "I need the help of a professional."
A thrill buzzed through her. This wasn't exactly as pulse-pounding as stopping a death ray, but it was by far the most interesting thing she'd been asked to research in a long time. How could she say no? She dipped her head almost imperceptibly and said in a soft voice, "Okay."
Even as she agreed, her mind began to swirl with thoughts of how to best tackle the task at hand, the potential problems they might encounter, the amount of time the search might take, the fact that his cologne was more than a little distracting, and how nice his smile was. Since the last two musings were unprofessional — the bit of flirting she'd indulged in wasn't terribly professional, either — she stuffed them in a crevasse in her brain and focused her attention on the brooch. "Technically, I'm only supposed to help you gather the materials. You need to come to your own conclusions."
"Of course, Madam Librarian," he said with a bow from the waist.
She suppressed a snort and held her hand out across the counter. "Please, call me Quinn."
His handshake was firm. "It is a delight to make your acquaintance, Quinn. My name is James."
"James." She suddenly felt a little self-conscious. When he released her hand, she dropped her gaze to the picture on the counter and pushed her hair behind her ears. Her focus now restored, she said, "Is there a deadline we're looking at? Because to be honest, I'm not sure how long this will take. We might find your answer in twenty minutes, but it could take several days if we need to get books from another library."
"No, there's no set deadline, but the sooner, the better."
"Got it." She couldn't contain her excitement and fairly bounced in her chair. "You don't have any information on it at all?"
"No. It's part of a collection the owner bought at an estate sale. Some of the pieces had paperwork. A lot of them didn't, including this one."
"Okay, then," she said, and rubbed her hands together. "Off we go into the wonderful world of brooches. First, we need some basic information." She turned to the computer in front of her and found an appropriate entry in one of the library's online encyclopedias. She angled the screen so they could both see it. They spent the next ten minutes learning about various brooch styles. After examining the photo again, they agreed it was clearly a Celtic pseudo-penannular brooch used to fasten cloaks.
Quinn went to the library's online catalog and performed a subject browse search. She set her elbow on the counter and rested her chin in her palm while she scanned the results on the screen. After a few more refining searches, the printer to her left whirred to life and spit out a piece of paper.
"Here's the deal," Quinn said. "We don't have any books in this library specifically on Celtic brooches." When she saw the disappointment on his face, she said, "No, no, no. We're not giving up yet."
Quinn jumped down from her stool, snatched the paper from the printer, and took off toward the nonfiction stacks. She stopped, spun around and, reassured he was following her, turned and started toward the stacks again.
Quinn zeroed in on the appropriate section of books like a laser-guided missile. She dodged around a cart filled with books to be shelved, and when she reached the correct aisle, she pivoted and hurried down it, at one point hopping over a metal kick stool.
Despite her quick maneuvers, James managed to keep up. He was in full stride behind her, so when she came to a sudden stop, he crashed into her.
She lurched forward. The paper in her hand went flying. Had James not shot out a hand and gripped her arm to steady her, she would have executed an epic face plant. "Quinn, I'm so sorry."
"No, it's my fault," she said, thankful she hadn't taken a swan dive in front of him. She swept the rogue strands of her hair back in place. "I stopped with no warning. I should have brake lights installed." She was keenly aware of his hand resting on her arm.
He retrieved her paper from the floor. "What are you looking for? I thought you said the library didn't have any books on brooches."
"We don't, but we do have some books on Celtic and Anglo-Saxon designs and their histories. What's been found on stone crosses, illuminated manuscripts, stuff like that." She consulted the paper he'd handed back to her to verify the call numbers. Tipping her head back, she scanned the spine labels. "I thought maybe if we found the design on the brooch in one of these books, you'd be able to figure out when they first appeared."
"And we would know the brooch was made sometime after the first use of those designs," he said as if clarifying the idea in his mind.
"That's the theory anyway. You also might be able to figure out which region it's from, you know, if it's Scottish or Irish or Welsh." When she found the books she was looking for, she said, "Here we go." She slid one from the shelf, the protective dust jacket cover crinkling in her hands. She flipped it open to a photo of a stone Celtic cross on one page and a detailed drawing of its designs on the other.
James peered at the book from over her shoulder. She turned the page and he pointed at a picture. "That looks familiar."
Quinn read the small print under the photo. "It's a Celtic knot." She snapped the book closed. "We have a winner." She scanned the titles of the books on either side of the first's location and took the ones that looked most promising from the shelf.
They exited the stacks and walked toward a nearby vacant table. "Why don't you look through these books and I'll go back to the desk and see what else I can find for you." She placed the books on the table while James set his belongings down next to them. He slipped off his jacket and hung it on the back of a chair.
"This is brilliant." He took a seat and looked up at her. "Thank you so much for your help."
"You're welcome. It's why they pay me the big bucks." Her heart skipped a beat — again — at the dazzling smile on his face. "I'll check back with you in a little while with whatever else I find."
She hustled back toward the reference desk. She sighed when she realized her research for James would have to wait. Ed Robles, a fellow reference librarian, was already occupied with one patron while two more stood waiting at the counter.
For the next forty-five minutes, a steady stream of patrons kept her busy. Between pointing out the parenting books to the harried young mother with a death grip around the wrist of her scowling three-year-old — the kid was clearly approaching critical mass and a thermonuclear tantrum seemed imminent — tracking down the sports page of the local newspaper to the men's room and having to send Ed in to retrieve it, and helping the man in oil-stained pants find the correct pages for his pickup in a service manual, she didn't have a moment to give James's Celtic brooch a second thought.
When the action at the desk finally slowed, she did some research. She compared James's brooch to a similar one owned by the British Museum and guessed it to be from the eighth or ninth century A.D. Quinn also found the title of a book that looked spot-on and tracked down a copy at UCLA's main research library. It would be a fun field trip to go on campus again and take a look at it if need be.
She set off toward James's table, excited to share the information she'd uncovered with him. She turned the corner and saw the empty chair. Her steps slowed as she scanned the area, thinking perhaps he'd moved to another location. He was nowhere to be seen. She reached the table and noted the books she'd left him with remained. His jacket and briefcase, like their owner, were gone.CHAPTER 2
Quinn walked into the Bullpen to find a young woman sitting in her desk chair and spinning herself around and around. Her long, jet black hair moved like a silk curtain in a breeze with each new rotation. "You're late," she said without stopping.
"And you're in my chair," Quinn countered to her best friend.
Nicole Park stopped and faced Quinn. After some rapid blinking to clear the dizziness, Nicole's dark eyes found Quinn's face. "I had to sit somewhere while I waited for you."
"You didn't have to spin."
"What good is a swivel chair if you don't spin?" When Quinn didn't answer right away, she pointed and said, "See? You're totally going to do it all the time now."
There was a reason her friend was a children's librarian. Kids — and everyone else, for that matter — were drawn to Nicole's sense of wonder, ebullient personality, and warm smile. She was a natural fit for the job.
"Who says I don't already?"
Nicole giggled. "The truth comes out."
"Yes, you've found me out," Quinn said, the mock shame heavy in her tone. She flicked a glance over her shoulder and then leaned in. "When no one else is around, I've spun in my chair a time or two."
Nicole dropped her chin and gazed up at her from under an arched eyebrow. "You wild thing, you."
Excerpted from The Librarian and the Spy by Susan Mann. Copyright © 2017 Susan Mann. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Librarian and the Spy started out a bit slow for me and I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it but really starts to pick up in the second half of the book. From that point I felt the pacing was pretty good. The story is written in third person but we only get Quinn’s point of view. I would prefer to have both Quinn and James, but Quinn was still a pretty good narrator and certainly entertaining. I will admit that I didn’t really get their chemistry in the beginning and their first time kissing felt a little out of the blue just because I didn’t believe in their passion up to that point. I really enjoyed the concept of this book and in particular all the library references. You can truly tell that Susan Mann knows what she’s talking about when she references library customers, MARC records, and cataloging. As someone who works in a library I really enjoyed how much I could relate to the story. Plus it’s nice to see the nerdy book culture make the win for this spy adventure. I liked both Quinn and James, though I wish we could have gotten inside of James’s head as well. Quinn is everything nerdy you want in a librarian but she’s also tough and can fight her way out of a situation thanks to her military family and pack of older brothers. She was a pretty good narrator and had some great humorous moments when she did something embarrassing. What we do learn about James is great but I feel he wasn’t as developed as strongly as Quinn. This is likely due to only seeing James through Quinn’s eyes and only knowing what he’s willing to share verbally with Quinn. I hope we can learn more about him in future books. My only real criticism was that there were times where I felt the dialogue was a bit stiff or not like how people would really speak. Other times the writing outside of dialogue might have been technically accurate but was missing any real emotion that grabs the reader. This occurred mostly in the beginning before any action began.
Quinn is working at the library's information desk with James comes to her with questions that he needs researched. As Quinn helps with his research he asks her to accompany him to other locations as he tracks down information on artifacts that his insurance company is to insure. Quinn gets involved in James' research as well as the danger he is in. I enjoyed this story. I love action and adventure to go along with my romance. I was interested in how Quinn could figure out the puzzle James presented to her as they search for information on the pieces. I enjoyed the characters but never saw the ending coming. I look forward to their next adventure.
The Librarian and the Spy was a mystery wrapped in intrigue disguised as a romance. In my opinion the cover, although cute, did the novel a disservice. The book was so much more than the cover leads you to believe! This book was clever, it’s heroine was bright and the hero had a James Bond-ish charm. Most important was the fact that it was a light hearted mystery first with a touch of romance second. The novel gets off to a quick start. Quinn the Librarian, is at work when James, undercover as an insurance agent, requests her help researching some jewelry and pieces of art. There is, of course an immediate connection. They are both attractive after all! However, it was Quinn’s intellect that James was also attracted to. She is so well read that she is a walking Encyclopedia. She comes up with tidbits about useful and useless things that created clever dialog and add depth to the storyline. As she gets drawn into the case James is working on, her research becomes invaluable and she ends up working the case full time, against his better judgement. She was agent 99 to his agent 86 (a Get Smart reference for you youngsters!). James, unlike Max in Get Smart, is actually suave and is not a bumbling fool, so the attraction is much more understandable! LOL. I really enjoyed the surprise I received when I started reading this book. As an avid reader myself, I loved how Quinn got herself out of predicaments by remembering a scene from a favorite book and then teen acting it. I wish my memory were that good! I also enjoyed the lighthearted romance, partly because Quinn reacted realistically to James and not as a woman in lust. ❤️❤️❤️❣️
Review: THE LIBRARIAN AND THE SPY by Susan Mann Publication Date: April 25, 2017 Genre: Contemporary Romance Reviewed by: Reading in Pajamas/ Donna Rated: 4 Stars This was a fun romp through a mystery, with unique clues at every turn. It would be the perfect book for those that like their romantic suspense light and not so steamy. It’s a true librarian’s novel as well, so be prepared for a lot of book cataloging and research information. I thought it bogged it down at one point, then just enjoyed that it was a big part of the mystery. My other comment would be that James, a spy, would be more confident with a woman. That being said, it was a fun story. *Review copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
A librarian’s journey from the checkout desk to fast cars, stolen treasures, and international intrigue / with an introduction by suave, handsome “insurance” agent James Lockwood. Adventure-hungry Quinn Ellington’s job solving mundane mysteries for library patrons entangles her in a mission to decode the whereabouts of a weapons cache from a priceless work of art before arms dealers beat her to it. Her adventure is filled with twists, turns, and a budding romance. Transcontinental pursuit, daring rescues, and intense covert flirting follow. 1. Spies—attractive. 2. London—criminal networks. 3. London—Harry Potter references. 4. Libraries—secrets of. 5. Best friends—nosy. I. Ellington, Quinn. Review: After four paranormal romances in a row this was a welcome break. This was just a fun, action, mystery romance adventure. This looks to be the first offering from this Author and I think she hit it out of the park. This was just fun to read. I loved both Quinn and James! They are smart and complex with a little sarcasm and wit to make them more interesting. Though for those looking for super sexy, this is more of a sweet heat romance that builds as the story goes on. The chemistry is there but they are smart and know they need to keep their heads while doing their research. That is another thing I like about the story...that Quinn is a librarian and is pulled into the spy world while helping James, who is a spy, obviously from the title. The story kind of reminds me a little of, okay I am going to date myself, the Goldie Hawn/Chevy Chase movie, Foul Play without the slapstick comedy. I loved that movie as a kid. I am not going to give away a lot because I hate doing that. I did guess who might be behind Quinn getting drawn into this. The ending was very satisfying and I am glad James and Quinn will be continuing their adventures. Wonderful escapism, with a librarian and a sexy spy. 4.5Stars *I voluntarily read an advance reader copy of this book provided by the publisher.*
The Librarian and the Spy by Susan Mann was a thoroughly enjoyable book to spend a quiet afternoon. Although the book started out slowly to introduce the reader to Quinn Ellington. I believe that this thorough introduction to Quinn could have been a little shorter. However, once the mystery began in earnest the plot took off. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough to read what was happening next. All of the characters were well developed and the family dynamics within Quinn's family was warm, loving and often humorous. After all, Quinn was raised with five older brothers. James Lockwood/Anderson is not your typical Alpha hero. However, he is an excellent spy who has experience in the field and worked with Quinn as an equal to solve the mystery. I am looking forward to getting to know him better as this series continues. As this is book one in a new series I am eagerly looking forward to reading the next one since this allowed me to enjoy an afternoon filled with mystery, a little suspense, a little romance and laughter. I received an ARC of this book from the publisher, Zebra Shout via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are strictly my own.
LOVED this book! Charming and fun story that made me smile - even as I turned the pages just as quickly as possible. Quinn is a research librarian who assists James, a library patron with some detailed research. He literally buys her time from the library manager. Quinn then finds herself in the middle of a mystery and surrounded by half-truths and lies, not knowing what to believe or who to trust...even as she fights her attraction to James....or whatever his name is. This is a great book, and that it is the first published work by this author is amazing. Normally, a first book shows potential and the future books improve upon the potential. Not true in this case, rather the author started out as wonderful, from the quirky characters I cared about to the fun story. She is now on my must read authors' list and one who's books I'll be anxiously waiting for. Do not hesitate to buy this book - it is worth every dime.