Favorite Reads from 2007
Children's Literacy Round-Up: New Year's Weekend Edition

Catalogue of Death: A Miss Zukas Mystery: Jo Dereske

Book: Catalogue of Death: A Miss Zukas Mystery
Author: Jo Dereske
Pages: 352
Age Range: Adult cozy mystery

Catalogue of DeathI only follow a few cozy mystery series. As a general rule I find cozies a bit light, the plots not quite involved enough. The ones that I do read, I read because there is something particularly engaging about the protagonist. And that's how it is for me with the Miss Zukas series, by Jo Dereske. Helma Zukas is a librarian in a mid-sized town in Washington State. She is a librarian through and through, precise and organized, and using her considerable research skills to solve mysteries. She's surrounded by a slightly wacky cast of characters, including the inept new-age head librarian, and her melodramatic best friend Ruth.

In the tenth Miss Zukas mystery, Catalogue of Death, an elderly benefactor of the library is killed in an explosion. Tasked with convincing the man's heirs to follow through on a bequest to the library, Helma finds herself compelled to find out what really happened. With Ruth at her side, she ferrets out clues to the ingeniously plotted mystery. She also dances around her on-again, off-again relationship with Police Chief Wayne Gallant, and finds herself with a new suitor as well. I found this a satisfying addition to the series, and I look forward to Miss Zukas' next adventure.

I'm not sure if actual librarians will enjoy the Miss Zukas books. Helma is a bit exaggerated. Most of the librarians that I know are much less uptight and rule-bound than she is. But what I love about her is that she is wholly consistent - her every thought and action follow a particular moral code, and Dereske seems to never tire of clearly showing Helma's character to the reader.

When an unexpected snowstorm brings the town to it's knees, Miss Zukas cross-country skis to work, because of course the library is a vital service. She is properly attired for every situation, and knows how to do all of the jobs at the library, not just her own. Her car is immaculately maintained, and she is the one who knows who to call for plumbing or heating emergencies. She could be annoying, but somehow isn't. At least to me. After ten books, I find her consistency and reliability endearing. I recommend this series to fans of cozy mysteries, and to fans of librarians. It's not essential to read the books in order (the relationship between Helma and Wayne moves quite slowly), but if you enjoy one book, you're bound to want to read them all. This one is a particularly nice winter read.

Publisher: Avon/Harper Collins
Publication Date: March 2007
Source of Book: Bought it

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.