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Guest Blog Post

            Dull library books can be filled with excitement – even money.  Ever leave any of these in a borrowed book?

“Photos, tax forms, bills, invitations, credit card statements and grocery lists” are common, one librarian told me. So are used Kleenex.

CheckedOut_FC  Librarians also find food stamps, bank statements, report cards, utility shut-off notices, drivers’ licenses, even prison IDs.

To research Checked Out, my 14th Dead-End Job mystery, I volunteered at my local library, the Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center. Shelving gave me a glimpse of what patrons leave in behind books.

I found a bra stashed among the books. “Was this flung off by a book lover?” I asked a librarian.

“A homeless woman was probably doing her laundry,” the librarian said.

I can’t use the last names of the librarians or their libraries to protect patrons’ privacy. But I can say there’s real money in library books.

In Checked Out, private eye Helen Hawthorne is hired to find a million-dollar watercolor hidden in a book donated to a South Florida library after the owner’s death. My plot echoes this true story from a librarian named Dawn.

“We get boxes and boxes of donated books,” Dawn said. She found $600 in a donated book. “We think it was probably Grandma’s stash and she forgot about it or even died, but there was no way to tell who had donated it.” The library’s lawyers decided if Grandma really had accidentally donated that $600, she’d had plenty of time to ask for it back. “It was decided that we could keep it.”

Librarians are honest in the face of temptation, even if that face is Benjamin Franklin’s. Linda said, “We found a $100 bill that had been used as a bookmark! The patron was very happy when I called him and told him we had his bookmark.”

Tamara found “a signed, uncashed check” in a library book.

Darlene got a free laugh when she found “a $5 bill, which I returned because I knew who had the book last. It was How to Make Your First Million.”

Librarian Kathy’s discovery seemed straight from the pages of a thriller:  “I found a plan to rob a bank tucked away for safekeeping just before the feds tossed the thief in jail.”

Deb “found someone’s diary written in the margins of a Sue Grafton book. It ended mid-sentence, so on a whim I got the next book in the series from the library and there it continued.”

The diary writer “was a woman trying to escape the shadow of her twin sister, trying to become her own, separate person.” She was “accepting that her twin was unkind to her. It was involved, detailed and interesting.”

Why would she write something so personal in a library book?

“I imagine she wanted someone to bear witness to her story and her pain,” Deb said. “Writing it in the margins of a popular author’s book guaranteed that someone else would read it, right? And it was written clearly in the margins.”

Deb was addicted. “How often do we really get to read someone’s deepest feelings, their darkest thoughts, their dreams and their despair?

“I could be wrong as to why she did it. Why does anybody do anything? I don’t know.”

But Deb knows this:  “The story was even more compelling than Sue Grafton’s.”

About the author:

Elaine Viets is the author of 29 mysteries in three series, both hard-boiled and cozy: the Dead-End Job mysteries, the Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper mysteries, and the Francesca Vierling mysteries. She has won the Anthony, Agatha and Lefty Awards. Follow her at www.elaineviets.com, ElaineVietsMysteryWriter on Facebook and @evmysterywriter.