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Call Numbers (Call Numbers, #1) by Syntell Smith

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Life is a book… and every person is a chapter.

Everything’s looking up for Robin Walker. It’s 1994 in New York City, and he’s been transferred downtown to the 58th Street Branch Library. Ready to move up the ladder, Robin is excited about the opportunities that await him.

But success, personal or professional, is as elusive as a first-edition rare book. Robin struggles with his strange new work environment as this motley crew of employees generates more drama than a runaway bestseller. He doesn’t know who to believe – or who to let in. And as potential romance mingles with devious machinations, there’s no telling where Robin’s story will go. All he knows is that he must see it through to the very last page.

Call Numbers is a captivating and multilayered adult drama. Through realistic dialogue and situations, author Syntell Smith has crafted a modern-day classic about the trials and tribulations of adulthood. Because a library is usually the last place you’d expect high drama, but for these characters…it’s long overdue.


I chose this book because it is a debut novel and as a library worker myself, I was intrigued by the setting and the drama in the stacks.

Robin Walker, charming, volatile, a man with the moves, and “The Battleaxe’s protege”, has been transferred to one of the most diverse libraries in the New York Public Library system.  Unfortunately, the employees don’t want him there and will go to any lengths to get rid of him.

Backstabbing, secrets, and mayhem come to mind when I read this book.  And what better and more unique place than a public library. The author does a thorough job explaining the different services and policies the New York Public Library system entails and he includes a helpful Library Terminology Glossary at the beginning for those who don’t speak library-ese.  In addition, Mr. Smith, provides a useful Character Index at the beginning for some background on the multitude of characters throughout the book.

As for the characters, Robin is a mystery to me.  His personality is mercurial. I want to like him with his charisma, charm, and wit one minute, but his unstable temper frightens me the next minute. As for Augustus Chavez, the head librarian, I understand he wants to make his branch library the best in New York, but his decisions are sketchy at best  Ms. Yi is also a mystery to me with her diligence to maintain the equilibrium of her library by hiring employees who value the sanctity of the Clerks Credo, but will use any means necessary to get rid of one man who just happened to get hired at the wrong time.  And of course, the other supporting characters have their own individual story-lines and a myriad of secrets that add to the depth of the story.

Overall, the 58th Street Branch Library holds a lot of surprises and laughs that this reader enjoyed immensely.  The book thoughtfully touches on social justice, nepotism, diversity, mysteries, romance, and just good old fashioned drama in 1994 New York. Triggers include racism and bullying. And the book ends in a cliffhanger. 

If you think you know librarians and library staff, this book will change your mind.

Thank you to Mr. Smith for giving me the opportunity to read this book with no expectation of a positive review.


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Syntell SmithSyntell Smith was born and raised in Washington Heights, Upper Manhattan in New York City. He graduated from Samuel Gompers High School and began writing while blogging his hectic everyday life experiences in 2004. He loves comic books, video games, and watching reruns of Law and Order. He currently lives in Detroit. “Call Numbers” is his first novel. Syntell is active on Facebook and Twitter.



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