I was so eager to read this. I mean it's a book about libraries for crying out loud, or rather the going up in flames of one big one. Let me get right to the point: I don't care about the author's personal life or involvement. It seems to be a trend these days that if you're writing a non-fiction book you can secretly make it about yourself instead. I'm sure the author did her research and I'm sure all the facts are there and are complete and I'm sure her conclusions about the alleged arsonist all make sense, but I never felt like I was ever inside the Los Angeles Public Library. That's ironic because I've been there and I didn't feel remotely that the book described my experience.
Let's talk about some details about the building that are sure fire giveaways that this book has too much misplaced descriptions and too many distorted observations. If you've ever been to that building and you've done any kind of walking around you will notice some very unique aspects. For example, I found that in the men's room none of the stalls had doors. You would think that might be noteworthy. The author describes how the old part of the library is connected to the new one via escalators. Anyone who has every taken those is intimidated, not delighted. Striking a metaphor by calling it a waterfall is a gross misrepresentation of what it's like and indicative of a writing style that tries to polish and burnish real life as if it's a fairy tale.
Every person the author meets is wonderful and lovely and entirely positive, even the mean and nasty ones. Other reviewers have also noticed this and describe the book as overly cloying. I couldn't agree more. Ironically, every time the author gets close to describing a real person it cuts off, which is where I got interested and ultimately lost faith in this book altogether.
The antagonist is such a typical Los Angeles flake that anyone in that city could point out hundreds more like him and I kept wondering how many more of his ilk were in the library the day it went up in flames. Any of them were more likely to be the culprit. You can tell that the author is desperately trying to squeeze interest out of a person who was completely uninteresting.