Library exhibit features crimes triggered by books

Dominique Todd

Weapons, theft and dead bodies are uncovered in Bibliomysteries: Bound by Crime, a Kent State University Libraries exhibit in which crime surrounds one central element – literature.

The exhibit, which began this fall and will run until July, features the mystery fiction sub-genre, bibliomystery.

Penny White, curator of the exhibit, said bibliomysteries typically indicate that a book or manuscript is essential to the plot.

“This sub-genre focuses on books and manuscripts, and the crimes that stem from them,” White said. “A bibliomystery usually recounts a stolen manuscript, or someone is murdered over a book or manuscript.”

Of the many different themes in the sub-genre, the exhibit highlights just a few. White said her goal when creating the exhibit was to keep it narrow and specific.

“I selected bibliomysteries based on their content and theme,” she said. “Most of them deal with one specific book or document that causes or solves a crime.”

Themes featured in the exhibit include: The book as the cause of the crime, the book as the crime solver, the bibliophile as the sleuth and the bibliophile as the suspect.

“A bibliophile is a person with a great love for books,” White said.

“The Widening Stain” by Morris Bishop, a featured book in the exhibit, highlights a bibliophile as the sleuth. In the novel, an English professor acts as detective after his colleague is found dead in the college library.

“A love for books, however, can turn into a deadly obsession,” the display reads.

In books such as “An Author Bites the Dust” by Arthur Upfield, bibliophiles become suspects when they resort to drastic measures, such as murder, to build their rare book collections.

Katelynd Jarvis, a senior English major, said as a passionate reader and writer, she appreciates Special Collections showcasing the relatively unknown genre.

“I’m sort of a bibliophile myself; words and literature are my everything,” Jarvis said. “This exhibit enticingly shows just how strongly literature can influence an individual’s life.”

Emery Hidas, a junior English major, said he was unaware of the bibliomystery sub-genre before the exhibit, but found Bound by Crime quite creative and impressive.

“The mysterious plots and themes of these books seem to keep you engaged,” Hidas said. “The covers themselves even pull you in.”

White said the covers had to be captivating to catch the observer’s attention and keep the exhibit interesting.

“Graphics were a key factor when determining what books to include in the exhibit,” she said.

“It’s important for them be visually appealing, and to reflect the books content.”

Hidas said the exhibit demonstrates books and artifacts that not only are interesting, but also destroy the barriers between them and the audience.

“It seems as though the author is speaking directly to the audience in every way,” he said. “I am always impressed when the fourth wall is broken in literature.”

Contact Dominique Todd at [email protected].