On the Case at the Doheny Library

I’ve looked a good mystery ever since I was a kid devouring Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew books. So when I heard about an Atlas Obscura outing to view the True Crime exhibit and solve a mystery at the Doheny Memorial Library I knew I had to sign up. Luckily, Shannon is also a big mystery fan and I brought her along to be the Watson to my Sherlock.



The Doheny Library is on the campus of USC and though I’d passed it several times during the Festival of the Books I’d never made it inside. That’s a real no-no for a library fan such as myself. It’s stunning piece of architecture built in 1931 by Edward Doheny Sr. as a memorial to his murdered son, Edward Doheny Jr., who was a USC grad. In pristine condition it’s a place I could wander around for hours exploring all its details. But this day I was on a case so I headed to the treasure room to the True Crime exhibit.


The treasure room itself is a work of art with a series of murals by Samuel Armstrong portraying the history of the printed word called €œThe Written Word Passeth on the Torch of Wisdom.


Inside this space we met the curators who showed us around. While researching a prior exhibit they discovered the library held quite the collection of detective related materials and the idea of True Crime was born. On display are several books about crime solvers ranging from the famed Vidoq to Sherlock Holmes, Sam Spade and Jessica Fletcher. Complementing these manuscripts are artifacts related to the famed sleuths as well as true crime solving artifacts from the LAPD archives.

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The treasures are lovingly displayed and it was a real treat to view them all. Shannon may have coveted one piece a little too much.


After our tour we were put to the case the to solve the murder of a small time crook called Jimmy Salero. Given a series of clues we were tasked with exploring the campus to find his killer and locate a cache of missing gold.


As much as I’d like to see our team excelled at the task…we didn’t. In fact, I ended up following a red herring and pinning the crime on an innocent victim. I guess I’m no Sam Spade.

The exhibit runs through May 31st and the case is available for anyone to solve. Hopefully you won’t make the same mistakes I did.



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