Libraries can get pretty serious about getting their books returned, even if stealing a library book (usually by checking it out and not returning it) remains a disturbingly easy form of petty crime.

But sometimes wildly overdue books do get returned, even years after the fact, by either the original borrowers or do-gooding citizens. It could be a mother, for example, who didn’t realize her son squirreled away The Mouse and the Motorcycle that summer two decades ago, when life was different. Or, take the patron of the library in Great Falls, Montana, who recently returned a copy of Richard Matheson’s 1975 novel Bid Time Return after 35 years on loan. 

Library officials did not name the man, according to the Great Falls Tribune, but they were grateful to see the book, a science fiction romance, returned. The “thief” also included a $200 donation and a written apology, which stated that he was “hoping for a chance for redemption here.”

He had read the book at least 25 times, he wrote, and also had the volume restored and signed by its author before Matheson’s 2013 death. 

“It’s one of the, if not the, greatest sci-fi/romance stories ever written,” he continued. “It’s absolutely fascinating.”

That is a strong recommendation for any book, let alone one that isn’t even Matheson’s best-known work, I Am Legend (the basis for the Will Smith movie of the same title). Let this be a guide for any other petty library thieves out there with a conscience: If you’re going to come clean, do it with hat in hand and maybe some cold hard cash.