Name the contemporary American (Texan, even!) writer whose bestselling Scotland Yard police procedurals follow the professional and personal lives of two Met officers.
Email your answer to email@example.com (subject line: monthly quiz). The winner, randomly drawn from correct answers, will receive a $25 Mainely Murders gift card.
Congratulations to Nancy Brown of South Portland who identified Eric Ambler's A Coffin for Dimitrios
(1939) as the book Alan Furst calls the best spy novel of all time.
Each month we note birthdays of some of the masters of the mystery genre, with hopes that readers might read (or re-read) one of their many gems.
P.D. James, today's most popular writer of "traditional" mystery novels, was born August 3, 1920, in Oxford, England. Adam Dalgliesh, a poetry-writing Scotland Yard inspector, is her most enduring character.
Robert van Gulik, writer of the Judge Dee mysteries, was born August 9, 1910, in Zutphen, Holland. His years as a Dutch diplomat in the Far East led to his interest in Chinese history and culture.
Dorothy B. Hughes, one of the first women to write hard-boiled fiction, was born August 10, 1904, in Kansas City. Named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America in 1978, she died in 1993.
Anthony Price, known for his British espionage novels featuring Dr. David Audley, an historian and spy, was born August 16, 1928.
Georgette Heyer, often recognized more for her Regency romances than her mysteries, was born August 16, 1902, in Wimbledon, Surrey. Her 12 mysteries, written between 1935 and 1953, are often cited as perfect examples of the classic country house mysteries.
Earl Derr Biggers was born August 26, 1884, in Warren, Ohio, and died in Pasadena, California, in 1933. His most famous mystery creation was the inscrutable Hawaiian detective Charlie Chan, an attempt to counteract the then-prevailing image of the sinister "Oriental."
Discounts on Books (Here)
and Food (There)
Save money on your favorite mysteries and at restaurants, too.
Members of the popular Portland Dine Around program qualify for special savings at Mainely Murders. Buy two books and save 50% on a third. (Discount applies to lowest-priced book.) Just show your membership card.
If you're not already a member--memberships run through December 31, 2014--it's not too late. We're still selling them. ($29.95)
Portland Dine Around is Maine's premier dining-rewards program. Enjoy savings of $10 to $25 whenever two people dine out. Members can use the savings at over 300 affiliate partners from Rockport to Bethel, Portland, Kennebunk, and south. More savings than ever before on dining, movies, and entertainment!
Thank you for supporting Mainely Murders Bookstore and other small independent booksellers. At a time of increased dominance by chains and online giants, you've shown a commitment to those of us who are part of the local community and who consider customers to be friends and neighbors.
We take great pride in talking with our clientele, whether it's trading viewpoints on favorites or recommending new titles and authors.
Did You Know?
For every $100 spent at a locally owned business, $45 stays in the local community. For every $100 spent at a national chain, franchise store, or online, only $14 remains in the community.
What better way to carry your books (or anything else) and at the same time demonstrate your love of mysteries than with our signature black bag.
Made of durable fabric with reinforced 20-inch handles, the bag sports our recognizable logo. ($7)
Our gift cards are available in any amount. The perfect gift for any event--birthdays, anniversaries, or "just because."
We're happy to take mail/phone orders and will send to you or directly to the recipient.
It's August, and things are heating up here--the weather, traffic, and visitors to Mainely Murders.
We've added significantly to our offerings--particularly in British and American classics--in terms of titles and authors: for example, Catherine Aird (one of Ann's favorites), Eric Ambler (after Alan Furst's high praise of his A Coffin for Dimitrios), G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown books (sparked by the BBC TV series), and Dorothy Salisbury Davis (after a feature article in Mystery Scene). We've been handling more special orders (for new releases as well as out-of-print books), and enjoying our first reading group (see below).
It does, however, say something about the book industry that we've had several summertime customers announce upon their arrival: "We're so glad you're still here." In truth, so are we. And, it's all thanks to our wonderful customers who, not only do their book buying here, but who continue to spread the word about us.
Hope to see you soon.
Paula & Ann
Partners in Crime
P.S. August is short story month here. Check out the baskets of collections on sale outside in front of the shop.
Summer Reading Group
Our Summer Reading Group continues this month with a selection from Sarah Graves' Home Repair Is Homicide series.
On Saturday, August 23, at 3:30 p.m., Mallets Aforethought is in the spotlight. Sign-ups are appreciated and still being taken.
The Summer Reading Group, our first ever, includes books by four popular writers, each with a long-running series set in Maine, each written in a very different style. In June, we discussed Lea Wait's Shadows of a Down East Summer--with the author in attendance! In July, participants read Gerry Boyle's Cover Story.
The group's final read--Saturday, September 27, at 3:30 p.m.--is Dark Hollow by John Connolly.
If you haven't read an Agatha Christie novel lately, you might want to consider picking up one or two. Note we use a qualifier "lately," since there couldn't be anyone out there who hasn't read her. (More than 2 billion copies of her books have been sold around the world since her first in 1920.)
Come September, Christie's famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, who appeared in 33 novels and numerous short stories, will return, via the pen of British writer Sophie Hannah.
The first novel ever approved by the Christie estate, The Monogram Murders, finds Poirot's quiet evening in a London coffeehouse interrupted when a young woman confides to him that she is about to be murdered. She is terrified, but begs Poirot not to find and punish her killer. Once she is dead, she insists, justice will have been done. Later that night, Poirot learns that three guests at a fashionable London hotel have been murdered, and a cufflink has been placed in each one's mouth. Could there be a connection with the frightened woman?
It's not surprising that we're waiting to see if Hannah, a fine novelist in her own right, can capture the Christie voice and characters. Time will tell.
Advance orders for The Monogram Murders, set for release September 9, are being taken.
What We're Reading
>Ann: Macdonald Hastings
As I continue my journey down the byroads of classic British crime (see previous discussions of Catherine Aird and Cyril Hare), I stumbled upon two of Hastings' six Montague Cork books. (I do note that no one ever takes this journey into account when discussing my tastes.) A more unlikely investigator there never was.
The finicky, 62-year-old managing director of the Anchor Accident Insurance Co. Ltd who treats colds as life threatening has a sense when claims are slightly off. And rather than send one of his investigators to follow his hunch, he climbs into his Bentley and slowly drives off in pursuit of the truth. Humorous and often filled with odd gun detail, the only problem with these books is finding them.
>Ann: Jack Harvey (Ian Rankin)
Ian Rankin wrote seven standalones, three under his Jack Harvey pseudonym. When John Rebus gets a little formulaic, you might want to give the Harvey books a try. Indeed that is the fun of standalones; they don't get a chance to be formulaic.
Of course, not all are equally good. Westwind is incredibly expensive and the plot sounds quite odd, which may be why it has not been reprinted. The Flood, written before the Rebus books were published, sounds pretentious, which is why I have never read it.
On the other hand, the rest are fun action adventure tales. The best are Watchman, about a spy given one last chance to get it right, and Blood Hunt, about an ex-SAS man who begins to suspect his journalist brother's death was not a suicide. P.S., they are not grimly bloody.
>Paula: Nevada Barr
Despite my pedigree--born and growing up in Oregon and living here in Maine for nearly 30 years--no one will ever confuse me with a "nature girl." I have absolutely no interest in hiking, climbing, paddling, skiing, camping, and other such activities.
That said, I admit to being a big fan of Nevada Barr
and her Anna Pigeon series. Maybe it's my perverseness, but I've always been convinced that danger lurks out there in all that nature.
But seeing nature through the eyes of Anna, as her National Park Service career takes her from one corner of the country to another, could almost convince me that beauty sometimes can top danger.
Barr's descriptive writing makes the reader feel sometimes, for me anyway, disturbingly "there."
What makes Anna an intriguing character--she has to be to have kept me reading through most of her 17 books--is that she is all the things many of us (okay, I) understand: strong, passionate, independent, outspoken, and very, very flawed. While seemingly more comfortable with the non-human creatures that inhabit her world, Anna is, indeed, very human. And, while she can stare into the eyes of danger (even death), she's not unfamiliar with fear. I like her.
I've liked her since we first met (Track of the Cat, 1993). And, although we learned bits and pieces about the character's life before that, it took the author another 20 years (and 15 books) to tell us Anna's story before we met (The Rope, 2012).
Some critics have complained that the books have changed over the years, becoming darker and more sinister. Perhaps, but I've not continued to read her because she made me comfortable. I've read her because Anna is a very "real," to me, character; and she's taken me places I would never have otherwise gone--like out into nature.
>Paula: David Rosenfelt
I'm a fan of David Rosenfelt's series featuring Andy Carpenter, his New Jersey, dog-loving, irreverent defense attorney protagonist.
But I was interested in seeing how long it would take Maine-newcomer Rosenfelt--he chronicled his move to Maine, along with his 25 canine companions, in his 2013 book, Dogtripping--to set a mystery novel here. I didn't have to wait long:
The dam broke at three AM, four hours after the storm hit. Fortunately, only the North Dam was affected, leaving the other two intact. Had they been breached as well, the eighteen thousand residents of Wilton, Maine, would be former residents of a town that no longer existed.
So starts Rosenfelt's Without Warning (2014), a departure from his Carpenter books, but one that retains the crisp writing and suspenseful story that I've come to expect.
I'm not the only one impressed by the story set in a small, sleepy village in Maine. Booklist says: "Spooky. Creepy. Edgy. Chilling. Shuddery. What more could anyone want?" Ditto.
Our Traveling Book Bag
Our customers love to travel--witnessed by our large international section--and they're often taking their Mainely Murders book bag with them.
Customer Dawn Jordan of Standish, Maine, visited Akumal, Mexico, in May, taking along her bag filled with 10 mysteries--for poolside reading. Thanks, Dawn, for sharing.
We love hearing where you've been with your Mainely Murders book bag.
Email us a photo (jpg), and we'll share it with newsletter readers. If we're able to use your photo, you'll receive a Mainely Murders gift card as our thanks.
William Kent Krueger, Windigo Island (Cork O'Connor #14)
Asa Larsson, The Second Deadly Sin
(Rebecka Martinsson #5)
Margaret Maron, Designated Daughters
(Deborah Knott #19)
Louise Penny, The Long Way Home (Armand Gamache #10)
Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, The Lost Island (Gideon Crew, #3)
Spencer Quinn, Paw and Order (Chet & Bernie #7)
Kathy Reichs, Bones Never Lie (Temperance Brennan #17)
Charles Todd, An Unwilling Accomplice (Bess Crawford #6)
Marilyn Brooks of Needham, Massachusetts, is one serious mystery fan. Indeed, she not only reads her way through novels, both new and old, she also writes about them in her blog
www.marilynsmysteryreads.com, which we highly recommend.
Marilyn's choice of reading often parallels our own. Most recently, it was Cradle to Grave, Eleanor Kuhns' third book in her series about Will Rees, a former soldier in the American Revolution, working as a traveling weaver in 1790s Maine. This book follows A Simple Murder (2012) and Death of a Dyer (2013).
In Eleanor Kuhns' third mystery featuring Will Rees, the traveling weaver is again confronted by a death involving the Shaker religious community. Hannah Moore, a member of the religious group, has been accused of abducting four children from their home and later murdering their mother.
Hannah admits taking the children from their home, which was filthy and without food, and bringing them to the Shakers, but she denies the killing. So Will and his wife, Lydia, journey from Maine to New York to prove their friend innocent.
Ms. Kuhns' writing is wonderfully evocative of the post-Revolutionary War period. The difficulties of life in the newly formed United States is well described, not as a history lesson but as an intrinsic part of the narrative.
And Will and Lydia are brought beautifully to life, as is the Shaker community as a whole.
Helen Kitzman of Madison, Connecticut, is busy with her summer reading. Fortunately for us, she's again sharing her views on her latest mystery reads: an American cozy and a French-set PI tale.
While not interested in herbs, runic stones, or rose petal sandwiches, I do enjoy the China Bayles series by Susan Wittig Albert. A Houston lawyer transplanted to a small Texas hill country town, China has a quick mind that manages to keep her many entrepreneurial enterprises humming, her family well fed and housed, her husband contented, and her town safe from crime. One of her numerous friends, the chief of police, can always rely on China to be just that one step ahead of her in figuring out the latest crime regardless of the tornados, thunderstorms, or even hurricanes that hit the town at mystery climax time. Although her book output is staggering, I nonetheless find that each new China Bayles keeps me guessing to the last page. A most pleasant way to spend an evening or two!
Upon Paula's urging--her book
recommendations are never as darkly sinister as Ann's--I've begun reading Cara Black. She fits my preferred criteria: woman writer and female protagonist. While usually beginning with the first in the series, this time I picked up the latest,
Murder in Pigalle
. Set in Paris, Aimee Leduc, a private investigator, is searching for Zazie, the 13-year-old daughter of her close café-owner friends. The search brings her in contact with a large group of colleagues, intimates, and flics (police). Following in the tradition of all good mysteries, her pregnant state does not impede her determination and skill at finding Zazie and restoring order. Starting slowly, the story plot picks up speed and complexity. I particularly like Rene
Friant, her sharply dressed partner in crime who stands four feet tall. So now I will begin with the first book and read the whole series, each set in a different section of the city. Complicated street maps of Paris are provided, but not really necessary to enjoy our heroine's headlong rush through the city streets as she finds solution of the crime, if not her life.
Ann's mother, Clara Whetstone of Kennebunk, occasionally chimes in with what she's been reading. When you're 93 years old (or young), you can read (eat, do) anything you like.
I love M.C. Beaton--the Hamish Macbeth series more than the Agatha Raisin books. Just finished the newest Hamish, Death of a Policeman. I read only a couple chapters at a time to make it last longer. I loved it, and so will Paula. Much too cozy for Ann.
Mainely Murders is an independent specialty mystery bookstore devoted exclusively to suspense, crime, and detective fiction. Our stock of used recent and hard-to-find hardcover, trade paper, and mass market volumes ranges from classics and cozies to tough guys and thrillers.