Our Best Sellers
Rarely does a week go by that we don't hear the question, "What are your best sellers?" For a shop like Mainely Murders that specializes in used books, we interpret that as meaning our best-selling authors.
Our crystal ball hasn't yet told us who will lead the sales figures in 2014, but here's a breakdown of our top-selling authors for 2013.
Many, if not all, of the writers in the American category are formally listed as "fiction" in bookstores and libraries. Somehow, most popular mystery writers become "novelists" when they get a huge following. Guess they've become better writers . . .
In any case, they sell, often like mad. All have very popular series characters (in the case of Patterson more than one). Indeed, only Harlan Coben and James Patterson produce many non-series books.
* Lee Child
* Harlan Coben
* Vince Flynn
* James Patterson
* Louise Penny
* Kathy Reichs
* Daniel Silva
American classics may not be as popular as British, but they are consistent sellers for us. Most of those on our list fall into the PI category, America's biggest contribution to the mystery genre.
* Dashiell Hammett
* John D. Macdonald
* Robert B. Parker
* Richard Stark/Donald Westlake
* Rex Stout
Only the Stark books represent America's darker
contribution, noir. While Stark is not on the level of Jim Thompson, Cornell Woolrich, James M. Cain, and the like, at least his books have been reprinted enough to be moderately plentiful. Because the dark, some would say twisted, aspect of these books is not to everyone's taste, noirs are often hard to find.
Some wonderful mystery writers call Maine home, and we sell a lot of them. After all, we are Mainely Murders! During the summer months, many a vacationer or visitor heads directly to that section, in search of a "good old-fashion Maine murder." In 2013, our top-selling Maine authors were:
* Gerry Boyle
* Paul Doiron
* Tess Gerritsen
* Sarah Graves
* David Rosenfelt
In addition to these five current authors, two others topped last year's list: the late Dutch writer Janwillem van de Wetering, who spent much of his life in Maine and who set two of his Amsterdam police procedurals here; and J.S. Borthwick (b. 1923), who has not had an addition to her 13-book Sarah Deane/Alex McKenzie series since 2007.
Regional (non-Maine) writers are also popular among our customers. Last year, the top sellers were:
* Dennis Lehane
* Archer Mayer
* Katherine Hall Page
Completing our top five were Jane Langton
(b. 1922), whose 18th book in her series featuring ex-cop/Harvard professor Homer Kelly, was published in 2005; and the late Philip Craig, who penned more than 20 titles starring J.W. Jackson, an ex-Boston cop on Martha's Vineyard.
The "Brits" ruled last year--among both contemporary and classic/classic-style authors. And, they took us all over the map.
Our top British writers in this category share one thing: a very strong sense of place. Each has a wonderful ability to transport the reader to a very specific location. For those of us who have visited these places, it's like going home.
* Kate Atkinson (Edinburgh)
* Tana French (Dublin)
* Elly Griffiths (Norfolk)
* P.D. James (London)
* Peter Lovesey (London, Bath, West Sussex)
* Ruth Rendell (Sussex and more)
British Classic Style
Day in and day out, British books sell. British classics sell exceptionally well. Sometimes the sales are due to our recommendations (Josephine Tey comes to mind here), but most often customers simply want to return to old favorites or fill in blanks in their own collection or their local library's.
It helps, of course, that these books are clever, well-written, and often funny. And except for Tey, there are lots of them. Lots to hunt for, lots to look forward to. And through TV and movies, it's a familiar world. No longer real perhaps, but familiar.
* Catherine Aird
* Margery Allingham
* Robert Barnard
* Agatha Christie
* Reginald Hill
* Patricia Moyes
* Josephine Tey
European (Non-Nordic) and Asian
Our biggest sellers in this (somewhat strange) category beg the question: "Customers really do listen to Paula's recommendations?" Our top sellers were her "2013 favorites" pick and all evince a very strong sense of place:
* Cara Black (Paris)
* Andrea Camilleri (Sicily)
* Donna Leon (Venice)
* Martin Walker (rural France)
* Oiu Xiaolong (Shanghai)
Ann asks: "Can anyone see what I have to deal with?"
English mysteries in translation have always been popular in Nordic countries, so it's only fair that now Nordic mysteries in translation should be so popular in English-speaking countries. This despite the fact that the crime rate is significantly lower than either Britain or the U.S.
The picture of Nordic life is perhaps not as idealized or demonized as that in the American press. In the Scandinavia of mysteries, the inadequate integration of immigrants is often a key feature in the story as is its sometimes dark political past. And, of course, bodies litter the landscape--as they so seldom do in real life.
* Anne Holt
* Arnaldur Indridason
* Camilla Lackberg
* Henning Mankell
* Jo Nesbo
* Helene Tursten
Cozies, the gentler side of the mystery genre, are enormously popular. From Victorian housekeepers to innkeepers, to cantankerous spinsters, these amateur detectives can be witty and clever. Our biggest sellers last year:
* Emily Brightwell
* Laura Childs
* Carola Dunn
* Hazel Holt
* Kate Kingsbury
* Leslie Meier
* Ann Purser
The strength of these books is that crimes are not gory or ugly. They let you escape from the everyday world most of us inhabit. Nice people win and bad people lose. It's an excellent vision.
By and large the really popular historical series cover the Victorian era to the present, often with a focus on wars and the impact of wars on those who survived. The exceptions, Tremayne and Jecks, feature respectively a 7th-century Irish lawgiving sister and a 14th-century Knight Templar who returns to England on the extermination of his order.
* Alan Furst
* Michael Jecks
* Philip Kerr
* Anne Perry
* Charles Todd
* Peter Tremayne
The historical accuracy of these books is of a pretty high order. (That matters to Dr. Ann, Ph.D in history.) Jecks in particular is very well regarded. Furst is very strong--and gives a brilliant picture of the interwar period in particular. But, of course, the real issue is the mysteries, and they are good.