After several months on the lam, our quizmaster is back.
Sometimes readers confuse fictional protagonists with their authors. In fact, some authors admit that they frequently make their heroes and heroines idealized versions of themselves.
Name the author (and the character) who often called her protagonist "a stripped-down version of me" but "thinner, younger, and braver."
Send your answer to email@example.com
(subject line: quiz). A prizewinner (a $25 gift card) will be randomly drawn from correct submissions.
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 gems.
Phoebe Atwood Taylor, best known for her Asey Mayo Cape Cod mysteries, was born May 18, 1909, in Boston. The series, beginning with The Cape Cod Mystery (1931), numbered 24. As Alice Tipton, she wrote mysteries featuring Leonidas Witherall, retired academic and secret pulp fiction author. She died in 1976.
Margery Allingham, born
May 20, 1904, in London, was the creator of Albert Campion, the suave London sleuth with noble blood. Allingham is one of our biggest English classic sellers. In all, she wrote some 20 Campion mysteries, starting with The Crime at Black Dudley (1929). She died in 1966.
Arthur Conan Doyle
May 22, 1859, in Edinburgh, wrote more than 50 books on numerous subjects during his career, but will be forever remembered for his creation of Sherlock Holmes. His first Holmes book, A Study in Scarlet
, was published in 1887. Doyle died in 1930, but the Holmes legacy is as strong as ever.
, born May 25, 1894, in Maryland, was master of the hard-boiled school of mysteries. Indeed, he was one who helped define it. While known for his Continental Op series (including The Dain Curse
) and Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon
), he created one of our favorite mystery couples, Nick and Nora Charles, in The Thin Man
(1934). He died in 1961.
, who set
the bar for writing about Native Americans, was born May 27, 1925, in Oklahoma. Lt. Joe Leaphorn and Sgt. Jim Chee, of the Navajo tribal police, were at the center of most of Hillerman's
18 books. The Mystery Writers of America presented him with the 1991 Grand Master Award. He died in 2008.
, the creator of the world's best-known spy, James Bond, was born May 28, 1908, in London. A one-time British intelligence agent, Fleming
wrote his first Bond book, Casino Royale
, in 1953. After his death in 1964, other writers picked up the Agent 007 reins.
May 29, 1874, in London and died in 1936. Although he was a massively prolific writer, his fame today rests principally on a few of his popular books on Christianity and on his five books of short stories featuring Father Brown, a Roman Catholic priest who solves crimes through his understanding of human evil.
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)
Remember, if you've taken your Mainely Murders bag on a trip, let us know. Send your photo (jpg) and details to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for supporting
Mainely Murders and other small independent booksellers. At a time when you have other choices, 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.
With success, our bookshelf space grows tighter. So, too, does parking for customers.
You're welcome to park in our driveway. Street parking is available, as is space in the lot across Bourne Street.
While our neighbor, the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, and Wells Water District, has been great about our customers parking in its lot, we know that spaces there are at a premium during the week until 3:30. Feel free to park there on Saturday.
Our gift cards are available in any amount. The perfect gift for the holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, or "just because."
We're happy to take mail/phone orders and will send to you or directly to the recipient.
A week from today we open on our ninth year. In some ways it seems like only yesterday that we looked out on that first day, and asked each other, "Is this really a good idea? Will we spend all of our time sitting in the shop alone?"
Nine years later, it appears it was. And we rarely sit here alone.
Since returning from our winter travels--our usual Paris destination as well as some French side trips to Brittany and Normandy, plus a week in Scotland--we've been out on the road searching for books.
In our nine years, we've found that stocking our shelves with quality used books has become more difficult. There are fewer books available--perhaps impacted by the popularity of e-books--and prices have steadily increased.
But, rest assured that one week from today we'll be open with a full stock. In the meantime, there are still books to be unpacked and shelved and a shop to be readied.
We look forward to seeing you soon.
Introducing Nick and Nora
Every bookstore needs a mascot. Most often, it seems, they're of the feline variety, so people often assume a black cat resides somewhere amidst all the books. A dog--perhaps a bloodhound--sounds good; and with a water bowl outside the door, people often look for one.
Alas, we have neither. But, last fall when we spotted this grand and glorious pair of domestic fowl and realized what they'd add to our Garden Plot, we knew we'd found our mascots. No pet minding to keep us from our reading and, more importantly, no guilt when we travel.
They would be perfect. All they needed were names and we asked you for suggestions. We received numerous ideas. But, none seemed to fit until we watched one of our favorite madcap mysteries, The Thin Man, and there they were: Nick and Nora Charles from the pen of Dashiell Hammett.
As a thank you, we randomly drew from those who contributed names for a $25 Mainely Murders gift card. Congratulations to Peggy Gage of Yarmouth. Peggy suggested Mischief and Mayhem, which we also thought quite appropriate. We'll remember that if our flock multiplies.
Don't Forget Mom
Sunday, May 12, is Mother's Day. We've got it on good authority that Mom is very likely a mystery reader. We know that our own mothers were devoted mystery lovers.
And, a word to the wise: Father's Day is Sunday, June 16.
Apparently, our customers just can't resist mysteries, especially when they're packaged in bright colored bags and come with clues.
Our popular Mystery Grab Bags are back this year. We're kicking off the season with a number of new selections as well as old favorites like Culinary Crimes, Murder Is Academic, and Legal Eagles.
Each bag ($5) contains three books from our stock, each tied to a particular theme.
Our Traveling Book Bag
We weren't the only ones traveling over the winter. Indeed, we're always impressed by our well-traveled customers. This one, however, brought about the jealousy in us: Cuba.
Long off-limits to Americans, not so to our lucky Canadian friends.
George McCaffrey and Alan Tibbetts of Saint John, New Brunswick, made their third holiday visit in March to Cuba, a place they say they have come to love. "The people are so genuine and friendly and the Cuban culture is wonderful. Can't wait to return!"
Their Mainely Murders book bag-turned-beach bag was perfect for a day at one of the country's beautiful beaches.
If this piques your interest in mysteries set in Cuba, check out our Caribbean section and the books of authors Peggy Blair and Leonardo Padura.
What We're Reading
Laurie R. King: One Author, So Many Stories (Paula)
I can't be the only one to whom this happens. I read the latest book in an author's long-standing series and fall in love with it all over again, sending me all the way back to the beginning.
Most recently it was Laurie R. King and her Mary Russell (and mentor/later husband Sherlock Holmes) series. Island of the Mad (2018) has the couple attempting to track down the "mad aunt" of one of Russell's old Oxford friends, a case that she wants no part of, but how does one say "No" to an old friend?
The search takes them from a London mental hospital, the Bethlem Royal Hospital, better known as Bedlam, to the canals and islands of Venice.
I've loved Mary Russell ever since her debut in King's The Beekeeper's Apprentice (1994). As far as I'm concerned, she makes a far better "Watson" than, well, Dr. John Watson himself, a view that Mary shares and isn't timid about offering whenever Holmes' old partner makes an appearance.
While Island of the Mad is among my favorite stories, I recommend that readers new to the series start at the beginning with The Beekeeper's Apprentice in order to get the backstory of the collaboration (in work and life) of the characters. Long-time readers of the series have come to appreciate the frequent references to earlier vexing "cases."
King's award-winning first series about San Francisco detective Kate Martinelli is also a favorite of mine. Indeed, her two series cleverly overlap in The Art of Detection.
Helen MacInnes: Assignment in Brittany (Ann)
Our customers are serious mystery readers. So once again, we were caught in a serious oversight. When recently writing about Breton books, I forgot about one of the great classic spy stories--Assignment in Brittany written by Helen MacInnes--until reminded by "Dee from Masschusetts," a faithful (and mysterious) newsletter reader. I felt so guilty I reread it. It holds up well after a slowish start where the complicated backstory is established; then the pace picks up.
MacInnes and her husband, who did in fact work as a spy for the British, traveled widely in Europe before the Second World War and were disturbed by what they saw in Germany. MacInnes even took notes. Assignment in Brittany was her second book, largely written in 1941 about a year after the fall of France in June 1940 and well before the outcome of the war was evident.
A British spy Martin Hearne is sent to an area
inland from St. Malo, Brittany, on the coast. Impersonating Bertrand Corlay, a wounded Breton soldier who was evacuated from Dunkirk, Hearne returns to a small town close to vital supply lines for the Germans to gather whatever information he can.
The picture of small-town Brittany, now in decline and a source of many supporters of the Gillets Jaunes, the current French protest movement, is remarkably true as is the portrayal of Breton nationalism. The challenges of and complications from impersonating another are made quite clear. And so are the difficulties and dangers of contacting one's "friends." Her descriptions were so realistic that the British required spies in training to read the book.
Mostly I concluded that I did not want to be a spy. Fortunately. Very few people find me a convincing actress. I'd be dead in a minute.
Dale Brown, The Kremlin Strike [McLanahan et al. #23]
Jeffrey Deaver, The Never Game [Colter Shaw #1]
Janet Evanovich and Peter Evanovich, The Big Kahuna [Fox & O'Hare #6]
Agnete Friis, The Summer of Ellen [NS]
Elly Griffiths, The Stone Circle [Ruth Galloway #11]
Steve Hamilton, An Honorable Assassin [Nick Mason #3]
David Housewright, Dead Man's Mistress [Rushmore McKenzie #16]
Ragnar Jónasson, The Island [Hulda Hermannsdottir #2]
Michael Koryta, If She Wakes [NS]
Dean Koontz, The Night Window [Jane Hawk #5]
Owen Laukkanen, Deception Cove [NS]
Sujata Massey, The Satapur Moonstone [Perveen Mistry #2]
Deon Meyer, The Woman in the Blue Cloak [Benny Griessel #6]
Katherine Hall Page, The Body in the Wake [Faith Fairchild #25]
Chris Pavone, The Paris Diversion [Expats sequel]
Kate White, Such a Perfect Wife [Bailey Weggins #8]
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Whether reading the newsletter or visiting the shop, I'm always struck with the difference in your reading styles. Is the gap as wide as it seems?
A: (Ann) Not really, we actually like many of the same authors. But, that might make us sound boring; we like to avoid that.
While it's true that my tastes skew darker than Paula's, we probably agree on books more than people might think.
We both love the classic Brits: Agatha Christie, Josephine Tey, Dorothy Sayers, and the like, only differing on some of the "lesser" authors. I like Georgette Heyer, Christianna Brand, and Catherine Aird more than Paula, for instance, and she favors Anthony Berkeley/Francis Iles, C.K. Chesterton, and John Bude.
We're both big fans of the Scandinavians. Indeed, we're always on the hunt for new international mysteries of almost any ilk.
While I read more of the big-name American writers, with action-adventure at the top of my list, Paula, who professes to abhor them, loves Daniel Silva because of the art focus.
Oddly, it's on one of our lesser categories, humorous mysteries, that we agree the most. Neither of us could stop laughing with last year's discovery of L.C. Tyler's duo of Ethelred Tressider and Elsie Thirkettle. This year, it's been Nury Vittachi's Feng Shui Detective series.
Often, of course, we try not to read the same things. There's only so much time, especially in the summer when we can have difficulty finding the time to read authors we already love. It's better if one of us can say, "Hey, I really liked that" or "I think you would find this author excessively bloody." Even if we only got that information second hand. What good are we if we have nothing new to tell you?
Scandinavia reigns supreme among our English translations. Our best sellers include many Icelanders, and the two series of Ragnar Jónasson, a relative newcomer, have steadily gained popularity.
Mystery blogger (and customer and friend) Marilyn Brooks of Needham, Massachusetts, is also a fan of Jónasson and his newest title, Rupture.
Rupture, Ragnar Jónasson (2019)
For a very small country--its population is under 350,000--Iceland appears to have a lot of crime.
Things have been quiet, too quiet, in Siglufjördur.The small town is under quarantine due to a deadly virus brought by a traveler from Africa. Sadly, the man died the day after he arrived, and one of the nurses caring for him died shortly after that. So, the shops, schools, museum, and library are all closed, and the streets are deserted.
The unnatural silence leaves police detective Ari Thór with time to follow up on a rather strange request. A man called Hédinn comes to the police station to explain why he is seeking Ari Thór's help. Hédinn tells him that 50 years ago his parents, along with his mother's sister and her husband, bought land in a remote, uninhabited fjörd miles from anywhere. Hédinn was born the year after the four moved there, and the five of them left the year after that, so obviously he has no memories of his birthplace.
Now Hédinn tells the detective he wants to get to the bottom of the tragic event that occurred shortly after his birth. His aunt died, the cause of her death uncertain. She drank rat poison, there was no way to summon a doctor or ambulance in time, and she died shortly after ingesting it. At the time the official version was that it was a terrible accident that happened because the poison was kept in a cupboard near the sugar, which it closely resembled, but Hédinn says there were always suspicions that it was either suicide or murder, both equally difficult to prove.
Now Hédinn has received a photo taken by his uncle. In it are his mother, his father, his aunt, and himself as an infant being held by a young, unknown man. He wants Ari Thór to find out the identity of the man, what he was doing at their remote home, and, if he is alive, what he knows about what happened to the aunt.
At the same time, there's another story line, where a very different scenario is being played out in Iceland's capital city. Róbert and his girlfriend Sunna are living in Reykjavik with her toddler son. While Sunna and her sister are having lunch, the boy is abducted from his pram outside the restaurant where they are eating. They can see Kjartan from their table, but in the minute that the women take their eyes off him, the child is taken away.
Kidnapping is almost unheard of in Iceland, and it immediately comes to the attention of the police that an incident in Róbert's past may be the reason that Kjartan was taken. Róbert has never divulged his secret to Sunna, its guilt and shame still all too prevalent in his mind several years after the terrible event, but the investigating detective tells him, "You had better come clean. Otherwise I'll have to tell her, in my own words, just why her son was abducted by a stranger."
I've reviewed three of Ragnar Jónasson's earlier books on my own blog, so it's obvious that I am very much a fan. His portrayal of Iceland and its people is masterful and gives the reader an insight into how the climate and culture of the country play an important role in the lives of its people.