Taking time off from our monthly quiz this month. It was either that or reading; guess which won?
Congratulations to last month's winner Audrey Grumbling of Wells, who correctly named at least one mystery writer with books set in each of the following Scottish towns: Perth, Martin Claridge; St. Andrews, Bruce Durie; Kirkcudbright, Dorothy Sayers; Lewis/Outer Hebrides, Peter May; The Shetlands, Ann Cleeves.
Audrey was one of several newsletter readers who submitted correct answers (some of the towns are associated with more than one writer). We scientifically selected her from the proverbial hat (a Deerstalker, of course).
Anna Katherine Green
of The Leavenworth Case (1878), was born November 11, 1845. This classic novel, among the very first mysteries written by a woman, featured Ebenezer Gryce, a NYC police detective. She died in 1935.
Harry Kemelman, creator of one of the most famous clerical detectives, Rabbi David Small, was born November 14, 1900, in Boston. The first in the 11-book series, Friday the Rabbi Slept Late (1964), won the Edgar for Best First Novel. He died in 1996.
John Dickson Carr, known for his many locked-room mysteries, was born November 30, 1906, in Pennsylvania. Honored with the Grand Master Award in 1963 by the Mystery Writers of America, he also wrote under the pseudonym Carter Dickson. He died in 1977.
Large Print Books
We occasionally receive large print mysteries. While they are rarely the most recent releases, they run the gamut from contemporary to classics and from cozies to thrillers. Space constraints prevent us from putting them on our shelves, so please ask if you're interested.
Let Us Be Your NEW Bookstore, Too
You've shown how much you like our gently used books. They are, and will remain, our specialty. But, new releases are vitally important in today's book business.
We'd love to be your resource for new books, too. Let us order that just-published book--or one that's set to be released in the days or weeks ahead.
When you order a new book from us--or purchase one from our shelf of new releases--you'll become part of our exclusive New Book Club. Once you've bought five during the year--no need to keep track, we'll do it for you--you'll receive a $15 Mainely Murders gift card as our thanks
We've all seen what happens when small independent booksellers can no longer compete with, first, the big box stores, and, now, the internet giants. Think about it.
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.
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.
Can you hear us? We're in Glasgow, Scotland, now. The "sound" you hear in the background is pipe music. (Ann can never get enough of it!)
The other sound is Paula retching as Ann discusses "the many wonderful things they're doing today with Stornaway black pudding."
If you're a mystery lover, there's plenty of reason to be here. Bookstore shelves bulge with the genre. We're looking for longtime Scottish favorites--Ian Rankin,Val McDermid, Denise Mina, Caro Ramsay, Christopher Brookmyre, and Stuart MacBride--but we're getting a good sense of some of the newer rising stars like Craig Robertson, T. Frank Muir, and James Oswald and are very excited at our chance to bring home books by some of these writers.
If you're wondering, we packed lightly for our trip here--even knowing the changeability of Scottish weather--to leave room for more books on our return trip. OK, we both bought new raincoats, but we're wearing those--obviously.
We'll be back home in time to reopen the shop on Wednesday, November 12. (And, yes, Scottish shortbread cookies will be available for sampling.) After that, it will be business "as usual" until the end of December.
Hope to see you soon.
Paula & Ann
Partners in Crime
P.S. Books (and shortbread) aren't the only things we're bringing home. We're borrowing a wonderful idea from a bookstore here: mystery "grab bags." Each bag is filled with a selection (or two or three) from our stock--from the well-known to the self-published, from the coziest of cozies to the darkest of the noir, from Maine and New England to the international. You won't know until you open it. After all, it's a mystery. The limited-edition bags are $5 each, and available while supplies last.
A Scottish Read
When it comes to Scottish mystery writers, Ann is the super knowledgeable one. Paula maintains that when Ann talks of her favorite Tartan authors her voice actually takes on a bit of the Scottish burr. So, for those of you following our travels, Ann offers a bit of Scottish Mystery Primer.
Knowing that many might fear some of my book choices, I took the coward's way out. I'll categorize popular favorite authors by degree of grimness. So while we might not be reading the same authors, we shall be reading about the same country, more or less.
In the not-grim category (some would say cozy) are M.C. Beaton's
popular Highland detective Hamish Macbeth and Alexander McCall Smith's
Isabel Dalhousie Edinburgh stories. Lesser known and harder to find are the mysteries by C.F. Roe
featuring Jean Montrose, a doctor in the Perth region; those by Catriona McPherson
about the adventures of Dandy Gilver, a 1920s Scottish socialite; and those by Joyce Holms
about Edinburgh solicitor Tam Buchanan and his (slightly crazed) assistant Fizz Fitzgerald.
Medium (to me) are Ian Rankin's Edinburgh Inspector Rebus books; Denise Mina's Garnethill trilogy, Glasgow reporter Paddy Meehan trilogy (though I live in hopes of more), and Glasgow detective Alex Morrow series; Alex Gray's
Glasgow DCI Lorimer and profiler Dr. Soloman Brightman 10-book series; and Caro Ramsay's Glasgow Partickhill Station cop series.
Outside the major cities the most popular authors are Ann Cleeves for her Jimmy Perez Shetland Island tales, A.D. Scott for her books about Highland newspaper reporters in the 1950s, and Peter May for his Fin Macleod stories set on the Isle of Lewis.
Moving on, here are those in which the language,
sexual references, or gruesome murders may be a deterrent to some. (FYI, that includes Paula!) For Glasgow, there are Craig Robertson's
series featuring Detective Sergeant Rachel Narey and police photographer Tony Winter dealing with horrifying crimes, and Craig Russell's
Lennox series set in 1950s, when gangsters ruled and crime was rough--for instance, a Glasgow kiss was a head butt to the nose.
Allan Guthrie's violent novels show Edinburgh hard men clashing to the detriment of all around them. Aberdeen is represented by Stuart MacBride, whose Logan McRae books have cops who probably talk like cops do on the job, act like many cops do outside the job, and solve very violent crimes. Finally, there are the darkly, really darkly, satiric, clever mystery series by Christopher Brookmyre, set in both Glasgow (a police officer protagonist) and Edinburgh (a journalist protagonist).
If you are wondering why so many of the authors other than the not-grim ones set their books in Glasgow, consider that it is the second largest city in Britain and more than three times larger than Edinburgh, Britain's second most popular tourist destination. (It's really hard to beat that castle combined with the Georgian terraces.) And it has a great sense of energy, not all of it necessarily devoted to good ends.
We are first and foremost a mystery bookstore for readers--not collectors. But, we do have a limited inventory of titles signed by their authors.
Whether it's a favorite author of your own or you just want to delight a friend or relative with a signed edition from his or her favorite. (Did someone mention gift time?)
Here's a sampling of signed books. Unless noted, all are hard cover, first editions. Request complete list at firstname.lastname@example.org (subject line: signed books).
Parker, Robert B. Blue Screen, 2006 [$20]
Parker, Robert B. Looking for Rachel Wallace, 1980, 1st printing [$250]
Page, Katherine Hall. The Body in the Sleigh, 2009 [$20]
Gerritsen, Tess. The Surgeon (first in series), 2001, 1st printing [$30]
MacLeod, Charlotte. Wrack and Rune, 1982 [$25]
Evanovich, Janet. Metro Girl 2004 [$20]
Sanford, John. Mortal Prey, 2002 [$20]
Grimes, Martha. The Five Bells & Bladebone, 1987 [$20]
Black, Cara. Murder in the Latin Quarter, 2009 [$30]
Camilleri, Andrea. The Shape of Water, 2002 [$100]
Indridason, Arnaldur. Jar City, 2005 [$50]
Craig, Philip. Vineyard Enigma, 2002 [$30]
Connolly, John. The Burning Soul, 2011 [$30]
Spencer-Fleming, Julia. In The Bleak Midwinter, 2002 [$50]
Some questions have come up lately--and with some frequency--that might be interesting to others.
Q. Do you sell old, valuable mysteries? What's your most valuable book?
A: We're a bookstore for the reader, not the serious book collector. Our "collectables" are pretty much limited to the mass market "pulps" of the 40s-60s; and they're not particularly expensive. Our most "valuable" books are the ones that people come in looking for. We define our greatest value as being able to respond to our customers.
Q: Are you two really having as much fun as it looks
like you're having?
A: Absolutely. And, the day this is no longer fun will be the day that we'll close.
Q: Have you read every book in the store?
A: Nope. But because we have such different tastes we've read most of the authors. We actually use our long vacation to try authors we haven't had a chance to read (partly because we get hung up sometimes re-reading old favorites). FYI: Ann suggested we lie and say, "Yes, we are speed-reading geniuses." And then doubted that would fly.
What We're Reading
>Road Trip (Paula)
In the days preceding our departure for Scotland, I took a (virtual) road trip across America--courtesy of Akashic, the publisher of the popular Noir city series.
Since 2004, when it kicked off the series with
Brooklyn Noir, Akashic has produced more than 60 titles, more than half of those focusing on the noir tradition in urban America. In each, an editor associated with the city--e.g., Dennis Lehane was selected for Boston--introduces the collection.
What a great way for mystery fans to travel without leaving the comforts of their living rooms. I don't need to say I like to travel; to have met me is to know that. But, I should point out that I have a great affinity for short stories. Despite the view taken by too many--a "real" writer would have written a "real" book--I have the utmost respect for short stories and those who write them.
For my recent road trip, I "traveled" to two places: first, I went home to Portland, Oregon.
In Portland Noir, the writers take you on a real tour of the city; like most other titles in the series, a map, pinpointing the stories' locales, is provided.
My two favorites take place in the heart of the downtown. "Virigo," the story of a disgraced features editor for the Oregonian, is situated in the lively Pearl District of the city. "The Red Room" takes place in one of the best-known used bookstores in America, Powell Books.
After Portland, I zipped across country and dove into D.C. Noir. Not nearly as familiar to me as Portland, Washington always confuses me--so much crime and so much power.
As befitting the nation's Capitol (of crime?), Washington is clearly much darker than Portland.
Prize-winning writer George Pelecanos
is the editor of this Noir title. Good choice. A native of the city, he's written nearly 20 novels featuring almost every corner of D.C. and its environs.
Pelecanos himself kicks off the collection with a powerful piece that opens as a young man, a confidential informant (CI in "police speak"), sits with his father in the waiting room at a local Veterans' Hospital where "everyone looked uncomfortable and no one working in the hospital seemed to be in a hurry to do something about it." By the story's close some of those in the waiting room may have actually seen a doctor, but our CI won't live long enough to see one.
Laura Lippman, more associated with
nearby Baltimore--indeed, she's the editor of Akashic's Baltimore Noir--is a contributor to this volume, taking on upscale Chevy Chase. There, among the area's tonier residents, a single mother, bent on retaining her comfortable lifestyle, finds that a nasty divorce settlement and an unscrupulous lawyer leave her few options. After all, what's a gal to do??
Pelecanos and Lippman are the book's big-name writers, but another who spent more than 30 years in federal lockups, during which time he turned to writing, catches the reader's attention with his contribution.
Can't decide where my virtual road trip will take me next time--New Orleans? Los Angeles?--but Akashic's Noir short story collections will be a good place to start.
>Wallace Stroby (Ann)
It's such a pleasure to read Wallace Stroby's hardboiled stories about Crissa Stone, a career criminal, primarily a big-time robber. Like Parker, Richard Stark's career criminal, Stone is careful and professional. Guns are to intimidate people, not kill them.
Alas, others are rather less thoughtful. People get carried away about splitting the take, about using guns for no good reason, about trusting the wrong people. It's a mess sometimes no matter how much planning Stone puts into it.
In three books, and a fourth in progress, she works to get her lover out of prison after he didn't quite follow the rules he taught her and her daughter. Money, of course, is the key to both--and to a safe life. (Her financial "adviser" is almost worth the price of the books alone. He is very keen on art as an investment, but has not convinced her yet.)
If you like good writing (from a longtime newspaperman), strong women, and the problems of being a criminal (not a psychopath), Cold Shot in the Heart, Kings of Midnight, and Shoot the Woman First are the books for you. Just so fine.
Louise Penny Recommends
Canadian writer Louise Penny, whose latest book, The Long Way Home, recently debuted at the top of The New York Times booksellers list, was the top selling contemporary author last year at Mainely Murders; now, she's well on her way to the top again.
So, who's at the top of her reading list? None other than our very own Maine author Julia Spencer-Fleming. Indeed, Penny credits her with being instrumental in her early success.
If Spencer-Fleming--who, incidentally, lives just up the road in Buxton--isn't on your reading list, we suggest you correct that oversight. Her debut novel, In the Bleak Midwinter (2002), won just about every mystery award; since then, she's produced a myriad of highly acclaimed follow-ups to her series featuring Episcopal priest Clare Fergusson and Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne in Millers Kill, New York.
All eight titles are available, including her most recent, Through the Evil Days (2013).
Check out this sampling of November releases. For a more complete list visit
www.stopyourekillingme.com. And, please remember, you can order any new release directly from Mainely Murders.
David Baldacci, The Escape (John Puller #3)
Rita Mae Brown, Let Sleeping Dogs Lie (Sister Jane Arnold #9)
Michael Connelly, The Burning Room (Harry Bosch #18)
Patricia Cornwell, Flesh and Blood (Kay Scarpetta #22)
Robert Crais, The Promise (Elvis Cole and Joe Pike #16)
Charles Finch, The Laws of Murder (Charles Lenox #8)
Kate Flora, And Grant You Peace (Joe Burgess #4)
Karin Fossum, The Murder of Harriet Krohn (Konrad #7)
Peter James, Want You Dead (Roy Grace #10)
Quintin Jardine, Hour of Darkness (Bob Skinner #24)
Alexander McCall Smith, The Handsome Man's Deluxe Café (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #15)
Eliot Pattison, Soul of Fire (Shan Tao Yun #8)
James Patterson, Hope to Die (Alex Cross #22)
James Patterson and Ashwin Sanghi,
Private India (Private #8)
Anne Perry, A New York Christmas (Christmas #12)
Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child,
Blue Labyrinth (Alossius Pendergast #14)
Ruth Rendell, The Girl Next Door
Lisa Scottoline, Betrayed (Rosato & Associates #13)
David Wishart, Finished Business (Marcus Corvinus #16)
While we've been away, others have been at home reading. One of those is Helen Kitzman of Madison, Connecticut, who really should be placed on our payroll because her reviews appear so regularly in our newsletter.
One of my first reading excursions outside the "safe" mystery worlds of Britain and the U.S. was to Florence, where I enjoyed the not-so tranquil world of Salvatore Guarnaccia as created by Magdalen Nabb. Following in the footsteps of many procedurals, Guarnaccia fits the stereotypical provincial policeman (a member of the Italian Carabinieri) who spends his days with little old ladies, scruffy youngsters, and tough-talking characters who are usually up to no good. Suffering the heat, his watery eyes, and his sore feet, he charms all he meets with his perpetual wish to restore tranquility to a misbegotten world. Nabb's later mysteries are much more bitter than her early stories, but the first
four, the "Death" series, especially her first, Death of an Englishman, are delightfully light. In contrast to Donna Leon, who captures a Venice slowly, but inevitably, sinking in water, hordes of visiting tourists, and a corrupt governmental bureaucracy, Nabb portrays a gentler day when one clever, resolute man could still restore order.
Helen also gives a thumbs-up nod to Rhys Bowen, the British-born writer of two current mystery series, the Molly Murphy novels, about an Irish immigrant in the early 1900s New York City, and the Royal Spyness mysteries, about a penniless minor royal in 1930s Britain. An earlier series followed a constable in Wales.
Starting with her Constable Evans contemporary mysteries, I have continued to read Rhys Bowen as she moved to her two historical series, one revolving around the life of "private investigator" Molly Murphy, an Irish immigrant in 1920s New York City, and now a second focusing on the trials of Lady Georgiana Rannoch, a distant member, and a poor one at that, of the British royalty of the 1930s. Keeping up with the yearly output from this author is not easy. All three series are delightful froth in the tradition of the two series of M.C. Beaton. The escapades and the characters move the plots with, of course, a little romance thrown in for added enjoyment. Agatha Christie is alive and well these days with these two.
While we know for a fact that Helen Kitzman is an experienced world traveler, she admits that, other than her favorite British classics, she'd much prefer to stay "at home" in her mystery selections.
In the Western tradition of Tony Hillerman, C.J. Box
is producing a formidable series focusing on the exploits of Joe Pickett, a Wyoming game warden. Who would have thought that checking on fishing and shooting licenses could be so fraught with danger? Still, Box paints a full picture of the wind and the stillness, the snow and the thunder of Wyoming, and the effect that the great outdoors has on men's often baser instincts. In an often-uneasy alliance, Joe and his longtime friend Nate
Romanowski, who inhabits caves and trees with his falcons, pose the ethical dilemma of men caught in the tangled web of compartmentalized life in a rigid world. Who is the victor, and at what cost?
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.