Reginald Hill was born on
April 3, 1936, in County Durham, England. His best-known books featured Superintendent Andrew Dalziel and Sergeant Peter Pascoe. He also wrote under the name Patrick Ruell. He died in 2012.
was born on April 12, 1947, in Baltimore and died there, a loyal son of the city, in 2013. At age 37, after a number of years in the insurance business, his book The Hunt for Red October
was published and transformed military thrillers with its detailed and accurate technical descriptions. It also led Clancy
to write 18 books that sold 100 million-plus copies and helped him become part owner of the Baltimore Orioles, among other achievements.
was born April
23, 1899, in Christchurch, New Zealand. Her popular series featuring Roderick Alleyn, second son of a baronet and a police inspector in London, numbered 32 books, written between 1934 and 1982. The Mystery Writers of America presented her with its Grand Master Award in 1978, four years before her death.
Along with Agatha Christie,
Margery Allingham, and
Dorothy Sayers, Marsh is credited with creating the ever-popular "traditional" English detective story.
, born April 24, 1940, in Louisville, Kentucky, was best known for her Kinsey Milhone "alphabet mysteries" (1982-2017). Writing TV screenplays honed her plotting and characterization skills and led to the almost instant success of the Kinsey series. She received the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America in 2009. Her death in 2017 forever ended the alphabet with the letter "Y."
Mysterious Grab Bags
Our customers love a mystery, even more when combined with a bargain.
Last year, they purchased more than 200 of our colorful mystery grab bags. Each $5 sealed bag contains three books, tied to a single clue (Murder Is Academic, Meow for Murder, These Gumshoes Wear High Heels.)
"I pick one or two every time I'm there," writes one customer. Another, with an affinity for food-related cozies, often purchases every Culinary Crimes bag we have, including those in the back room, when she visits, once leaving with eight.
Book Buying Policy
We're often contacted by people selling books--whether individual titles or complete collections.
Be aware that we buy books on a limited basis, according to our need for individual titles. Books on our shelves reflect only part of our stock.
We no longer buy hardback editions.
In order to be considered for purchase, trade paper and mass market paper editions must be in very good-excellent physical condition and must pass the "smell test" (no mildew or smoke).
We continue to accept donated books--as long as they meet our criteria for condition. We do, however, stipulate that such books may be passed along to a library or other non-profit organizations.
If you find yourself with quantities of unwanted books, we suggest you contact your local library. Library sales are great.
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.
This month, our hope is that you are well and safe in this very different world.
Last year at this time we were preparing to return from our usual winter abroad and looking ahead to our spring buying trips before opening in May.
This year, we scrambled home from Paris, where we, like everyone else, were in a government-ordered "lock down" in response to the Coronavirus pandemic that has swept the world. Now, for a few days still, we remain under a 14-day self-quarantine. There are no book-buying trips on the horizon because as most of you already know, there are no book sales.
Like businesses everywhere, the immediate future of Mainely Murders is unclear, dependent as it is ridding all of us from the risks posed by Covid-19.
We are far more fortunate than many small businesses. Our winter closings free up resources that many businesses must draw from during the traditional slow months. Then, too, our overhead has always been kept to a minimum (as you all know from the size of the shop). So, we want you to know that we have every intention of re-opening whenever possible.
Now, as always, we want to thank you--our loyal customers and friends--for the support you've shown us. In the last two months, both in Europe and now back home, so many of you have reached out with concern.
When the time comes--and we believe it will--we look forward to welcoming you to our 10th year. In the meantime, we will keep in touch. Even in uncertain times like this, we can still share our passion for the world of mystery and detective fiction. As always, this world provides respite from today's world.
Until next time, be well and safe.
Paula & Ann
New This Month
Remembering Barbara Neely
Barbara Neely, creator of the first black female sleuth series in mainstream American publishing, died March 2. She was 78.
Named the 2020 Grand Master by the Mystery
Writers of America, Neely
was described by the group last year as "a groundbreaking author" who "tackles tough social issues with an unflinching eye and a wry sense of humor."
Neely was perhaps best known for her four-book Blanche White series, featuring a nomadic amateur detective and domestic worker who uses the invisibility inherent to her job as an advantage in pursuit of the truth.
The first in the series, Blanche on the Lam (1992), a multiple award winner, was followed by Blanche Among the Talented Tenth, Blanche Cleans Up, and Blanche Passes Go.
She once told Ms. Magazine, "I realized the mystery genre was perfect to talk about serious subjects and it could carry the political fiction I wanted to write"--issues like racism, sexism, violence against women, and class boundaries.
Throughout her life as her readers might expect, Neely was a political activist and advocate for the disadvantaged.
At last! Good news for fans of Julia Spencer-Fleming's beloved Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series.
After a seven-year absence, Clare and Russ return this month in Hid From Our Eyes, the first new title since Through the Evil Days in 2013.
Clare and Russ are confronted with a challenge like no other--three almost-identical murders, involving dead women in party dresses with no obvious cause of death, but set decades apart.
Rarely does a day go by that someone doesn't ask us, "What's the best book you've read lately?"
The Hunting Party
"Unreliable narrator" is a watch phrase for today's explosion of psychological suspense titles. Lucy Foley goes one better; she's got a book full of them when a group of thirty-something friends (frenemies?) from Oxford travel to a remote estate in northern Scotland to celebrate the New Year. One of them is a murderer; and one (maybe more) won't make it out alive.
How The Dead Speak
Not to be confused with nice, Val McDermid is one of Scotland's best writers. Whether this one (Tony Hill and Carol Jordan #11) or any of her other series or standalones, she nails it every time.
The Poison Will Remain
An unconventional investigative team of misfits is led by Inspector Jean-Baptist Adamsburg, the most off-beat of all. Mix with the most irregular means of murder and here's another great read from a master among today's French writers.
In Tursten's new series starring Embla Nystrom, a 28-year-old detective in a regional crime unit, increasingly dangerous incidents (poisonous snake in the outhouse being an early one) mar the comradery of the annual moose hunt. A good book to read if you think life in Sweden is much like that in the U.S. It isn't really, not even in Minnesota.
The Poison Garden
If you like noir tales featuring strong women, Alex Marwood is one of the best (along with Megan Abbott). It is, of course, a good idea not to confuse strong and good. The Poison Garden starts with a mass cult killing and then becomes ever more chilling, a masterful feat.
In the Beginning
It's happened to most of us. We pick up a book and are completely hooked by the opening line. We asked readers to weigh in on their favorite.
Brian McCoubrey of Wakefield, Massachusetts, says his son turned him on to the writings of James Crumley, whose The Last Good Kiss (1978) opened with this eye-catching line:
"When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon."
Barbara Pursley of Lubbock, Texas, an admirer of the books of Rex Stout, says now that she's retired and has more time, she's reading her collection of all the Nero Wolfe books in order. She offers up the opening line from one of her favorites, The Black Mountain (1954):
"That was the one and only time Nero Wolfe has ever seen the inside of the morgue."
Two readers agreed on the best opening line selection. Suzanne Tamiesie of Lake Oswego, Oregon, says the line has stuck in her mind since she first read it at the age of 12. Frances Manganiello of Somerville, Massachusetts, is in agreement, submitting this often-quoted line from Daphne de Maurier's Rebecca (1938):
"Last night I dreamt I went to Mandalay again."
How important to you are those first few words? Do you have a memorable opening from mystery/detective fiction? Share it at email@example.com (subject line: opening lines).
Traveling Book Bag
Nearly two years ago, Linda Healey gave up her home in Kennebunk for life on the open road. Since then, she (and her dog, Gatsby) have crisscrossed the country--first pulling a trailer behind and more recently in her self-contained van.
Along the way, Linda's seen much of the country and done a lot of reading. The Southwest desert has proved to be her favorite. Maybe it's been all those Tony Hillerman books she's read over the years. A native New Englander, Linda says, "There's something about being out in the wide open spaces, parked alongside a stream or river, and looking up at the stars."
What We're Reading
The Rabbit Hunter, Lars Kepler (Ann)
Scandinavians, especially Swedes, seem to be nearly as suspicious of their national government and security forces as Americans. Only for them it's almost always the hereditary privileged class that sees no moral limits as it pursues its lust for wealth, power, and outré sexual activities.
This is the ultimate action-adventure revenge book, and the mysteries are why and who, not always the case in revenge books. The victims are not generally sympathetic people (vast understatement) but many people will probably not want to read the extremely graphic details of their deaths. (I didn't actually, which is why I haven't read a lot of Kepler.) It's telling that the authors (a wife-husband team) recommend Lotte and Soren Hammer'sThe Hanging, another seriously dark Scandinavian revenge book.
While Joona and Saga are the good security operatives, the rest of the Swedish security forces not so much. They cover up hideous crimes by powerful people, brutalize the innocent to keep them quiet, and proclaim every security mission a success, no matter how dismal the real outcome.
This is really not the book for optimists or those who have faith in major institutions. Pretty much right up my alley.
The Killing Tide, Jean-Luc Bannalec (Paula)
There are several writers whose newest release dates are marked on my calendar. Jean-Luc Bannalec is one.
I've been a fan of his series featuring Brittany Commissaire Georges Dupin since his first, Death in Pont-Aven (APA Death in Brittany), in which the former Parisian detective is exiled to the farthest reaches of France.
The author, actually a German, has not only turned me into an admirer of his books but also of the beautiful Brittany coast, a place we've visited multiple times since that first book.
In The Killing Tide, a murder of a young woman sends Commissaire Dupin and his team offshore to a sparsely populated island (rabbits outnumber people) where secrets and myths (witches and even the devil himself) seem more important than finding a killer.
On tiny Île de Sein, there are fishermen (and women), dolphin researchers, treasure hunters, and smugglers, all with secrets, none of which they're willing to share with the police--not even to catch the killer of a native daughter.
The Killing Tide, the 5th title in the series, still finds Dupin the most human of characters with his crime-solving eccentricities and his personal foibles--caffeine addiction, claustrophobia, mother "issues," fear of boats, and all sorts of angst.
As in his previous books, Bannalec shows his abiding love of Brittany. Think Martin Walker (Bruno, Chief of Police) and his love of the Perigord. It's all here, the rich atmosphere filled with the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the place Commissaire Dupin has come to cherish.
For admirers like me who forever worry about the end of a series, take comfort in the fact that three titles remain untranslated. I'll be waiting.
Barbara Allan, Antiques Fire Sale [Trash 'n Treasures #14]
Cara Black, Three Hours in Paris [NS]
Marcia Clark, Final Judgement [Samantha Brinkman #4]
Lee Goldberg, Fake Truth [Ian Ludlow #3]
C.S. Harris, Who Speaks for the Damned [Sebastian St. Cyr #15]
Susan Hill, The Benefit of Hindsight [Simon Serrailler #10]
Kay Hooper, Hidden Salem [Bishop Special Crimes Unit #4]
Anna Lee Huber, A Stroke of Malice [Lady Darby #8]
Luke Jennings, Killing Eve: Endgame [Killing Eve #3]
Alexander McCall Smith, The Talented Mr. Varg [Ulf Varg #2]
Sara Paretsky, Dead Land [V.I. Warshawski #20]
Eliot Pattison, The King's Beast [Duncan McCallum #6]
Anne Perry, One Fatal Flaw [Daniel Pitt #3]
*Julia Spencer-Fleming, Hid From Our Eyes [Clare Ferguson & Russ Van Alstyne #9]
Victoria Thompson, Murder on Pleasant Avenue [Gaslight #23]
Kate White, Have You Seen Me? [NS]
Our friend and customer Marilyn Brooks of Needham, Massachusetts, is back at it, shepherding mystery fans through another series at the Brandeis Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (BOLLI) at Brandeis University.
While BOLLI, like most academic programs, cancelled its current semester's offerings, Marilyn and her students opted to carry on via Zoom.
In the sixth edition of her popular course, Marilyn is taking on Whodunit?: A Study in Sidekicks. Because, like you, she's a friend of Mainely Murders, you needn't be enrolled in the course to get in on the fun. She's provided a reading list, and an introduction, for those who want to read along.
Frankly, I don't usually think about sidekicks when I pick up a detective story. The main focus, of course, is on the detective and not any assistant she/he may have. But then I realized how many of my favorite authors have incorporated interesting, charismatic, funny, frightening, but always ultimately fascinating, seconds-in-command.
The first sidekick that comes to most readers' minds is Sherlock Holmes' Dr. John Watson.Of course, everyone knows that Holmes was the one who solved the crimes, but if you read the short stories and novels carefully you can see how much the good doctor contributed. Sometimes it was his medical knowledge, sometimes his willingness to bring his gun along to a possibly dangerous encounter, sometimes simply his obvious admiration of his friend's abilities, that made this twosome work.
That said, Arthur Conan Doyles's
The Sign of the Four (1890), the author's 2nd Sherlock Holmes title, is where our reading begins. It was a time of gaslight rather than electricity, mail and telegrams rather than email and cell phones, hansom cabs instead of cars, but the personalities and characteristics of Watson and Holmes still resonate with readers today.
Then, on to the 20th century and a veritable who's who of American mystery sidekicks:
* The League of Frightened Men, Rex Stout. [Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin]
* The Promised Land, Robert B. Parker. [Hawk and Spenser]
* I Know a Secret, Tess Gerritsen. [Maura Isles and Jane Rizzoli]
* The Wanted, Robert Crais. [Joe Pike and Elvis Cole]
* Promise, Harlan Coben. [Myron Bolliter and Win Lockwood]
* Ghost Hero, S.J. Rozan. [Lydia Chin and Bill Smith]
* A Drink Before the War, Dennis Lehane. [Angela Gennaro and Patrick Kenzie]
Some of the sidekicks in these books are more clearly secondary characters, with the major detective work done by the detectives.But in other novels, there's not such a clear demarcation, and the role of the sidekick is more important, both to the detective and to the book itself.
I invite you to read along with us and perhaps get a different perspective on what being the main character's friend/partner/colleague means in detective fiction. I promise it will be a fun trip.