Mainely Murders loves its very own Maine mystery writers. Name three of your personal favorites among the current writers who call Maine home.
Send your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org
(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
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.
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.
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.
G. K Chesterton was born 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.
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 email@example.com.
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.
Lockdown: Month three. We hope you're staying safe. Although we're free from our post-travel self-quarantine, "social distancing" is now a way of life for everyone.
Of course, the question of what we should do about the bookstore has been very much on our minds. A month or so ago, we thought Mainely Murders was well placed to ride out the storm. After all, we've worked hard to keep overhead minimal. Thankfully, we long ago decided that this was a two-person operation; no employees means no payroll to meet (or miss, as now is the case for many businesses).
But time comes when reality sets in. Even before the season normally gets into full swing, there are bills to pay, commitments to meet, advertising to arrange. Telephone and internet costs. Shipments of pre-ordered books. Sending out this newsletter every month.
Clearly, we do not expect to open in the short run, even as Maine's first phase of re-openings begins. Under the state's just-released plan, retail stores may be opening in June. But, even then, they must be able to conform to strict distancing requirements, something that we don't know that we can provide, given our size and layout. So, we wait. When this pandemic ends--and we believe it will--we will be here for you. Some of you have been with us from Day One. Others have come, mostly by word of mouth, over these now 10 years.
For now, the newsletter will continue. And we shall do what we can to meet your mystery needs. We look forward to when we can safely open our doors. In the meantime, many of you have asked what you can do to support us. Here are three ways:
* Mail order requests, many of which we've already received, are one way. At this time, because of the difficulty getting many new releases, we're mostly limited to our current stock. Although our inventory is not online--we never wanted to be internet booksellers--we'll happily answer e-mails or calls about titles available. Books are shipped USPS media mail. For local customers, we can arrange for curbside (driveway) pick-up.
* Purchasing gift cards, for yourself or others, for future use is another way you can help.
* Continuing to forward our newsletter to those you know who also love the world of mystery and detective fiction is still another.
In the meantime, stay safe. If you're able, help those in your own communities, whether supporting local shops and restaurants or contributing to local food pantries or meal programs. Offer thanks to doctors, nurses, other medical staff, and first responders everywhere. And, be kind.
Until we meet again.
P.S. We all wait for new releases from our favorite authors. That said, we will do whatever possible to stock some popular (with our customers) new books. At the moment, new books include Jean-Luc Bannalec's The Killing Tide; Julia Spencer-Fleming's Hid From Your Eyes; Bruce Coffin's Within Plain Sight; Donna Leon's Trace Elements; and Martin Walker's A Shooting at Chateau Rock. We're accepting orders for others and will strive to fill orders as soon as possible.
New This Month
Don't Forget Mom
Mother's Day is Sunday, May 10. We've got it on
good authority that Mom is a mystery reader.
Treat her to a recent title from her favorite author, introduce her to one of your own, or surprise her with a gift card she can use on her next visit or mail order.
|Remembering Kate Mattes
It's with much sadness that we acknowledge the March 26 death of Kate Mattes, for more than 25 years the proprietor of Kate's Mystery Books in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She was 73.
An inspiration for opening our own bookstore, Kate
||Picture courtesy of Shelf-awareness.com|
was often described as "the doyenne of mystery bookstore owners." From the opening of her black-cat themed shop in 1983 to its closing in 2009, she was revered by writers, readers, and publishers, many of whom become close friends.
We, like many others, made frequent trips there to purchase books, attend signings, and talk about mysteries with this incredibly knowledgeable and personable woman. And she especially liked it when we, and others, walked across the parking lot to pick up her lunch.
Our Recent Favorites
It's a question we often hear: "What's the best book you've read lately?" Now, even as this pandemic has forced our closure, we'll continue reading and sharing some of our favorites.
The Killer in the Choir
For the fan of the contemporary British village mystery, Brett's light-hearted Feathering series is still going strong in this 19th title. Neighbors Carole, a seriously uptight retired government employee, and Jude, a free-thinking healer, can't resist delving into the death of a villager. Another sleuthing odd-couple.--Paula
An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good
Maud, our heroine, is an elderly lady, living in a nice apartment in Gothenburg, the second biggest city in Sweden, taking long vacations overseas, and enjoying good food and drink. People don't pay much attention to her, which is fine with Maud and makes it much simpler for her to find effective solutions to irritating neighbors and other problems that can befall the aged.--Ann
The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols
Whether the world really needs more Sherlockia remains to be seen. But since Nicholas Meyer was one of the earliest and best known with his The Seven Percent Solution (1974), I couldn't resist his most recent. It's 1905 and the body of a British Secret Service agent is found floating in the Thames, carrying a manuscript claimed to be from a meeting of a secret group intent on taking over the world. At the behest of brother Mycroft, Holmes and Watson are on the case.--Paula
The Noel Killing
M.L. Longworth's Provencal mysteries are French cozies for foodies or, as one reviewer said, a veritable "cassoulet of good food, fine wine, and murder." It's Christmastime in Aix-en-Provence, where law professor Marine Bonnet is trying to drag her curmudgeon husband, Antoine Verlaque, the chief magistrate of Aix-en-Provence, into the holiday spirit. No. 8 in this delicious series.--Paula
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.
Leslie Blatt of Springfield, New Jersey, is a lifelong admirer of the classics. Indeed, he's been sharing his love of them for years in his blog and podcasts (www.classicmysteries.net).
He writes: "My all-time favorite is the opening sentence of Hake Talbot's brilliant 'impossible crime' classic, Rim of the Pit":
"I came up here to make a dead man change his mind."
And, if you're wondering, says Les, "the book lives up to that claim."
How important to you are those first few words? Do you have a memorable opening from mystery/detective fiction? Share it at firstname.lastname@example.org (subject line: opening lines).
Adrian McKinty, The Cold, Cold Ground (Ann)
I tend not to read books about big events in reasonably contemporary history because I often already know more than I want to. While I wasn't in Northern Ireland during The Troubles, I read the papers and I was occasionally forced to evacuate the Public Record Office in London in the 1970s due to bomb scares--and you do become blaise, thinking "How long do I have to stay out this time?" rather than "Is this actually where I want to die?"
Of course, at 26 I wasn't ready to die anywhere, but had I been in Northern Ireland, I certainly stood a much higher chance of being evaporated.
Adrian McKinty does a brilliant job of setting forth life in Northern Ireland, starting with his first book, The Cold, Cold Ground.
"The Troubles" defined life in Northern Ireland for 30 years, from the late 1960s to 1998, as hardline Irish Catholic and Protestant groups used any tactic to defeat the other side and punish suspected traitors--and to make sure businesses paid their protection money and drug dealers stayed inside their own communities.
It's a horrible story of intercommunity conflict and violence. If nonfiction books are too relentlessly grim for you, try McKinty's six-book series featuring Detective Sergeant Sean Duffy of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). The books may not be all that much cheerier than the history books, but there are probably more moments of humor.
Duffy is a man of contradictions, an Irish Catholic working in the mainly Protestant RUC and living on a Protestant street. Obviously, Duffy has a hard time making friends, either male or female. But he loves his job and his house.
The main problem for Duffy in this first book (and later ones) is that he has a hard time taking direction, i.e., doesn't always obey orders, and is remarkably stubborn. In The Cold, Cold Ground he can't believe that a serial killer is killing gay men in Belfast (since most are in paramilitary units where they can kill as much as they want) or that a young woman from a wealthy Catholic family would kill herself after having disappeared for several months.
Unfortunately, everyone else likes other solutions--and they all like the idea of killing the man who doesn't understand the bigger picture.
It's an exciting ride for Duffy and the reader.
Short Stories (Paula)
Much to my dismay, many readers view the short story as a lesser version of the novel. I still cringe when I recall the first time I heard a visitor to our shop say, "A real writer would have written a whole book."
I'm a big fan of short stories, as is Ann. Indeed, I've always held in awe those writers of short fiction. I'm not the only one. Other mystery writers--the kind who write a "whole book"--are among the form's biggest fans.
Novelist Louise Penny is one. When asked to be the guest editor for the annual The Best American Mystery Stories a couple years ago, she was thrilled.
"I can't write short stories any more than I can write poetry. I've tried and the result, for both, is piles of something soft and smelly. But, oh, how I love to read them."
I agree. And, while finding myself with more time to read, I've been reaching for more anthologies. Otto Penzler's Best American Mystery Stories has established itself as an annual go-to collection.
For the reader who likes to travel, there's a veritable bounty from which to choose thanks to Akashic Books, the independent publisher, that began its Noir series in 2004 with Brooklyn Noir. The company is now closing in on 100 titles, from Brooklyn to Bagdad.
The collections, each focusing on a major city in the U.S. or abroad, include stories by some of the world's biggest names as well as up-and-coming mystery writers, each interpreting "noir" differently.
And those are just the tip of the iceberg. Subject collections are a favorite of mine. Biblio-mysteries, short tales about deadly books. Gardening mysteries, stories from the garden plot. Academic mysteries, talk about poisoned ivy! The list goes on.
Comfort Books for Uncomfortable Times (Ann)
Like Paula, I do like short stories, but I started to worry early in April when I wasn't reading novels, only short stories. I tried a variety of new (to me) authors, and I couldn't get into them. Then I tried rereading old favorites.
I've always enjoyed rereading Agatha Christie, regardless of whether or not I remembered the ending.* But I thought I might need to widen my horizons, so I thought to reread some of my favorite contemporary series.
I started with Mick Herron's Jackson Lamb (Slough House) series (six books) and then plan
to move on to Caro Ramsay's
Anderson and Costello
(shortly 11), Craig Robertson's Narey and Winter (seven), and Denise Mina's Patty Meehan trilogy (while I wait for her forthcoming The Less Dead).
What I've gained so far (besides the ability to read a complete book again) is that my memory is faulty and that knowing what happens to characters down the road actually increased my appreciation for the earlier books. And, of course, reading series in one go makes them all more fun and coherent.
*P.S. Don't get me started on the new BBC version of Agatha Christie's The Pale Horse. ("Reimagined") Obviously, it was designed for people who had never read Christie's books. (Or perhaps were incapable of reading them.) In any case, it has the barest connection to the books. I would say let me count the ways it offends, but that might ruin the book should you plan to read it.
Rennie Airth, Cold Kill [NS]
Lorraine Bartlett, A Murderous Misconception [Victoria Square #7]
Rita Mae Brown, Furmidable Foes [Mrs. Murphy #29]
James Lee Burke, A Private Cathedral [Dave Robicheaux #23]
Michael Connelly, Fair Warning [Jack McAvoy #3]
Clive Cussler and Robin Burcell, Wrath of Poseidon [Sam & Remi Fargo #12]
Jeffery Deaver, The Goodbye Man [Colter Shaw #2]
Loren Estleman, Indigo [Valentino #6]
John Farrow, Roar Back [Émile Cinq-Mars prequel]
Jessica Fletcher and Jon Land, The Murder of Twelve [Murder, She Wrote #52]
Robert Goldsborough, Archie Goes Home [Nero Wolfe #15]
Heather Graham, Witness to Death [NS]
Timothy Hallinan, Street Music [Poke Rafferty #9]
Cora Harrison, Death of a Prominent Citizen [Reverend Mother #7]
David Housewright, From the Grave [Rushmore McKenzie #17]
David Ignatius, The Paladin [NS]
Luke Jennings, Killing Eve: Die for Me [Killing Eve #3]
Joe R. Lansdale, Of Mice and Minestrone: Hap and Leonard: The Early Years [SS]
John Lawton, Hammer to Fall [Joe Wilderness #3]
Mike Lupica, Robert B. Parker's Grudge Match [Sunny Randall]
Catriona McPherson, The Turning Tide [Dandy Gilver #14]
Francine Mathews, Death on Tuckernuck [Merry Folger #7]
Abir Mukherjee, Death in the East [Wyndham & Banerjee #4]
Jerry Thompson and Owen Hill, eds., Berkeley Noir [SS]
Scott Turow, The Last Trial [Kindle County #11]
Martin Walker, The Shooting at Chateau Rock [Bruno, Chief of Police #13]
Stuart Woods and Parnell Hall, Bombshell [Teddy Fay #4]
Maine cop-turned-mystery writer Bruce Coffin is back with book No. 4 in his straight-from-the-streets series. We've been fortunate to previously host Bruce at release time.
This year--with the coronavirus keeping our doors locked--Bruce has graciously arranged for us to have his new book (signed) for customers. Call or e-mail us to order Within Plain Sight ($12.99 plus postage).
The famous dictum "write what you know" certainly works for Bruce Coffin. Within Plain Sight is his fourth crime novel featuring John Byron who is, as his creator was, a long-time member of the Portland police force.
An Iraqi war veteran, rummaging through a dumpster in a deserted lot, makes a gruesome discovery. Then a headless corpse is discovered in a separate location. Briefly the reader is ahead of the detective and his squad investigating the brutal murder. But not for long.
The corpse is identified when the police get a phone call from a woman who says that her friend hadn't met her for a planned lunch earlier in the week and has not responded to texts or phone calls. The body and its separated head indeed belong to the missing friend, Danica Faherty.
Then the medical examiner says decapitation was not the cause of death. "Something stopped this girl's heart from beating. . . . But I'll be dammed if I know what it was," he tells the detective.
In addition to the horror of the murder itself, Byron wonders if it is connected to two recent slayings in Boston. There are similarities, he thinks, but there are also differences. He's in no rush to judgment.
Byron is also contending with several personal issues. The department has a new chief, the first female head of the Portland Police Department, and Byron isn't certain how much credence he can give to her statements of support.
He has just received his chip for six months of sobriety from his mentor at Alcoholics Anonymous and is trying his best to take it "one day at a time," the group's motto. Can he continue to be alcohol-free given the stress of his job?
And who is responsible for the leaks that are appearing in the media? It's making Byron's job more difficult, and the possibility that one of his own team may be responsible is definitely something he hopes isn't true.
Byron is also re-starting his relationship with colleague Diane Joyner, but he's having some trouble with the idea that she will be leaving her current position as the face of the department's public relations and rejoining his section of the force. He should be happy for her, of course, since he knows that's what she wants, but he worries that two stress-related jobs in the department may prove to be too much for their relationship.
The police investigation takes us through both deserted lots and elegant mansions. As the experienced mystery reader knows, there are secrets in both places, secrets that the guilty will kill to protect.