During this pandemic, independent booksellers have been among the hardest hit of retail segments. Name the author who, widely recognized for his support of bookstores and literacy, personally donated $500,000 to help support those stores.
Send your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org
(subject line: quiz). A prizewinner (a $25 gift card) will be randomly drawn from correct submissions.
Last month we asked readers to name three of their personal favorites among the current writers who call Maine home. Congratulations to Bruce Harris of Scotch Plains, New Jersey, who chose Bruce Coffin, Stephen King, and Vaughn Hardacker.
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.
, born June 4,
1955, in the Kingdom of Fife, Scotland, was a reporter and is the author of four mystery series featuring Lindsay Gordon, Kate Brannigan, Karen Pirie, and Dr. Tony Hill/Carol Jordan. Great success came when the last was turned into the BBC TV show Wire in the Blood
Sara Paretsky, who along with Sue Grafton and Marcia Muller, is credited with
with the tough-gal PI, was born in Ames, Iowa, on June 8, 1947. Her PI, V.I. Warshawski, first appeared in Double Indemnity (1982). Paretsky, an MWA Grand Master, was also instrumental in founding Sisters in Crime in 1986.
, born June
12, 1953, in San Diego, says she knew at a young age that she wanted to write stories like those in her favorite Nancy Drew books. But, first, she became a physician. Today, a perennial bestselling author, she resides here in Maine (Camden).
Dorothy L. Sayers, born June 13, 1893, was the creator of Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. With Agatha Christie and Josephine Tey, she is considered one of the founders of the classic English cozy. All her 15 mysteries were published between 1923 and 1939. Thereafter, she occupied herself with plays, nonfiction, and translations. She died in 1957.
June 17, 1954, in Footscray, Australia, is a lawyer and writer of numerous novels, but it was her Phryne Fisher mysteries that brought her worldwide fame after the Australian TV show Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries was aired.
MWA Grand Master Lawrence Block
, born June 24, 1938, in Buffalo, New York, is the creator of one of the great characters of crime fiction, Bernie Rhodenbarr, "the burglar who . . ."
Eric Ambler, screenwriter and master of the spy novel, was born June 28, 1909, in London. A Coffin for Dimitrios is often cited as one of the best all-time spy novels and features his typical amateur, inadvertent hero. A Mystery Writers of America Grand Master (1975), he died in 1998.
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.
It's June, a time when our store would normally be bustling. But, these are hardly normal times. For small shops like ours, where safe distancing is all but impossible, we have to find ways to serve readers who have so faithfully supported us over the last 10 years.
Yes, 2020 is our 10th anniversary, a year for which we'd had big plans. But, then, COVID-19 hit.
Rather than celebrating with author talks and signings and special events, like our popular Crime & Cocktails and Classic Ice Cream Social gatherings, we're limited to providing phone and e-mail recommendations, mail order sales, and curbside pickup. They'll never substitute for a visit here. But, until that's safely possible, we want you to know that we're here for you.
Like booksellers everywhere, we've had to come up with different ways to put our books into the hands of readers. You, our faithful customers, have responded with overwhelming support, ordering books and gift cards, and finding creative ways of your own to support us.
* The customer who ordered "a half dozen" of our signature $5 grab bags. "Cooking cozies, cat crimes, village mysteries, holiday whodunits, and anything else you think sounds fun," she wrote. "I'll share them with friends."
* Customers who'd planned a summer vacation in France: "We'd just gotten hooked on [Martin Walker's] Bruno Chief of Police books; since we're not going now, they're the next best thing. Send them all."
* Fans of classics sent lists of "holes" in their collections, particularly books by Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, John D. MacDonald, John Dickson Carr, Rex Stout, and Georges Simenon.
* Others sent lists of books they wanted and then said, "Stop when you get to $30/$50/$75." or "I like xx. Can you recommend other authors like her?"
* Regulars as well as people who have never visited us but know of the plight of indie bookstores have sent "donations." (We are brainstorming ways to provide new books to those who most need them, either the books themselves or money for facilities to buy new books.)
Looking ahead, until we can safely open our doors again--be that weeks or months--we hope that we can continue to deserve your support. In the meantime, we will keep you in our thoughts.
Stay safe. Be well
Paula & Ann
New This Month
Don't Forget Dad
Father's Day is Sunday, June 21. We've got it on good authority that Dad is a mystery reader.
Although it will require a Father's Day IOU because of its June 30 release, One Last Lie, Paul Doiron's latest Maine woods thriller, tops our list of recommendations for Dad.
Treat him to a recent title from his favorite author, introduce him to one of your own, or surprise him with a gift card he can use on his next visit or mail order.
Remembering Maj Sjöwall
Maj Sjöwall, half of the writing team that established the influence of Scandinavian mysteries in the U.S., died April 30. She was 84.
Along with her partner, Per Wahlöö, Sjöwall wrote 10 books featuring Stockholm police detective Martin Beck, a series that formed the basis of a television show and feature films.
The books, which debuted in Sweden in 1965 and were first translated in 1967, began with Rosanna. The couple's fourth book, The Laughing Policeman, won the Edgar for the year's best mystery in 1971.
Today, more than 40 years after the series concluded with The Terrorists in 1975, following the death of Per Wahlöö, the series remains popular and is considered a "must read" for fans of Scandinavian noir.
Remembering Sheila Connolly
Sheila Connolly, a favorite among American cozy readers, died April 20 in her beloved Ireland, the setting of one of her popular series. She was 70.
Her County Cork series began in 2013, introducing Maura Donovan, who fulfills her grandmother's wish by returning from Boston to the original family home in a small Irish village. Several years later, Connolly fulfilled her dream of owning an Irish cottage.
In 2008 under the pen name Sarah Atwell, she began her prolific mystery publishing career with a series featuring glassblower Em Dowell in Arizona. That same year using her own name, she introduced her Orchard series set in Western Massachusetts.
Other popular titles included the Museum mysteries, about a fundraiser for the Society for the Preservation of Pennsylvania Antiquities, and the Village Mysteries, about a woman who wants to turn her hometown into a working Victorian village.
Our Recent Favorites
It's a question we often hear: "What's the best book you've read lately?" Even as this pandemic has forced our closure, we'll continue reading and sharing some favorites with you. (You could do both, too, come to that.)
Murder at Fenway Park by Troy Soos (Paula)
I miss baseball. Not that it's comparable to what many others have lost during the pandemic. But, it's always, at least in my lifetime, been a rite of summer.
So how could I not pick up Troy Soos' Murder at Fenway Park (1994), the first in his series about a young journeyman infielder during the 1920s? Soos went on to write six other titles featuring Mickey Rawlins, as he wends his way among major league teams (including the New York Giants and Chicago Cubs) of the period.
Over the years, I've read all the Soos books--as well as almost every other baseball-themed whodunit--but, like many readers, I've been reaching for familiar "comfort reads" of late. Also, didn't someone say that "diamonds are a girl's best friend"?
The American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson (Paula)
This book made numerous "best of the year" lists in 2019. Publishers Weekly said it combined "the espionage novels of John LeCarré with the racial complexity of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man." (It was actually the Ellison comparison that got my attention.)
It's during the heart of the Cold War. Agent Marie Mitchell is brilliant, talented, black, and going nowhere in the FBI's all-white boys club. Then she's recruited by the CIA for a special undercover assignment.
The American Spy is the author's debut. For those of us eager to hear more voices from young black authors, we hope it's just a beginning. Great beginning: Edgar nomination for best first novel.
The Nero Wolfe Cookbook (Paula)
Admittedly, Covid-19 has us cooking many more meals at home, but I'd love this book anyway because I'm a big fan of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries. Thrilled to have come across a reprint of the 1973 original.
Those familiar with New York City's most famous detective and his sidekick Archie Goodwin know that this pair dine on the most extraordinary food at their 35th Street brownstone, thanks to the culinary talents of Fritz Brenner, Wolfe's private chef.
This "cookbook" contains more than mouth-watering recipes (200-plus of them), but also excerpts from classic Nero Wolfe whodunits and photos of '30s, '40s, and '50s Manhattan. Great reading whether or not you want to try your hand at Suckling Pig, Green Turtle Soup, or Strawberries Romanoff.
If you'd rather read the tales of Nero Wolfe for the great detective stories they are--and not for the food--check out our extensive stock, starting with the first of all, Fer-de-Lance.
The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (Paula)
Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley--the first of five books about a charming psychopath--is truly a classic. For any fan of psychological mysteries--of which, I fear, I'm becoming one--it's a "must read." Or, in my case, a "must re-read."
The most-highly acclaimed of Highsmith's more than 20 novels--and included among almost every list of great crime novels of the 20th century--The Talented Mr. Ripley is the story of an utterly immoral individual who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.
Only a writer as brilliant (and, perhaps, as twisted) as Highsmith, with her innate ability to get inside the head of a true psychopath, could have created the character. If you've never read it--or, if like me, you haven't read it for a while--do so. It's textbook.
A Very 'Happy Bookday'
What's a book-loving husband of a book-loving wife to do for her birthday that falls when a worldwide crisis has shuttered her favorite bookstore? "She was suffering withdrawal."
For Cheryl Wallace of Portland, Mainely Murders was turned into a no-sales, mystery-filled, food-delivered, candlelight evening for two. Thanks to husband Charlie, it wasn't a bookstore or retail space, but a sanctuary for booklovers.
Lou Berney, November Road (Ann)
Not my usual cup of tea (although many bad people and a few good die), but November Road (2018) is worthy of its many awards. A brilliant story of courage and redemption.
November 1963. Frank Guidry is living large in New Orleans, an able lieutenant to the ruling crime boss. Charlotte, no last name, is surviving in Woodrow, Oklahoma, with her two young daughters and her useless, if nonviolent, drunken husband.
Then President John F. Kennedy is killed. Frank realizes his boss is killing everyone even tangentially connected to Dallas before the assassination--and Frank was there. He decides to flee to Las Vegas and help.
Two days after Kennedy's death, Charlotte decides to try for a less constricted life. She abruptly grabs her daughters and dog after the usual stultifying Sunday dinner and leaves Woodrow for California.
The two met on the November road, both, in their own ways, trying to avoid death.
Hannelore Cayre, The Godmother (Ann)
Patience Portefeux's life has been up and down. Her rich husband died young and her wealthy, and criminous father also died relatively young. So she's spent the last 25 or so years working as a Franco-Arab translator for the police in Paris. Not really focused, just getting through life.
At 53 she has a mother in a nursing home and two daughters at university. Even doing endless numbers of wiretap translations of drug dealers' conversations, she's steadily losing ground and completely bored by the stupidity of the dealers--and her life.
And then she has a drug windfall. Knowing what she knows about the police and wiretaps, can she do it better? Can she be the Godmother?
Wonderful book, short and to the point. More action oriented than most French stories. If you know Paris a little, it's fun to pick out the locations she mentions.
Elly Griffiths (Paula)
At last, one of my favorite (and shop's bestselling) authors, Elly Griffiths can add Edgar Award winner to her resume. It's about time.
The Stranger Diaries, a 2019 standalone, has been named winner of 2020 Edgar for Best Novel,
Most readers know Griffiths as the creator of two series. The first featuring Dr. Ruth Galloway, forensic archaeologist, in the Saltmarsh area near Norfolk, England, and the Magic Men titles set during World War II and the 1950s in Brighton, England.
But, The Stranger Diaries shows that the English novelist doesn't require a series to demonstrate her best stuff. Her writing talents stand on their own in what can only be described as a Gothic suspense novel with a modern-day twist.
Laurien Berenson, Game of Dog Bones [Melanie Travis #25]
Juliet Blackwell, The Last Curtain Call [Haunted Home Renovation #8]
Simon Brett, The Clutter Corpse [Decluttering #1]
Kate Carlisle, The Grim Reader [Bibliophile #14]
*John Connolly, The Dirty South [Charlie Parker #18]
Colin Cotterill, The Delightful Life of a Suicide Pilot [Dr. Siri Paiboun #15]
*Paul Doiron, One Last Lie [Mike Bowditch #11]
*Kaitlyn Dunnett, A Fatal Fiction [Deadly Edits #3]
Leonard Goldberg, The Art of Deception [Daughter of Sherlock Holmes #4]
W.E.B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV, The Attack [Badge of Honor #14]
John Hart, The Unwilling [NS]
J.A. Jance, Credible Threat [Ali Reynolds #15]
Iris Johansen, The Persuasion [Eve Duncan #27]
Ragnar Jónasson, The Mist [Hidden Island #3]
Laurie R. King, Riviera Gold [Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes #16]
Karen MacInerney, A Killer Ending [New Snug Harbor #1]
Megan Miranda, The Girl from Widow Hills [NS]
Håkan Nesser, The Summer of Kim Novak [NS]
Joyce Carol Oates, Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. [NS]
Sara Paretsky, Love & Other Crimes [SS]
B.A. Paris, The Dilemma [NS]
S.J. Parris, Execution [Giordano Bruno #6]
Qiu Xiaolong, Hold Your Breath, China [Inspector Chen #10]
Caro Ramsay, The Red, Red Snow [Colin Anderson & Freddie Costello #11]
*Barbara Ross, Jane Darrowfield, Professional Busybody [Jane Darrowfield #1]
Susie Steiner, Remain Silent [Manon Bradshaw #3]
Sarah Stewart Taylor, The Mountains Wild [Maggie D'Arcy #1]
Around here, Julia Spencer-Fleming is known as a "local author." After all, she lives just up the road in rural Buxton. The fact that her popular series is set in upstate New York isn't a problem because it's hardly that different from much of Maine.
A widely popular author with a widely popular series, she's been MIA for a while--seven years, in fact, since her last Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne title.
I've "known" the Reverend Clare Fergusson since she interviewed to become the first female priest leading the Episcopal church in Millers Kill, New York, nearly two decades ago. That's in real time, but in fictional time not that many years have passed.
In Julia Spencer-Fleming's latest novel in the series, Hid From Our Eyes, Clare is naturally older than she was when she made her debut In The Bleak Midwinter, but not by 18 years.
Now she is the established priest of St. Albans, married to the town's Chief of Police, Russ Van Alstyne, and the mother of a four-month-old son. Her days, and nights as well, are a constant juggling act between caring for Ethan, arranging for various child care options when neither she nor Russ is available, and attending to her flock. That would be daunting enough for anyone, but she's also dealing with guilt and shame: guilt because before she knew she was pregnant she was drinking heavily and using drugs; shame because she still craves both.
Finally, it does seem that Clare gets a break. The scion of a wealthy Dutch family who has summered in the Adirondacks for decades, Joni Langevoort, is searching for an internship in the area while completing religious studies at Union Theological Seminary.
It would appear to be a perfect match, but Clare is surprised when she meets Joni and realizes that Joni is a transgender woman. Not every congregation would be open to having her on their pulpit; Clare thinks that her diocese would probably get around to welcoming transgender ministers "the twelfth of Never." But it's not an issue for Clare and, she hopes, not for her congregants either.
Hid From Our Eyes tells the stories of three murders spanning more than half a century. In the midst of a town meeting, Russ gets a 911 call from the police dispatcher that the body of a young woman has been found on a rural road in Cossayuharie, dressed in a summery dress. This fits the pattern of two separate murders that took place decades ago. The victims of those crimes were never identified nor the killer or killers found. "It can't be the same," he thinks to himself. How could there be three identical murders decades apart?
Like his wife, Russ Van Alstyne has more than one thing on his plate. The League of Concerned Voters, Washington County Chapter, wants to dissolve the police department. The department covers the three towns of Millers Kill, Fort Henry, and Cossayuharie, and the League wants to give its duties to the state police in order to save the taxpayers money. Now it's Russ' job to convince the voters of the importance of a local police force, but he's facing some powerful opposition.
As always, Julia Spencer-Fleming gives the reader an intense portrait of life in Millers Kill and the differences between Clare, always an "outsider" because she didn't grow up there, and Russ, a "townie" whose misdeeds as a young man will never be forgotten. Once again it's a pleasure to step into their lives.
Irish writer Jane Casey has been a bright spot on the radar of readers ever since her debut in The Burning (2010) and the introduction of Maeve Kerrigan, an ambitious young detective constable, in London.
Casey is one of the many authors Susan Stewart of Kennebunk has recently turned to as she blows through her stock of books.
Being in a state of lockdown is only bearable when there are a stack of books at hand. Thanks to a backlog of mysteries (Mainely Murders, take a bow), I've managed to shelter-at-home quite easily these past months.
I particularly enjoyed the last two in the Jane Casey series about DC Maeve Kerrigan, Cruel Acts and The Cutting Season.
These are pretty standard police procedurals with interesting and multi-layered cases at hand, but what really sparks the series is the spiky relationship between Maeve, a bit of a Dudley-Do-Right type, and her superior officer and teammate Josh Derwent, who is as laid-back and playful as she is straight-laced and solemn. They bounce off each other like an old married couple, but they are both ambitious, smart, and totally dedicated to their jobs.
The murder cases involve a copycat serial killer and a sex trafficking ring. Not exactly uncharted waters but the characters and their byplay propel the narrative and leave the reader (this one, anyway) eager to discover what the future holds for this engaging pair.
Another recent read--Long, Bright River by Liz Moore--is a different kind of mystery, involving a Philadelphia policewoman searching for her missing sister. Set against the backdrop of the opioid crisis, it's both a family drama and a crime novel with a strong sense of place.
The present day mystery is juxtaposed with the story of the sisters' childhood and adolescence. It's beautifully written, suspenseful and heart-pounding at times, but ultimately a tribute to the power of family and the strength of the ties that bind.