Name the Maine-based author sometimes called the Queen of Espionage.
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 the author who, widely recognized for his support of bookstores and literacy, personally donated $500,000 to help support those stores early in the pandemic.
Congratulations to Patrick Cuff of Austin, Texas, who named James Patterson as the generous contributor. Patrick, one of several readers who quickly identified the bestselling author known for his support of libraries, bookstores, and literacy, earns a $25 Mainely Murders gift card.
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.
James M. Cain
, born July 1, 1892, is often compared to Hammett
. His most famous books, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity,
and Mildred Pierce
, were turned into movies that may be more well known than the books. Cain
, who died in 1977, was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America in 1970.
Donald E. Westlake, three- time Edgar winner and 1993 Mystery Writers of America Grand Master, wrote more than 100 novels, many of which were turned into movies. His most famous mysteries were his Dortmunder comic crime series and the grimmer Parker series (as Richard Stark). Born in Brooklyn on July 12, 1933, he spent most of his life in New York City. He died in 2008.
Dorothy L. Sayers
July 13, 1893, in Oxford, England, was the creator of Lord Peter Wimsey (and later, Harriet Vane). Considered one of the three greatest British classic writers--along with Agatha Christie and Josephine Tey--Sayers herself valued more her translations and Christian essays. She died in 1957.
Grand Master Erle Stanley Gardner
, the creator of Perry Mason, was born July 17, 1889, in Malden, Massachusetts. Some of his 82 Mason titles (The Case of the
...) were among the century's best-selling books. He died in 1970.
, born July 23, 1888, in Chicago, and one of the founders of the hard-boiled detective school, was also a noted screenwriter and was nominated for an Oscar for both Double Indemnity
and The Blue Dahlia
. He died in 1959.
John D. MacDonald was born July 24, 1916, in Sharon, Pennsylvania, and is remembered for his detective/thief Travis McGee. A Mystery Writers of America Grand Master, he died in 1985.
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, etc.)
In recent weeks, their popularity has soared with customers looking for pandemic-era reading--for themselves and others.
One ordered 15 assorted bags she planned to gift her mystery-reading friends.
Another woman wanted a large bag-filled box for
herself--just in case. "Books, like toilet paper, are essential. I've learned to stock up."
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.
A bookstore without customers is a lonely place.
One thing we've learned this year is that bookstores are more than the books they hold. A bookstore is about readers. A specialty bookstore, like Mainely Murders, is about very special readers, those with a passion for mysteries.
They come from near and far. Locals stop by frequently, eager to see what's arrived since their last visit, which might have been just a few days. We see the "summer folk," those who make their much-anticipated trek to Maine, whether for the season or a short stay. Over the years, we've also welcomed another group, people who have come in search of us, having "discovered" us through newspaper and magazine articles, television reports, and appearances on social media.
In whichever group you fall, we miss you. Our doors are still closed because we can't provide the "social distancing" so vital in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Most of you have visited our shop--or seen pictures. The intimacy that our small space offers--and which our customers love--isn't conducive to "browsing" these days.
Asked how long we can "exist" without physically opening for customers, our only answer is that we will never put sales ahead of the safety of our customers or ourselves.
We're very grateful for those of you who have responded with mail orders and/or requests for curbside, i.e., driveway, pick-up. (As our accountant tells us, "it keeps the lights on and the newsletter going out.")
For the time being, both mail orders and driveway pick-ups will continue. Later this month, we hope to add outdoor sales. Wednesday through Saturday, 10-3 when the sun shines--and there is no threat of rain or heavy humidity--we'll move a selection of books outside. We shall require that face masks be worn and social distancing maintained. Depending on how that works, we'll consider limited inside shopping by appointment.
In the meantime, we're most appreciative of your on-going support.
Until we meet again, in person.
New This Month
Remembering Carlos Ruiz Zafón
"Every book, every volume you see here, has a
soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens."
The Shadow of the Wind
It's with sadness we acknowledge that Carlos Ruiz Zafón, whose The Shadow of the Wind--an all-time favorite among bibliophiles throughout the world--died last month at the age of 55.
Admired throughout the world and one of Spain's most popular authors, Zafón wrote his literary thriller, the first in a series set in The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, in 2001. It was translated into English in 2004, and immediately became an international bestseller.
Set in Barcelona, and mingling reality, fantasy and romance, The Shadow of the Wind is the story of Daniel Sempere, a bookseller's son, and his quest to find the works of a mysterious author and to learn who has been destroying them.
Over the next 16 years, Zafón, who lived in both Los Angeles and Barcelona, wrote three sequels--The Angel's Game (2008), The Prisoner of Heaven (2011), and The Labyrinth of Spirits (2017)--featuring the same book-obsessed character.
Recent Favorites (Paula)
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.
My favorite books always have three common elements: good writing, well-developed characters, and strong sense of place, qualities which almost invariably lead to a fourth: those in a series. With three favorite series adding titles recently, I felt like I'd won the lottery.
The Lantern Men, Elly Griffiths
Now an Edgar Award winner for her standalone, The Stranger Diaries, Elly Griffiths is back with her 12th title in her series featuring forensic archaeologist and academic Dr. Ruth Galloway.
Having left her beloved cottage on the salt marshes of Norfolk, Ruth is now teaching at Cambridge. Then an emotionally-charged case draws her back. A man convicted of murdering two young women in the area has agreed to point out the graves of other victims--if Ruth Galloway leads the excavation.
Another great addition to this outstanding series.
Riviera Gold, Laurie R. King
I've read a lot of Sherlock Holmes--from A. Conan Doyle himself to a myriad of Holmes-inspired tales--but no one does it better than Laurie King in her Mary Russell series. I've been a fan since The Beekeeper's Apprentice (1994).
Riviera Gold, King's 18th, still feels fresh, smart, well-plotted, and oh-so imaginative. Now "the Russells" are on the Riviera, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Scott and Zelda, Pablo Picasso, and assorted British and American ex-pats--not to mention smugglers, arms dealers, and murderers. (It's the latter group that provides most of the action.)
The Shooting at Chateau Rock, Martin Walker
Benoit "Bruno" Courreges, chief of police in the
village of St. Denis in the Perigord region of southwestern France, returns in Walker's
When the death of a local sheep farmer leads to questions about inheritance and a shadowy insurance company, Bruno finds himself embroiled in French security issues while investigating a Russian oligarch.
But my favorite French cop, as usual, has plenty more on his plate--and it's all thoroughly delicious. Mysterious foreign intrigue never gets in the way of Bruno's obvious love of village and home, friends and neighbors, food and drink. Did I mention his basset hound Balzac?
What We're Reading (Ann)
Manda Scott, A Treachery of Spies
I might have been cynical about Mick Herron's
statement that this book is "the most exciting, involving thriller I've read in an age. I can't recommend it highly enough." But I do like Mick Herron, I have liked Scott's earlier books, and I do like British spy stories, so I put my money down and got the book.
A Treachery of Spies is 500-plus pages of twists and turns, changes in time, changes in place, and brilliant descriptions of life in Britain preparing for the invasion of France and life in France preparing for the invasion, even in the mountains. And of course, it shows how the past impacts the present.
The first chapter of the book starts as a modern police procedural. A French cop returning to work after a serious injury is given the case of a very old woman killed like a World War II traitor. The second chapter then moves back to 1944 and a Scottish training camp for French agents.
Thereafter the story shifts between the Maquis in the French mountains near the small town of Saint-Cybard and the police investigation centered in Saint-Cybard and the surrounding area. Quite quickly it becomes evident to the police that their investigation is tied to the spies and resistance in the months before the invasion.
Exactly what the connections are is not very clear to either the police or the reader. Under the pressure of war, motivations shift, relationships change, and what people say and what they do are often different. In situations where lies are currency, the truth is hard to find.
A wonderful book, if sometimes bloody, with a satisfying ending. The many characters, who sometimes change their names or have several, can occasionally create problems for readers, but nothing that focus or 50 pages won't sort out. Mick Herron was right.
Signed, first editions have long been held in high esteem by book lovers. Many of us have our own, if limited, collections. For example, we like having a signed Sara Paretsky, Val McDermid, Patricia Moyes, Sue Grafton, Louise Penny, and other authors we've met in person or through their books.
While from the beginning our inventory has been focused on readers, not collectors, we occasionally come upon discoveries we like to pass along.
These are signed, mylar-covered first-edition runs (not all) of some of our customers' favorite authors like Louise Penny, Paul Doiron, Tess Gerritsen, Lee Child, David Baldacci, Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, and others.
Own a signed copy of a favorite title. How about signed copies from each of your favorite authors? Purchase for yourself or as a gift.
Prices vary and supply is limited. Let us know the author and we'll reply with a list of available signed books.
Jeff Abbott, Never Ask Me [NS]
Ace Atkins, The Revelators [Quinn Colson # 10]
Lorna Barrett, Handbook for Homicide [Booktown #14]
Juliet Blackwell, The Last Curtain Call [Haunted Home Renovation #8]
Linda Castillo, Outside [Kate Burkholder #12]
Catherine Coulter, Deadlock [FBI #28]
Jeanne M. Dams, Death Comes to Durham [Dorothy Martin #21]
Lindsay Davis, The Grove of the Caesars [Flavia Albia #8]
Maurizio de Giovanni, Puppies for the Bastards of Pizzofalcone [Bastards of Pizzofalcone #5]
Paul Doherty, Hymn to Murder [Hugh Corbett #21]
Loren D. Estleman, Indigo [Valentino #6]
Brian Freeman, Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Evolution [Jason Bourne continuation]
Dianne Freeman, A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Murder [Countess of Harleigh #3]
Heather Graham, Deadly Touch [Krewe of Hunters #31]
Cora Harrison, Death of a Prominent Citizen [Reverend Mother Aquinas #7]
*Lee Hollis, Death of a Wicked Witch [Food and Cocktails #13]
David Housewright, From the Grave [Rushmore McKenzie #17]
Jonathan Kellerman and Jesse Kellerman, Half Moon Bay [Clay Edison #3]
Camilla Lackberg, The Golden Cage [NS]
Jon Land, Strong From the Heart [Caitlin Strong #11]
Joe Lansdale, More Better Deals [NS]
Kristen Lepionka, Once You Go This Far [Roxane Weary #4]
Eric Van Lustbader, The Nemesis Manifesto [Evan Ryder #1]
Mike Lawson, House Privilege [Joe DeMarco #12]
Alexander McCall Smith, The Geometry of Holding Hands [Isabel Dalhousie #13]
Ben Pastor, The Night of Shooting Stars [Martin Bora #7]
Spencer Quinn, Of Mutts and Men [Chet & Bernie #10]
Candace Robb, A Choir of Crows [Owen Archer
Michael Robotham, When She Was Good [Cyrus Haven #2]
*David Rosenfelt, Muzzled [Andy Carpenter #21]
Daniel Silva, The Order [Gabriel Allon #19]
Brad Thor, Near Dark [Scot Harvath #20]
Maine Books for Everyone
Maine is a land of writers and readers. Its literary tradition runs deep.
Our compliments to the venerable Down East
magazine for detailing what we've long believed: There's a book (actually, many) for everyone set within the confines of our state.
In its June issue, editors gathered a list of the 100 Books Every Lover of Maine Should Read. "These are the books we'd include on the Maine Studies syllabus, the ones we'd stow on the interstellar spacecraft so aliens could come to know the Down East culture and character. They're the books we would want on our desert isle, assuming we were marooned with a fairly sizeable trunk."
They include fiction to non-fiction, from cookbooks and poetry and photography to children's books. They're decades' old classics and titles not long off the press. Selection of the books came from a variety of sources--readers, writers, editors, academics, booksellers.
Our Five Irresistible Mysteries
We were honored to be asked by Down East editor Brian Kevin to contribute five mystery selections to the list, no easy task. So, we focused on series set in Maine, continuing adventures of charismatic sleuths stretched out across numerous books.
Each of our picks was, at the time, the most recent title in a highly recommended series.
Random Act, Gerry Boyle
Boyle's Jack McMorrow character is a freelance journalist with a philosophical bent, and his series leans way into suspense. Keeney and Whetstone praise the character development and sharp dialog, along with the glimpses of "the darker side of Maine, one summer residents never see."
Almost Midnight, Paul Doiron
"The stark beauty of the wilds of Maine is always at
the forefront of Doiron's books," Keeney and Whetstone say. The formerDown East editor-in-chief is 10 titles into this series about game warden Mike Bowditch. This one revolves around an attack on a hybrid wolf, a totem of Maine wildness.
Within Plain Sight, Bruce Robert Coffin
Coffin's a former cop, and his books are procedurals set in Portland--his most recent has a potential serial killer on the loose. The Mainely Murders owners recommend his Detective Byron series for its gritty realism. "He knows his stuff," they say, "from the way cops act and talk to every nook and cranny of the city's landscape."
The Woman in the Woods, John Connolly
is the master in the combining of genres: mystery, horror, the supernatural," Keeney and
Whetstone say. The most recent of his bestselling Charlie Parker thrillers has an anonymous corpse in the Maine woods, a ghost on the phone, an evil book--the works. Plus, his PI hangs out at Portland's (real life) Great Lost Bear bar.
Sealed Off, Barbara Ross
Maine is perfect for "cozy mysteries," amateur sleuth stories light on blood, sex, and violence, big on setting. No one renders quaint coastal villages like Ross, Keeney and Whetstone say. This one's #8 in Ross's Maine Clambake Mysteries, with an affable lobster purveyor investigating a body in a sealed room.