We think bookstores are a great setting for a murder. Death by falling (pushed) bookshelf? Judging by the number of authors who write bookstore-themed whodunits, we're not the only ones. Name three authors who have created bookstore-themed series.
Send your answer to email@example.com
(subject line: quiz). A prizewinner (a $25 gift card) will be randomly drawn from correct submissions.
Congratulations to last month's winner, Marjorie Rockwood of Sturbridge, Massachusetts, who identified Gayle Lynds as the Maine-based author sometimes called the Queen of Espionage. Marjorie was one of several respondents with the correct answer.
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.
was born Aug. 3, 1920, in Oxford, England. Adam Dalgliesh, a poetry-writing Scotland Yard inspector who appeared in 14 books from 1962 through 2008, was her most enduring character. By the time of her death in 2014, James and Ruth Rendell were the most popular contemporary writers of "traditional" mystery novels. The Mystery Writers of America honored her as a Grand Master in 1999.
Swedish crime writer Per Wahlöö, born August 5, 1926, was best known for his collaborative work with partner Maj Sjöwall on a series of 10 novels about the exploits of Martin Beck, a police detective in Stockholm, published between 1965 and 1975 (1966-1976 in English). These books established Sweden as a player on the international mystery scene and greatly influenced Scandinavian crime writing. He died June 22, 1975.
Robert van Gulik, author of the Judge Dee mysteries, was born August 9, 1910, in Zutphen, Holland. His work
as a Dutch diplomat in the Far East led to his interest in Chinese history and culture. He wrote 16 novels featuring Judge Dee, a magistrate in China during the Tang Dynasty (600s). He died in 1967.
Dorothy B. Hughes
, one of the first women to write hard-boiled fiction, was born August 10, 1904, in Kansas City, Missouri. Named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America in 1978, she died in 1993.
journalist and mystery writer, was born August 15, 1954. His famous Millennium trilogy--The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest--was published after his death in 2004.
, more often recognized for her Regency romances than her mysteries, was born August 16, 1902, in Wimbledon, Surrey. Her 12 mysteries, written between 1935 and 1953, are often cited as perfect examples of the classic country house mysteries. Clever dialogue was her forte. She died in 1974.
, born in Hertfordshire
, England, August 16, 1926, was the leading spy novel reviewer and one of the leading spy novelists of the 1970s and '80s. He won the British Crime Writers' Association's award for Best First Novel and his fourth bested John Le Carré's
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
for Best Crime Novel in 1974. He retired in 1989 after writing 19 Dr. Audley/Col. Butler books and died on May 30, 2019.
Earl Derr Biggers
was born August 26, 1910, in Warren, Ohio. He is most remembered for his creation of the inscrutable Hawaiian detective Charlie Chan, his attempt to counteract the then-prevailing image of the "sinister Oriental." He died in 1967.
Signed, first editions have long been held in high esteem by book lovers. Many of us have our own, if limited, collections.
While from the beginning our inventory has been focused on readers, not collectors, we do have some special finds. Signed, mylar-covered first edition runs (not all) of some customer favorites 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 or signed copies from each of your favorite authors. Prices vary and supply limited.
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.
We're still here, but, oh what a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, we were eagerly awaiting authors to give talks and sign books, hosting our annual Classic Ice Cream Social, and preparing for what is always our busiest month of the year.
But, as we said, that was then. This year, we've yet to open our doors for customers. To date, business has been limited to mail order (Thank you, thank you!) and curbside/driveway pick up.
We still have some contact with customers outside the newsletter, if from a distance. Sometimes from just six feet in the
Bruce Coffin made a curbside dropoff of his latest book, Within Plain Sight, and stayed to sign copies.
driveway. Other times via phone calls (though not being in the shop much means there can be delays here). And, of course, we go back and forth via emails to settle on details for orders or to exchange information. Finally, we get many cards and notes, which are appreciated.
We realize that our temporary closure is disappointing to customers, both local and those who visit from away. But, we assure you that once we can open with confidence for the safety of everyone, we'll be back. In the meantime, mail orders and requests for curbside pick-ups will allow us to plan for the future.
New This Month
|Black Lives Matter!
But as in life, their mysteries apparently haven't mattered as much. Make no mistake, crime/detective fiction, thrillers, or whodunits have long lacked diversity, both among writers and characters. Indeed, can you name five Black mystery authors? Ten?
Most serious mystery readers can name Chester Himes
and Walter Mosley
, and perhaps Attica Locke
, Barbara Neely
, Eleanor Taylor Bland
But what about Grace F. Edwards (street-smart detective working on her PhD in social work while living with her musician father and nephew in NY),
(editor of anthologies including The Obama Inheritance
and novels about a Black PI and a Black woman mob courier), Penny Mickelbury
(with two series starring a Black reporter and a Black defense attorney), Karen Grigsby Bates
(another reporter series)?
Then there's Frankie Y. Bailey (crime historian and cop series), V.M. Burns (cozies), Charlotte Carter ('60s Chicago and more recent NYC saxophonist), Kyria Davis (cozies), R. Franklin James (legal), Brandon Massey (horror/mystery), Austin S. Camacho (hard), and Teddy Hayes (hard).
So as you can see, these days readers have more choices, but mainstream outlets, including us, do not really provide the resources to delve deeply into Black-written mysteries. And, of course, like all mysteries, there's good, bad, and ugly available, depending on your taste.
Anthologies can also be very helpful, giving readers a taste of different authors. Paula L. Woods' Spooks, Spies, and Private Eyes: Black Mystery, Crime, and Suspense Fiction of the 20th Century
It's likely that in the near future, new anthologies and more publicity for Black authors will be available, though few authors, Black or White, get much.
And we promise to do better.
In the era of Covid-19, so much has changed for us. Mail orders, once a rare occurrence, are now our way of doing business.
We have always shipped by USPS media mail because it's the least expensive way to ship books. Before the pandemic most packages reached their destinations within 10 days, usually much more quickly, although the Post Office only promises within 30 days.
But, these are not normal times for anyone, particularly for the Post Office. For now, it appears, "estimated delivery" dates when shipping packages are just that. We are hearing from customers whose books are taking longer, sometimes much longer, to be delivered. Clearly some mistakes were made. Normally packages from us to Windham, Maine, do not go through North Carolina. But mostly it's just overload all along the line.
Trying to keep postage costs at a minimum--we pass along exact mailing costs and no additional handling fee--we continue to count on USPS media mail. We thank you for your patience.
And if time is of the essence, for instance a birthday gift, you may ask that your order be sent by Priority Mail. But the greater expense, often much greater, will be passed along.
And remember, thank your mail carrier.
Counting Down to September 1
Over the last 10 years, Louise Penny has been our bestselling author. On publication day, customers have arrived before we've opened to secure their much-anticipated copy of Armand Gamache's latest case and to return to Three Pines.
All The Devils Are Here, the 16th book in the popular series, will be released September 1.
Pre-orders have always been requested to make sure we have enough copies. This year, those pre-orders--and, most importantly, mail/driveway orders--are particularly vital.
What We've Been Reading
Our shelves are filled with books, most of which are the result of the myriad book-buying excursions we take throughout the year, some locally and many others throughout New England and the Northeast.
With those trips curtailed in recent months--most sales venues cancelled and our reluctance to travel--we've been looking to our own shelves for our reading material.
Magnalen Nabb (Paula)
Many of you know of my love of Italian mysteries--yes, I do talk a lot about my favorites, Italian authors, like Andrea Camilleri and his Sicilian series starring Salvo Montabano, or Americans, like Donna Leon and her Venetian hero Guido Brunetti.
I recently went back to look at another favorite: Magnalen Nabb, English by birth and education, who spent much of her life in Florence. An artist turned writer, she's best known for her 12 novels featuring Marshal Salvatore Guarnaccia of the Carabinieri, the Italian police.
So respected by the police about whom she wrote, after her death in 2007 at the age of 60, Carabinieri officers in full ceremonial dress formed a guard of honor for her coffin.
Harry Bingham (Paula)
Bingham's Fiona Griffiths, a young detective constable in Cardiff, Wales, has long been a favorite of Ann's. But, as our customers know, we're very different in our book selection, and sometimes it takes a while (or never) before I catch up with her choices.
Talking To The Dead, the first in the series, was worth the wait. I was so zeroed in on Bingham's lead character--bright and intuitive, while totally disconnected and seriously weird-- before I knew it I was on to the next two books: Love Story, With Murders and The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths.
Clearly, Fiona is a compelling character. But, watching her--as she battles not only the bad guys but her own demons--is not always comfortable. Still, you just can't stop. It's a police procedural like no other I can recall.
Read Talking To The Dead, and I'll virtually guarantee you that you'll reach for the next and the next. I did.
Pol Pot is in control of Laos and aging Dr. Siri Paiboun is the Coroner, not because of training but because early on he's the only doctor left in Laos. He has no equipment, his mismatched team are not necessarily the assistants anyone would choose, and everyone tries to interfere with his work, but he presses on. He does all he can for his patients (who talk to him), for Dr. Siri knows that spirits can haunt people for eternity. So he works for justice.
Despite the horrors of Pol Pot, this now 15-book series is consistently funny. Even the titles are great, for example, Disco for the Departed and The Delightful Life of a Suicide Pilot. Not every writer could pull off a compassionate detective in dark, dark times. Cotterill deserves his awards and his acclaim.
Gayle Lynds (Ann)
The eight spy novels of Gayle Lynds, either on her own or with others, are among the best written by women. She herself tends to write standalones featuring, if not quite starring, women. And not helpless women either--or so old they pass below the radar like Mrs. Pollifax. Real live women who can do things like shoot a gun or clobber an attacker.
The setting is typically the Washington, D.C. vicinity, sometimes with trips elsewhere. There's a little sex but it's not particularly graphic. On the other hand, there's a fair number of violent deaths, mostly of the opponents who are usually overwhelming in numbers because they have some part of the government behind them.
Really good books for the paranoid. And if you read The Hades Factor, which she co-authored with Robert Ludlum, you can follow the fight against "an unknown doomsday virus." Still, I'm not sure this is the time.
Mystery readers are accustomed to following the clues. Mainely Murders customers are using similar detective skills to track down their summer reading.
Our trademark $5 mystery gift bags--each containing three books tied to a clue--have become a bestseller among mail order and curbside/driveway customers.
With a clue like "Culinary Crimes," a bag might include books by Diane Mott Davidson, Joanne Fluke, Joanna Carl, Paige Shelton, Jenn McKinley, or a dozen or so other authors of food-related mysteries. "Meow for Murder" isn't limited to Lilian Jackson Braun titles; books by Ali Brandon, Rita Mae Brown, Sophie Kelly, and others might be inside.
More currently available bags: Ho-Ho Homicide, Murder Most British, Murder Is Academic, Death by the Glass, Canine Crimes, Passport to Crime, Weddings to Die For, Crime Scene New England, Historical Whodunits, Murder in Beantown, Antiques Road Show, Garden Variety Murders, Senior Sleuths.
Did You Know?
Subscribers to our monthly newsletter number nearly 3,000.
Donna Andrews, The Falcon Always Wings Twice [Meg Langslow #27]
Rhys Bowen, The Last Mrs. Summers [Her Royal Spyness #14]
Sandra Brown, Thick As Thieves [NS]
James Lee Burke, A Private Cathedral [Dave Robicheaux #23]
V.M. Burns, Paw and Order [Dog Club #4]
Sophie Hannah, The Killings at Kingfisher Hall [Poirot continuation #3]
Caroline Hart, Ghost Ups Her Game [Bailey Ruth Raeburn #9]
Carl Hiaasen, Squeeze Me [NS]
Owen Laukanen, Lone Jack Trail [Burke & Winslow #2]
Keith McCafferty, Bangtail Ghost [Sean Stranahan #8]
Denise Mina, The Less Dead [NS]
T. Jefferson Parker, Then She Vanished [Roland Ford #4]
Mike Ripley, Mr. Campion's Séance [Albert Campion #7]
Hank Phillippi Ryan, The First To Lie [NS]
Karen Slaughter, The Silent Wife [Will Trent #10]
S.J. Watson, Final Cut [NS]
*Stuart Woods, Choppy Water [Stone Barrington #54]
Ever since his first book, The Poacher's Son, Paul Doiron has been taking readers into Maine's great--and, sometimes, not-so-great--outdoors. We think each adventure of game warden Mike Bowditch, which now number 11, gets better.
Our customer and friend, Marilyn Brooks of Needham, Massachusetts, is also a fan, as she recently told readers of her mystery blog (www.marilynsmysteryreads.com).
One Last Lie, Charley Stevens is Mike Bowditch's mentor/father figure/best friend all rolled into one.So, when Charley goes missing without explanation, Mike is determined to find him and discover the reason for his disappearance before it's too late.
The two men have known each other for years, and Mike has always thought they could count on each other if either one was in a tight spot and needed help. So, it's particularly upsetting when he receives a phone call from Ora, Charley's wife, who tells him that Charley has gone off without telling her where or why. The only unusual thing that happened, she tells Mike, is that her husband seemed to have been upset after they had stopped at a flea market in Machias a few days earlier, not too far from their lakeside Maine home.
On his drive north from Portland to see Ora, Mike stops at the market to talk to a vendor he knows. Carol Boyce had noticed Charley talking to an odd-looking man at a nearby table; the former English professor describes the stranger, in the words of Edith Wharton, as "but a ruin of a man." The two had an angry exchange of words, and she thinks Charley walked away from the table with something small in his hand. Perhaps, she says, it was the badge she had noticed him examining earlier among the items for sale.
Mike has two other concerns as well as his worry about his friend. The first is the possibility that the Maine Warden Service, where Mike is a warden investigator and Charley had been one before his retirement, is going to hire someone who appears to be too good to be true. Tom Wheelwright, a Maine native and decorated combat pilot, is applying for the Service's position of chief pilot. Everything about him looks perfect on paper, but Bowditch nevertheless has the feeling that something isn't right.
He persuades his superior officer to let him fly to Miami, where Wheelwright currently lives, to talk to Joe Fixico, Tom's former electronic warfare officer and a man whose name was conspicuous by its absence among the many references in Wheelwright's job application.
Going to Miami brings up the second concern for Mike--a possible meeting with his former lover Stacey, Charley and Ora's daughter, now living in Florida. Mike is now in a serious relationship with Dani, a member of the Maine State Police, but seeing his former "soul mate" raises a question about where his heart truly lies.
As in all the other books in this series, Paul Doiron's love of nature, even when nature is not at its most appealing, shows his appreciation of the outdoors and the environment.
Whether he's in the Everglades with Stacey looking for a loose Burmese python or back in his beloved Maine woods fighting clouds of mosquitoes and taking photos of a herd of moose, Mike is in his element, even if that element is uncomfortable or possibly dangerous.
One Last Lie is a welcome addition to the Mike Bowditch series.