Our customers' interests are varied, but two always-popular themes are historical and those set here in Maine. Name the author whose books combine both: a turn-of-the- century mystery in Old Orchard Beach.
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 Sharon Hennessey of Boylston, Massachusetts, last month's winner, drawn from the respondents to the request to: Name three authors who have created bookstore-themed series.
Sharon named Lawrence Block, creator of Bernie Rodenbarr, the New York City bookstore owner in The Burglar Who ... books; John Dunning, an honest-to-goodness bookstore owner, whose character Cliff Janeway was a Denver cop-turned-rare book expert; and Carolyn Hart, creator of Annie Laurance (later Darling), owner of Murder on Demand, the mystery bookstore in Browards Rock, South Carolina.
Thanks to all who entered this month (and all the other months). Our mystery readers are rarely stumped for an 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.
England's Peter Lovesey
, born in Whitton, Middlesex, on September 10, 1936, is best known for his series featuring Richard Cribb and Edward Thackeray, policemen in Victorian London; Albert Edward (Bertie, Prince of Wales); Peter Diamond, a homicide detective in Bath; and Henrietta "Hen" Mallin, a police inspector in West Sussex.
September 15, 1890, in Devonshire, went on to define the British puzzle mysteries of the Golden Age, and created two of the most famous characters in detective fiction, Miss Jane Marple and Hercule Poirot. Designated a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America in 1955, she died in 1976.
Robert B. Parker
, best known for his creation Spenser, was born September 17, 1932. His two other leading characters were Jesse Stone and Sunny Randall, both of whom appeared in long-running series. A 2002 Grand Master designee, he died in 2010, although some of his series have continued under the authorship of others.
September 29, 1927, in Canton, Illinois, was known to mystery readers by her two pseudonyms, Elizabeth Peters
and Barbara Michaels
. Another Grand Master designee (1998), she died in 2013.
(John Innes Mackintosh Stewart
) was born September 30, 1906, in Edinburgh. Best known for his Oxford-educated Scotland Yard detective John Appleby, he died in 1994.
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 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 do have some special finds. Signed, mylar-covered first edition runs (not all) of authors 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 limited. Let us know the author and we'll reply with a list of available signed books.
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.
After what's been the strangest of summers--during which we'd initially planned to celebrate Mainely Murders' 10th anniversary--we're set to take another step forward.
But first let us say again that we can't adequately thank those who have supported us through mail order (and curbside pickup) orders. You've allowed us to survive, as well as made it possible for everyone to receive this newsletter.
It's not without trepidation we have decided that beginning September 10, we will open for limited outside-only browsing--having added additional outdoor covered shelving. Face masks are required, as is social distancing. Hand sanitizer is available.
Please keep in mind that our space is very limited. We ask that you not bring children or pets.
This is an experiment for us as well as you. If at any time we fear a growing health risk, we will discontinue immediately. Clearly, those of you who feel adequately served by mail order or curbside pickup are encouraged to continue.
At a time of year when we usually start saying goodbye to our "temporary Mainers," we hope to finally get to say, "Hello."
Paula & Ann
Partners in Crime
Stay-cations, rather than va-cations, have people staying home, but that hasn't deterred them from using the Mainely Murders book bag. Charlie Wallace of Portland used his to display his two favorite hobbies: gardening and reading.
New This Month
Thank you, USPS
The United States Postal Service has been a lifeline for small independent bookstores like Mainely Murders over the past few
We cannot say enough good things about its service through such a testing time. Postal workers have continued to work through this pandemic, and, in fact, the USPS may be the government agency that has lost the most people due to Covid-19, not an enviable record.
"Mistakes were made," but despite its being continually short-handed, all of our customers got their books--eventually.
In The Beginning
How often we've heard it: "I was totally hooked by the opening line." It's happened to all of us.
Cheryl Wallace of Portland liked the opening of Lois Winston's Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun. Being a wicked crafter herself, Cheryl says the title immediately grabbed her attention.
Then, she read the opening line: "I hate whiners."
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).
Our calendar always lists the September 15 birthday of Agatha Christie (1890-1976). After all, rarely does a month pass by that one of us doesn't revisit a Dame Agatha title.
Last month, Paula enjoyed a re-read of Cards on the Table, when a customer asked for a mystery in which bridge plays a central role. Ann's choice was 13 at Dinner, a lesser-known Hercule Poirot story.
Born 130 years ago, Agatha Christie never grows old.
Our Favorite New Read
The Guest List, Lucy Foley
Lucy Foley's The Hunting Party was one of our favorite books of 2019. Needless to say, when The Guest List appeared, we were all over it.
On a remote* island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate a wedding. The groom: handsome, charming, and a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It's an event you'd expect for a young power couple. The cellphone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but you can bet that every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.
But dark clouds loom overhead. Maybe it's just the weather? Until someone turns up dead.
*Remote as in there's no leaving until the boats return.
What We've Been Reading
Our shelves are filled with books, most of which are the result of our myriad book-buying excursions. With those trips curtailed, we've been looking to our own shelves for reading material.
Martha Grimes (Paula)
Grimes, a Mystery Writers of America Grand
Master, is best known for her Scotland Yard detective Richard Jury and his Watson-esque sidekick, Melrose Plant. Having written the series for the last 40 years, Grimes' output, the most recent in 2018, stands at 25.
But for a fun, laugh-out-loud change of pace--not that the Jury/Plant titles don't have their share of comedy--fans of the writer should read Foul Matter (2003) and its sequel, The Way of All Fish (2014). Both are biting and hilarious send-ups of the cutthroat world of publishing.
Don't bother to stop laughing long enough to ask yourself, "Is this real?" Suffice it to say, most writers will find plenty of familiar territory.
Thomas Perry (Paula)
A list of Ann's and my favorite American authors has little overlap. No big surprise there. Except one: Thomas Perry. But, we're fans of two different series.
For Ann it's Perry's Butcher's Boy novels. My favorites are the tales of Jane Whitefield, a Native American woman whose mission--in her role as "a guide"--is to help vulnerable people "disappear."
People in life-threatening situations turn to Jane. "I'm a guide . . . I show people how to go from places where somebody is trying to kill them to other places where nobody is."
Using her unique skills, honed over many years, Jane leads them out of a dangerous world into a safe one. She can fool any pursuer, cover any trail, and then provide her clients with new identities. Jane knows all the tricks, ancient and modern.
Eight books make up the series, starting with Vanishing Act (1995). Pick up any of the titles--you needn't read them in order--you'll be hooked.
Maybe it's true, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Alafair Burke obviously inherited the writing skills of her MWA Grand Master father James Lee.
I started reading Alafair with her first series, featuring Portland (Oregon) deputy district attorney, Samantha Kincaid. That series was a natural for Alafair; she was writing about her own job. After graduating from the Stanford Law School and earning a clerkship with a circuit court judge in Portland, she moved on to Portland's DA office. Next came her five-book series with Ellie Hatcher, a NYC police detective.
Her last three books have been standalones--I think of them as "domestic noir"--each painting an all-too-vivid portrayal of friendship, lies, deceit, betrayal, and secrets. The Better Sister, last year's bestseller, as well as The Ex (2016) and The Wife
(2018), reminded me that in an Alafair Burke book, you can't trust anyone.
One of the side effects of Covid-19, for us, has been an upsurge of interest in largely forgotten writers. A customer's request to help her "fill in the gaps of some old favorites" had us reaching for the likes of Dorothy Hughes, Doris Miles Disney, and my once favorite Dorothy Gilman.
For those who don't know, Gilman was one of the first American writers to focus on what has since become relatively commonplace--the senior sleuth, or in her case, spy.
Emily Pollifax of New Brunswick, New Jersey-- widow, mother, grandmother, garden club member--is bored. Surely, there's something more in life for this sixtyish matron. She hadn't thought of the CIA, not until they came calling.
In all, Gilman penned 14 adventures of Mrs. Pollifax, as she traveled throughout the world, each time on what seemed like such a mundane task. Today, they seem a little dated (both politically and geographically), and, of course, silly and unbelievable at times. But she was such a wonderful character--brave, strong, feisty and self-reliant, while often so naïve and trusting.
Stock Up For Fall/Winter
We try not to think about it, but fall and winter are coming. Time to stock up on cold-weather reading--as many of you already are.
Our trademark $5 mystery grab bags, each containing three books tied to a single clue, make a perfect reading surprise--for yourself or others.
During September, when we'll be moving our stock outdoors, our book cart will be loaded with a variety of mysterious choices. If you're really thinking ahead a few months, there's Ho-Ho Homicide.
Others, while they last, include Murder Most British, Murder Is Academic, Death by the Glass, Canine Crimes, Meow for Murder, Passport to Crime, Weddings to Die For, Historical Whodunits, Murder in Beantown, Antiques Road Show, Garden Variety Murders.
We're asked a surprising (or maybe not) number of questions about our reading habits--how many books we read a week? favorite authors? least-favorite authors? go-to drink at cocktail/reading hour?
This one seems to be a current favorite: "What books are currently on your bedside night stands?"
Ann: I pile them up until they're dangerously close to falling over. Currently on the pile: Martin Edwards, Capital Crimes (short stories); Lucy Foley, The Guest List; Beth Gutcheon, The Affliction; Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine; Denise Mina, The Less Dead; and Mary Paulson-Ellis, The Other Mrs. Walker.
Paula: None. I don't read in bed.
James Benn, The Red Horse [Billy Boyle #15]
Robert Galbraith, Troubled Blood [Cormoran Strike #5]
Elly Griffiths, The Postscript Murders [Harbinder #2]
*Elizabeth Hand, The Book of Lamps and Banners [Cass Neary #4]
Ellen Hart, The Midnight Wood [Jane Lawless #27]
Iris Johansen, Chaos [NS]
Craig Johnson, Next to Last Stand [Walt Longmire #16]
Eric Van Lustbader, Robert Ludlum'sThe Bourne Nemesis [Bourne continuation]
Edward Marston, Slaughter in the Sapperton Tunnel [Railroad Detective #18]
Archer Mayor, The Orphan's Guilt [Bernie Gunther #31]
Kyle Mills, Total Power [Mitch Rapp continuation]
Margaret Mizushima, Hanging Falls [Timber Creek K-9 #6]
Bradford Morrow, The Forger's Daughter [Forgers #2]
Jo Nesbø, The Kingdom [NS]
Louise Penny, All the Devils Are Here [Inspector Gamache #16]
Anne Perry, A Question of Betrayal [Elena Standish #2]
J.D. Robb, Shadows in Death [Eve Dallas #51]
Ruth Ware, One By One [NS]
Ashley Weaver, A Deception at Thornecrest [Amory Ames #7]
Last month's discussion of Black writers and protagonists elicited much interest from readers, including several, "I never knew . . ."
Shirley Wagner, professor emeritus at Fitchburg State College, wrote to tell us of the death, earlier this year, of Grace F. Edwards, one of the authors featured in the discussion.
"I love mysteries with a really strong sense of place. I want to be transported to the region or the country, enmeshed in the culture, the climate and the geography. I want to feel like I am there and the mystery itself could only be written because the author was in that place at that time. In the Grace F. Edwards' mysteries, I walk the streets of Harlem by her side, seeing what was, what is, and what could be."
Shirley graciously allowed us to reprint the following piece she wrote about Edwards.
On June 5, the New York Times had an obituary for
Grace F. Edwards, Harlem mystery writer, who died at 87. I had never heard about her, but her life story was intriguing. She had been a past director of the Harlem Writer's Guild, and published her first novel at 55 and her first mystery at 64.
Grace wrote six books (available as both physical books and ebooks). Four are mysteries where her amateur unpaid detective is Mali Anderson, a former New York policewoman, now completing her studies in social work. She lives with her father Jeffrey, a jazz musician; her nephew Alvin, the son of her sister who died in a tragic hiking accident; and Ruffin, a black-and-white Great Dane, sometimes described as a small horse.
Mali, a 6-foot woman with gray eyes, worked for the NYPD until she punched a white officer for his racist comments. Fired for this action, she sued for wrongful dismissal. She has a good lawyer, but the department is slow to reach a settlement. She remains connected to the police force through Tad Honeywell, a Black detective she re-meets in her first case as an amateur sleuth. Tad and Mali have a romantic relationship that sometimes becomes tense when the NYPD and she are working on solving the same case.
In each mystery--If I Should Die, A Toast Before Dying, No Time for Dying, and Do or Die--Mali's impetus for being involved is a personal connection. She knew the victim or victims and wants to ensure that the murderer is found and convicted. She also doesn't trust the NYPD to care or to do the job. She uses her deep relationships in the Harlem community--beauticians, restaurant owners, waitresses, delivery boys--to get the information she needs to solve the mysteries.
As Mali investigates, we are all treated to the Harlem where Grace F. Edwards was born, lived her entire life, and died. Its streets and rich history abound as do her reminders that mayors have let Harlem down and the NYPD has practiced police brutality and been acquitted of murdering a long list of Black men over the years--she lists Diallo, Glover, Cedeno, Huang, Baez, Rosario, and Bumpers, all cases worthy of a Google search.
Coming during the time of widespread protests across the country, reading Grace's books remind us how long-standing the injustices have been in Black communities and how difficult it is to sustain the action needed to create a more just society.