Name the heroine in a bestselling mystery series who says, "Compared to my life, Cinderella was a spoiled brat." Need an additional clue? She also said, "Although it is pleasant to think about poison at any season, there is something special about Christmas."
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 Jane Hawkins of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, who named John Grisham as the American mystery writer born in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Jane's entry was drawn from many correct answers.
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.
, creator of Nero Wolfe, was born December 1, 1896, in Noblesville, Indiana. In his long-running series, he paired the laid-back detective (the rotund, orchid-loving, beer-swilling Wolfe) with the hard-nosed private eye (Archie Goodwin). Stout
, a Mystery Writers of America Grand Master who died in 1975, remains popular to this day, with his own society of devotees, The Wolfe Pack.
Irish/George Hopley), was born December 4, 1903, in New York City and, with brief forays to Mexico and California, lived there until his death in 1968. His 40-plus books, which include many short story collections, are said to be the basis of more noir movies (including Rear Window, The Bride Wore Black, and The Night Has a Thousand Eyes) than any other writer.
Philip R. Craig, born December 10, 1933, in California, was best known for his series, starring Jefferson (J.W.) Jackson, an ex-Boston cop on Martha's Vineyard. (Craig himself spent most of his adult life in Boston.) In addition to the 19 titles in the series, he teamed up with friend and fishing buddy William Tapply on three books, in which Jackson stars alongside Tapply's Brady Coyne. Craig died in 2007.
December 13, 1915, rose to fame writing under the name Ross Macdonald
. Lew Archer, his most well-known creation, was an ex-cop-turned-private investigator. A Mystery Writers of America Grand Master--as was his wife, Margaret Millar
--he died in 1983.
was born December 30, 1922. She was first known as a writer of children's books, but gained greater fame as a mystery writer. Her Homer Kelly books--a mainstay on our New England shelves--include the author's pen-and-ink drawings. She died in 2018, a year after being named a MWA Grand Master.
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.
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Just because you can't be here today, tomorrow, or even next week doesn't mean you can't get your favorite books from us. We happily accept mail, phone, or e-mail orders. You can reach us at 207-985-8706 or email@example.com.
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Christmas always sneaks up on us. Yes, even after nine years.
Blame it on those overzealous retailers who've been showcasing Christmas decorations and playing holiday music since before Halloween. We grow immune to it, and then all of a sudden, it's here.
But last week's post-Thanksgiving Small Business Saturday has us, too, jumping aboard the holiday train. We've stocked our shelves with end-of-the-year releases, some great finds from our November book-buying trips, and a myriad of holiday titles that will put a smile on the face of even Ebenezer Scrooge. (David Rosenfelt's Dachshund Through the Snow is our big seller, so far.)
We invite you to stuff a stocking for your favorite mystery reader, (The stocking itself is free with a $25 purchase.) We've even polled our customers about their "most desired" gifts. (See list below.)
The holiday season wraps up Mainely Murders' ninth year. Our final day until May 2020 is Saturday, December 28. In the meantime, we'll be here every Wednesday-Saturday (except Christmas Day) throughout this month.
As the year's twelfth month begins, we wish you a wonderful December--whichever holidays you celebrate.
Ann and Paula
Partners in Crime
This Christmas, Borrow
An Icelandic Tradition
Icelandic thrillers have long been a favorite at Mainely Murders. Indeed, in recent years, this small island nation has established a strong mystery-writing tradition.
This Christmas season, we encourage readers to join us in adopting another wonderful Icelandic tradition, Jólabókaflód.
The custom began during World War II once Iceland
had gained its independence from Denmark in 1944. Paper was one of the few commodities not rationed during the war, so Icelanders shared their love of books even more as other types of gifts were in short supply. Books as holiday gifts reinforced Iceland's culture as a nation of readers.
Every year, the country's book trade has published a catalogue, Bókatíðindi
that is sent to every household in mid-November during the Reykjavik Book Fair. People use the catalogue to order books to give friends and family for Christmas.
Traditionally, with gifts opened on Christmas Eve, it has become known as an evening of book reading for Icelanders.
We can't think of a more pleasant way to spend a long winter night.
A Reader's Wish List
A wish list isn't limited to children this time of the year. Our customers were more than happy to list some much-wanted gifts:
- Gift card. (Whether redeemed immediately or saved for later in the year, our gift card, available in any amount, is No. 1.)
- Newest book by favorite writer. (Louise Penny's A Better Man, Paul Doiron's Almost Midnight, and Martin Walker's A Body in the Castle Well were most named. Don't know his/her favorite? See item #1.
- Viva Gamache café au lait cup. ("Too expensive to buy for myself, but I'd love one.")
- Gift basket: Scottish, "Death By Drambuie"; Maine, "M is for Maine, Moxie and Murder;" Noir: "Bleak Ireland--Sweden--Japan."
- Dark Side of Christmas: Edward Gorey Christmas card.
What We're Reading
The truth is we don't have much time for reading during the approaching holidays. We're pretty busy helping customers select the books they want to give (and receive) this Christmas.
But, that doesn't mean we haven't spotted some selections we'd like to read. You might wish to add some of these to your shopping list.
Christmas Crimes from the Golden Age (Paula)
Christmas mysteries abound but I'm still in love with the oldies. And I'm putting all the following classic British crimes on my own wish list this year.
British writer/editor Martin Edwards, among the best of anthologists, has complied a new one this year, The Christmas Card Crime, from the British Library Crime Classics. Clearly this collection brings together stories from the darker side of the season.
For Edwards, The Christmas Card Crime is his second go at the holiday season, following Silent Nights: Christmas Stories (2014), also a British Library Crime Classics title.
For those who can't get enough of the holiday British style--Christmas crackers (not the kind you eat), Christmas pudding (not the dessert kind), and Boxing Day (yippee, more presents)--the British Library Crime Classics has more.
Mavis Doriel Hay (1894-1979) wrote only three mystery novels, and the British Library Crime Classics has resurrected them all, including The Santa Klaus Murder (1936). Aunt Mildred always said no good could come of a Melbury Christmas gathering. Was anyone really surprised then when Sir Osmond Melbury, the family patriarch, is found Christmas Day with a bullet in his head? It's a classic country house mystery, all wrapped up for Christmas.
Francis Duncan (1918-1988) brings together an unusual cast of characters for Christmas Eve revelries at a country retreat in a sleepy English village in Murder For Christmas (1949).
When morning comes, presents aren't the only thing beneath the Christmas tree; so too is the host. Can Mordecai Tremaine, Duncan's amateur sleuth, solve this Christmas murder before another one happens?
Dark Days of Christmas (Ann)
Christmas is generally a nice season. I enjoy it until the 153rd public rendition of "The Little Drummer Boy," which I actually liked when it first came out, but now drives me mad. Dark holiday stories bring life back into balance.
So for those of you who sometimes feel the same, here are a few books to feed your bit of Grinch.
First, a couple of fairly nonthreatening, if not cheery, books. Georges Simenon's "Maigret's Christmas," the title story in the collection of the same name and one other in that collection are both about children in danger. People are killed quite matter of factly.
R.D. Wingfield's Frost at Christmas, the first of the Frost books, is also about a lost child. Scruffy and rumpled, Frost is the detective that superiors hate--disrespectful of them and successful solving crimes. Darker than the TV series and maybe a bit dated given Frost's strong opinions.
But the Christmas (anti-Christmas?) stories that really grab you are from more contemporary British writers. Susi Holliday's The Deaths of December is a gripping first mystery that starts when an advent calendar is delivered to a police station.
Unfortunately for the police, each little door hides a negative of a dead body--and only four doors have no negative. Even more unfortunately for the police, each negative displays the body of a Christmas cold case victim, one per year.
Alastair Gunn is also really into dark. The Advent Killer, his first mystery starring London police DCI Antonia Hawkins, clearly as dysfunctional as many male policemen, has women being killed on Sundays leading up to Christmas. Although different means of death are used and no obvious connections between the victims exist except the time of death, Hawkins first case as lead detective is not going well--and Saturday night is approaching.
And, of course, there's always Scandinavia, land of wintertime darkness and bleak mysteries. From Maj Sjöwall
and Per Wahlöö's The Laughing Policeman
set in Stockholm to Ragnar Jonasson's White Out set in small-town Iceland, these mystery writers can throw cold snow on any happy Christmas moment.
A Favorite Author
We love it when our customers send us pictures of themselves and their favorite authors.
Chuck and Margie Harkins of Sewell, New Jersey, traveled to Knowlton, Quebec, earlier this year for the launch of Louise Penny's A Better Man. They shared this picture with us during their annual trip to Maine in October.
Our Traveling Book Bag
Over the years, Gen and Harvey Marks from Metheun, Massachusetts, have become a veritable poster couple for traveling with their Mainely Murders book bag.
Shortly before their recent trip to London, they stopped by and picked up a new one. "After all our trips, our original bag was beginning to look a little worn," said Gen. That's our idea of vacationing: travel with books.
Kennebunkers Ross and Priscilla Wyman have made it a practice to pack their Mainely Murders book bag when they travel. Like many of our customers, they don't even require a reminder from us.
The couple traveled to Western Canada this fall, beginning with several days in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia, before heading east, stopping along the way in Jasper, Lake Louise, Banff, and concluding in Calgary, Alberta.
M.C. Beaton, Beating About the Bush [Agatha Raisin #29]
Cleo Coyle, Brewed Awakening [Coffeehouse #18]
Loren D. Estleman, When Old Midnight Comes Along [Amos Walker #28]
Christopher Fowler, The Lonely Hour [Arthur Bryant & John May #16]
Elly Griffiths, Now You See Them [Magic Men #5]
*Lee Hollis, Poppy Harmon and the Hung Jury [Desert Flowers #2]
Val McDermid, How the Dead Speak [Tony Hill & Carol Jordan #11, 1st US]
*Barbara Ross, Sealed Off [Maine Clambake #8]
Helene Tursten, Winter Grave [Embla Nystrom #2]
* Maine authors
of Kennebunk always has a large stack of books on her TBR (to-be-read) pile. We've seen it! This month, we asked her about some of the best books she's read recently.
Whenever I'm there at Mainely Murders, someone always seems to ask for the latest Ann Cleeves mystery. I figured it was time to get in on the action with the first book in her new Two Rivers series,
The Long Call, and I definitely wasn't disappointed.
Her new detective, Inspector Matthew Venn, is extremely likable, serious, and introspective but also caring and compassionate as well. So many of today's police procedurals involve main characters who are battling a plethora of demons from their past. It's refreshing to read about one who seems to have stayed pretty close to the straight-and-narrow and who is a partner in a happy and loving relationship. The mystery takes him to some dark places, however, and we meet some very twisted people as the story unfolds. The plot is intricate, involving many different characters, but it's easy to follow along as Venn unearths the clues that eventually bring the bad guys to justice.
Since the long Maine winter is at our doorsteps, I am looking forward to delving into Cleeves' other two series, featuring Vera Stanhope in Northumberland and Jimmy Perez on the Shetland Islands with the hope that they will carry me through to spring.
My absolute favorite read this fall has been Attica Locke's Heaven, My Home, the second title in her Highway 59 series. These books take place in East Texas bayou country, and her descriptions of the tributaries and the inlets that comprise most of the area "like a tangle of snakes" establish the setting as a major component as the story takes shape. The characters, ranging from the Native Americans who consider the area their homeland to uber-wealthy plantation owners are a colorful and varied group, and the author also weaves in some snippets of history that go a long way in explaining why there is still such a racial divide in this country. There's a mystery here to be solved and a Texas Ranger to solve it, but this author is clearly aiming for something beyond the standard whodunit
. A two-time Edgar winner--in 2009 for Best First Novel (
Black Water Rising) and in 2018 Best Mystery (
Bluebird, Bluebird)--she continues to be one of today's very best mystery writers.