Mystery and Reality Collide: White House Edition - The Missing Clue - October 2018

After reading the article Wendy wrote for this edition of the newsletter, I realised that there is one more of these mystery-reality collisions which is very much in the forefront of our stock at the moment.  Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward, would not be something that we would normally have had in our old space, but the demand we had for it upon its release has meant we have kept a few copies to hand.  However, the realities of that book are being paralleled in a number of recent books, from the only recently announced The Kingfisher Secret by Anonymous to Jake Tapper's Hellfire Club this past spring.  While Bill Clinton and James Patterson wrote a relatively down the line thriller for The President is Missing, and Tapper, as well as Murder in the Lincoln White House author C.M. Gleason kept their works ensconced in the past, it is the anonymous author of The Kingfisher Secret that has really gone all in on what is happening down south.  Keeping their quiet to protect their identity, the author has written the "speculative" notion that perhaps some of the rumors surrounding the current White House are true...

Of course, if you are looking for a reprieve from the churning thriller plot lines of our southern neighbours, why not the nostaglia of the previous administration Hope Never Dies, the Joe Biden as detective novel by Andrew Shaffer, is light, fun and pleasant, if a little on the nose.

Mystery and Reality Collide by Wendy - The Missing Clue - October 2018

Last autumn I was reading Tasha Alexander’s  Death in St Petersburg, the twelfth title in the Lady Emily series. . In this book Lady Emily and her husband Colin Hargraves are visiting Russia.  After an evening at the ballet they come across the body of one of the prima ballerinas. This death leads them into the demi monde world of dancers and their royal and aristocratic lovers.  Just as I was finishing the book there was a story on BBC Newsworld about a new movie that was creating some controversy in Russia.  The movie which was called Matilda, described a relationship between Tsar Nicholas II and ballerina Matilda Kshesinkaya, which occurred before Nicholas was married to Princess Alix of Hesse.  As Nicholas and his family are, due to their murders, regarded as almost saint like by many Russians, the movie was seen as almost blasphemous. We’ve got Death in St.Petersburg, in stock in trade paperback at $22.50.

The eleventh installment of Ian Hamilton’s Ava Lee series is being released in December.  A couple of weeks ago I was reading an advanced copy of the book which is called The Goddess of Yantai. Much of the plot centres around the problems that Ava’s friend Chinese film actress Pang Fai is having with the China Movie Syndicate. This body seems to control all aspects of film production e.g. which actors are given important roles, and distribution how, when and where films are released etc. Almost the next day there was a lot of coverage in various media outlets about the disappearance of Fan Bingbing, described as “China’s most famous actress”. She was one of China’s highest paid stars, having appeared in many Chinese and Western movies including the X Men franchise.  Fan has not been seen in public since early July and there were suggestions that she had been banned from acting. Much of the media commentary about this disappearance is eerily reminiscent of Hamilton’s novel. The Goddess of Yantai, is due to be released on December 4th in trade paperback at $19.95.

A customer who was in the store last week recounted a similar experience.  A long time fan of Gerald Seymour, who if you don’t know him is a British writer who writes stand alone military thrillers, she had on her previous visit bought a copy of Jericho’s War. But what had struck her while reading the novel, which is set in Yemen was how the fighting around Hodeidah which she saw on the television news echoed the book she was reading. We are sold out of Jericho’s War (mass market $10.99) and waiting for new copies to arrive but we do have a number of his other titles in stock, in both new and used.

One of the talking heads on television during the recent Supreme Court kerfuffle has been mystery writer Linda Fairstein. Fairstein is the author of twenty Alexandra Cooper novels. Alexandra Cooper like her creator is a senior sex crimes investigator in Manhattan. The twentieth novel, Blood Oath, is being released in March 2019. My favourite book in the series is Killer Look, published in 2016 and available in mass market. Please check out our stock of new and Linda Fairstein novels next time you are in the store. Killer Look (#18 in the series) is in stock in mass market for $10.99 and Deadfall #19 is in stock in mass market $12.99.

Classic Mystery Collections - The Missing Clue - October 2018

Those of you who have been visiting us over the last few years, then you have probably been made aware of the classic British mysteries that we have been getting through the British Library. I am quite certain that this series of late 19th-early 20th century works, with its attractive railway mural covers, will continue to be featured here in the new Whodunit?, and if you are interested in reading some of the lost classics of the genre, you should check the series out on the shelf we keep them all together on (or in the link above if you receive this by email).

This is not the only one of these collections that exist, although it has proven to be the most popular. The Detective Club Crime Classics, which actually contain a number of the same works as the British Library series, has not seemed to inspire the same level of devotion from our readers. A part of this may be that this series comes in the dreaded hardcover, even if it is a hardcover that is comparably priced to the British Library paper editions. Many of these authors and titles have also been released in previous, similar collections, and can also be found in their earlier formats in our used section. We do not have many of these in the shop at the time of this printing, but if you are looking for a starting point to build a mystery library of your own (or for someone else), we can order them for you.

While both of those series have a British focus, the god-father of American mystery bookshops, and, in some ways, American mysteries themselves, Otto Penzler has started a series of American Mystery Classics in response. Penzler, through Black Lizard/Vintage Crime has been re-releasing American mysteries for many years, and have also started to bring out compendium editions to look at some of the more famous works. This series is mostly going to be released in 2019, but they have bright attractive art, and are by some of the most notable names in the genre.

On the international scene, Pushkin Vertigo is also releasing some of the biggest names of Europe and Asia in another matching collection.  Masako Togawa's Japanese thrillers are already here, and Swiss master Friedrich Durrenmatt will be among the other authors who will feature in the first year of this imprint's releases.

Of course, if you are not familiar with any of these authors, or feel overwhelmed just by the idea of starting on something that could be considered a "Crime Classic", we are always ready to be of any extra help that you might need.

Growing Pains, Upcoming Events, Ordering Online & Other Services - The Missing Clue - October 2018

Growing Pains

We have been in our wonderful new space for just over a month know, and for those who have visited us more than once, you will have noticed the incremental adjustments that are being made.  We would like to thank all of you who have been patient with us as books have moved from floors to shelves and back again as we get the final touches ready on the space.  As the autumn goes on, things will continue to shift and move as we settle on where we want everything to be, and what extra things we want to share with you. 

Especial thanks must go to Gaylene Chesnut and the other volunteers who have gotten the books into shape to be put on the shelves when they are finally ready!

Upcoming Events

While we have had a few author visits (check out our social medias), we are very excited to confirm that we are on track to be having our first official event featuring CC Benison (Doug Whiteway)! Starting at 3pm on that Sunday we will be launching his new novel Paul is Dead with an author's reading, signing, and treats! We are thrilled that we can also announce that this is actually a pre-launch event, meaning that those of you who get the book from us will be getting it before the official release of the book. We would like to thank Signature Editions, the publisher, for the confidence in us to be able to be given this exclusive.

Watch out for more information as we get nearer to the date. Having such a flexible space means that we have fully decided where we are going to set Doug up, and what the set up will look like, so there will be hints to that as we move through October. Doug is always popular with you, our readership, so we have ordered lots of books, and space will no longer be an issue (remember the two session launch we had for Twelve Drummers Drumming?), but if you want to be sure of getting a copy, you can pre-order one starting today by using the webstore, by phone, email, or by stopping in. If you cannot attend, we can also make sure you get a signed edition.

Ordering Online & Other Extra Services

For those of you who have not been able to visit us yet, or who are reluctant to show up while there are still books on the floor, it is worth reminding all of you that you can order online from our entire catalogue! Whether you cannot make it in, or just do not want to root through the shelves and stacks, by ordering online you can choose to have it mailed, to pick up in the store (for those who also may want to browse), or get FREE delivery within the city. You do not even have to pay before we confirm that the books are here and waiting for you!

Did you also know that regardless of the genre of book you want, if we can acquire it for you, we are more than happy to order it. Also, you can use our webstore to order gifts for people locally, and far away. So if you have a child/grandchild/cousin/parent who needs a book, please consider letting us help you. Also, if you are the kind of person who gets a gift from one of the above, you can use the online ordering function to build a wish list so that we know what they should be looking to buy you!

Of course, for those of you who do not fancy using the webstore, or who love the thrill of the hunt in person, we are still here and open to allow you to do so. If you ever find yourself wanting to visit outside of normal hours, Michael is happy to stay longer or show up early to let you shop. In fact, Michael will be moving even closer to the shop at the end of October, and will be just a hop, skip and a jump away!

Fall Mystery Reading Clue - The Missing Clue - August 2018

For the fall, the theme is London and we will be reading:

Tuesday, September 25th – Proof of Guilt by Charles Todd

Tuesday, October 30th – She’s Leaving Home by William Shaw

Tuesday, November 27th – Stranger on the Train by Abbie Taylor

We know that some non-members of the group do read the assigned titles. If you would like to have the questions that Jack writes, please let Wendy know (via email, phone, or in person). Books will be available for purchase at the store and feature a 10% discount. New members are always welcome.

Bestselling Children's Books

Our new space allows us to show off our collection of children’s books to a greater advantage.  The area is not quite finished but it is certainly more spacious than the crammed bookshelves at 165.  As customers have undoubtedly noticed the children’s section has grown quite a lot over the past couple of years. 

Here is a list of the top ten titles for the last fifteen years:
 

1.      Lindsay Mattick, Finding Winnie

2.      Arthur Ransome, Swallows and Amazons

3.      Gail Carriger, Etiquette & Espionage

4.      Russell Punter, Scaredy Cat

5.      Kate Beaton, The Princess and the Pony

6.      Jenny Nimmo, Midnight For Charlie Bone

7.      Olivier Tallec, Who Done It?

8.      Emily Bone, 50 Secret Codes Cards

9.      Trenton Lee Stewart, The Mysterious Benedict Society

10.  Jo Nesbo, Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder

One of the interesting features of this list is the longevity of popularity of some of these titles, from the 1930s to 2016. Charlie Bone, for instance, was originally published in 2002, it is still in print and a steady seller.

July 2018 Bestsellers - The Missing Clue - August 2018

We are very pleased that our No 1 bestseller over all book types was Graham Reed’s, The Chairman’s Toys.  Reed is an ex-Winnipeger and won Poisoned Press’ annual competition for unpublished mystery novels. The prize was publication of the novel.  We also hear that there will be another novel coming next year.  We highly recommend this well written novel, which we are having trouble keeping in stock.

Trade Papers

1.      Graham Reed,  The Chairman’s Toys

2.      Daniel Silva, The Other Woman

3.      Paul Doherty,  Dark Serpent

4.      Peter James, Dead if You Don’t

5.      Anthony Horowitz,  The Word is Murder

6.      Dinah Jeffries, The Sapphire Widow

7.      William Shaw,  She’s Leaving Home

8.      Vaseem Khan, Murder at the Grand Raj Palace

9.      E.C.R. Lorac,  Bats in the Belfry

10.   Robert Bryndza,  Girl in the Ice

Mass Markets

1.      Rhys Bowen, On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service

2.      M.C. Beaton,  The Witches Tree

3.      Baker Bree, Live and Let Chai

4.      J.C. Eaton,  Staged 4 Murder

5.      Rose Pressey,  Passion For Haunted Fashion

6.      Bernard Cornwell,  Fools and Mortals

7.      Elizabeth Peters,  The Painted Queen

8.      Lorna Barrett, A Just Clause

9.      Dan Brown, Origin

10.   Linda Fairstein,  Deadfall

What I'm Reading by Sian - The Missing Clue - August 2018

I have to confess that a good deal of what I’ve been reading the last few months has been easy to read historical romances (I have all kinds of recommendations if you’re interested), but the mysteries I have read have been five star.

            I gave the first ten ‘Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes’ books by Laurie R. King five stars. Book #11, The Pirate King, was definitely not my favorite, nor were books #12 (Garment of Shadows) or #14 (The Murder of Mary Russell). Which is all to say, you never know what to expect when a series reaches its adolescence. Well, I thought book #15, Island of the Mad, was really excellent. Not my favorite in the series, but most certainly five stars. It’s still only available in hardcover, so expect the trade paperback sometime next year.

            I have already been told that I am not allowed to pick a book in the same series by the same author as my book of the year two years in a row, so you should know that barring a miracle, my official pick for 2018 will be my second favorite book. That’s because I thought Dreadful Company by Vivian Shaw, the second book in her Dr. Greta Helsing series, was just wonderful. Really. This series is so fun and fresh and different and ticks all my boxes (strong female protagonist, vampires, werewolves, and romance). These are the smartest paranormal fantasy books I have ever read. If you found Gail Carriger’s books a little twee, this serious will be the balm you were looking for. We’ve got Strange Practice, book #1 in the series, in stock for those who haven’t yet had the pleasure. Book #3, Grave Importance, should be released next summer.

            But look, there is hope. My To Read pile is a mile high. There is the new Deborah Harkness in her new series, Time’s Convert, to come in September. And book #3 in Sherry Thomas’ ‘Lady Sherlock’ series The Hollow of Fear. Plus, I didn’t actually read Strange Practice, my book of the year last year, until a week or so before I had to make my selection.

Miscellaneous New Books of Note by Wendy - The Missing Clue - August 2018

Although there is no firm publication date as yet, the third and final installment of Hilary Mantell’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy is on its way. It is to be called The Mirror and the Light. No publication date has been announced as yet.

C.J. Sansom’s Tombland, the seventh Mathew Shardlake, is set in 1549, three years after the previous title Lamentation. This time Shardlake, based in Norwich, will be embroiled in the events of Kett’s Rebellion. On sale October 23rd in hardcover at $36.00.

Ann Cleeves is finishing off her Shetland series. The final Jimmy Perez novel, Wild Fire, will be released in late September in trade paper at $28.99.

Cormoran Strike will also be returning in September in Lethal White. This is the fourth Robert Galbraith, a.k.a. J.K. Rowling, novel and will be available in hardcover on September 18th for $38.00.

Baby Penelope’s Favorite Books by Sian - The Missing Clue - August 2018

One of the reasons that the children’s section at Whodunit has been growing is that Mum (Wendy to you and Nain to her grandchildren) loves to send her grandchildren books. In fact, she has her own book club for them and sends books to both coasts for her eight grandchildren. The selection of books we carry does often narrow in on the ages of the grandchildren, but now that they range from ages 16 months to 23 years, it’s fair to say that we cover a lot of ground.

            The (not so recent now) addition of Baby Penelope has meant that our collection of board books is growing further. In a surprise to no one, Penny is a voracious reader and loves nothing more than to be read to or spend some quiet time in a corner “reading”. Here are our favourite books so far.

            The very first book that Penny actually connected with was purchased for her by her Aunt Hannah, who swore that she would be obsessed with it. Baby Talk has 14 pages and six flaps and features photos of babies. This is the book she learned to turn pages with and when we get to the page where the book says “This baby wants her mommy”, Penny will say “Mama”, just like the baby in the book. This is my number one recommendation for baby’s first library.

            Penny’s Grandma introduced her to Mother Goose at a very young age and we were thrilled to find this board book by Barbara Reid, Sing a Song of Mother Goose. Reid is Canadian and the illustrations are done in plasticine. These are abbreviated versions of the rhymes we’re all so familiar with and Penny loves them all.

            We, Michael and I, grew up reading the delightful stories by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, with The Jolly Postman: Or Other People’s Letters being a personal favorite. Penny is still a little young for it, but their books for babies, Peepo and Each Peach Pear Plum are favorites. These are sturdy board books and not too tedious to read more than once. The Baby’s Catalogue, also by the Ahlberg’s, isn’t really for reading out loud, but Penny loves browsing through it on her own.

The great thing about having friends with slightly older kids is that they can recommend, or ever better gift, books. A dear friend from high school bought Penny The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats and Bus Stops by Taro Gomi. Both books are lovely, but more importantly, feature non-Caucasian characters, which is so important in terms of exposing our kids to people who don’t look like them.

I have to admit that there was a certain futility attached to the idea of reading books to Penny before bed when she was tiny. Partly because she didn’t care and partly because our bedtime routine hadn’t really been established. But once she moved to her crib in her own room at six months, we started a more formal bedtime routine. At this point, I read the same four books every night. We start with the gorgeous Dream Animals by Emily Winfield Martin, then the soporifically repetitive Sleepyhead by Karma Wilson, we read about how Spot Loves Bedtime by Eric Hill, and then we finish with the classic Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton (even though Uncle Michael is in a rage that they shower and brush teeth BEFORE they exercise). I know all these books now by heart and in fact, Penny doesn’t want to look at the actual Going to Bed Book as she would rather just snuggle while I recite it.

Finally, if there is one book that Penny requests to be read OVER and OVER and OVER again, it is Maisy Goes to the Local Bookstore by Lucy Cousins. It’s bred in the bone, I guess.

            As always, we’d love to hear the books that the children in your life are loving so that we can share them with other kids.

Finally! We Moved! The Missing Clue - August 2018

Where did August go? Certainly as far as the newsletter is concerned it just disappeared, and our August issue seems to be verging on being called the September issue. Anyway, this last weekend we started our move from 165 Lilac Street to 163 Lilac Street. The move was maybe not quite as seamless as we had hoped, there are many piles of books on the floor despite the best efforts of all of us including former owner Gaylene Chesnut who has been working diligently on shelving. Anyway, the move is complete, the counter is in place, all the books have been moved, and the book shelves from 165 Lilac have gone to new homes thanks to Habitat for Humanity’s Restore Store

One of the advantages of our move to 163 Lilac Street will be that we will have the space to have all our used books on the main floor, where customers will actually be able to see them. In preparation for this all the books were brought up from the basement of 165, dusted, checked over and assigned thirteen digit numbers, if they did not already have them. It was an interesting task, authors I had never heard, authors I had forgotten I liked. We hope that you will find some long lost favourites and some new to you authors in the collection. As the majority of our books are now accessible in our inventory, you can check out our holdings by going to the online bookstore. If there is anything you like, you can order it and it will be waiting at the store the next time you come in.

Mystery Reading Club - The Missing Clue - June 2018

Our final book for spring in the theme “Books that Jack Enjoys”:

Tuesday, June 26th – Dark Saturday by Nicci French

For the fall, the theme is London and we will be reading:

Tuesday, September 25th – Proof of Guilt by Charles Todd

Tuesday, October 30th – She’s Leaving Home by William Shaw

Tuesday, November 27th – Stranger on the Train by Abbie Taylor

We know that some non-members of the group do read the assigned titles. If you would like to have the questions that Jack writes, please let Wendy know (via email, phone, or in person). Books will be available for purchase at the store and feature a 10% discount. New members are always welcome.

What I'm Reading by Sian - The Missing Clue - June 2018

Since I was writing specifically about ‘Lady Sherlocks’ for the last two volumes of the newsletter, I haven’t had the opportunity to talk about what else I’ve been reading. And since I headed back to work a month ago, it’s been quite a lot, since I now have huge swaths of child-free time to read.

One day in the spring, I stuck my hand out for a book to read and at the top of the pile was Ann A. McDonald’s The Oxford Inheritance, which tempted me especially since I enjoyed Plum Syke’s Party Girls Die in Pearls (also set at Oxford) so much. This one has a more serious tone and a supernatural bent, but I couldn’t put it down and found myself wishing for a sequel (there isn’t one). Cassandra Blackwell made it her life’s work to get to Oxford to discover more about her mother’s secret past and, of course, learns more than she bargained for. Available in store in trade paperback.

            Speaking of the travel books Michael referenced in his “beach reads” piece, Tasha Alexander is quickly turning into such an author. She’s had books set in Turkey, France, Italy, Greece, and now Russia. Reading about St. Petersburg in the winter when it’s 30 degrees might not be quite as atmospheric, but it may cool you down this summer. Death in St. Petersburg is the 12th addition to the ‘Lady Emily’ series and just as good as its predecessors. Lady Emily finds herself investigating the death of a prima ballerina, as well as crossing paths with her husband’s own secret assignment. This will be available in trade paperback on July 24th, with book #13 Uneasy Lies the Crown in hardcover in October, as usual.

            I had been sitting on #9 in Will Thomas’ ‘Barker & Llewelyn’ series since the fall, but as soon as I picked it up I remember why I like this series so much. As the series moves along we are finding out more and more about Cyrus Barker’s enigmatic past and in Old Scores there are some big reveals. It’s still only available in hardcover, but the trade paperback is coming in October alongside Blood is Blood a few weeks later in November.

            Genevieve Cogman’s ‘Invisible Library’ is such a wonderful combination of mystery and fantasy with a premise that allows our heroine, Irene, to explore different cities in different eras. The Lost Plot is set in 1920s(ish) New York City with all the gangsters and prohibition shenanigans that period entails. I really can’t recommend this series enough, especially to people who enjoyed Jasper Fforde’s ‘Thursday Next’ series. The Lost Plot is available in trade paperback to order and book #5, The Mortal Word, is coming in trade paperback in November.

            I was sad when Deanna Raybourn wrapped up her ‘Lady Julia Grey’ series after 5 books, especially since I didn’t enjoy the standalone novels she wrote in the meantime, but her new ‘Veronica Speedwell’ series is a worthy replacement. My only complaints thus far are that the will they/won’t they nature of Veronica and Stoker’s relationship and the fact that there is no paperback nor book #4 scheduled yet. Still, A Treacherous Curse, is worth a read in hardcover and we’ve got it in stock.

            Anna Lee Huber has joined the “women detectives of the interwar period” that Michael referenced in his Beach Reads piece with her new series featuring Verity Kent, a war widow who herself was a spy during the war. I can’t say too much about Where the Dead Lie without spoiling it, but it’s an excellent beginning to a series and reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s seminal And Then There Were None. We’ve got book #1 in store in trade paperback and book #2, Treacherous is the Night is coming in September, also in trade paperback. A Brush With Shadows is book #6 in Huber’s ‘Lady Darby’ series, and here we’re learning more about the tragedies of Sebastian Gage’s past. This is a great series for lovers of Tasha Alexander and Deanna Raybourn. We’ve got it in stock in trade paperback.

            Book #12 in C.S. Harris’s excellent ‘Sebastian St. Cyr’ series, Where the Dead Lie, arrived a few days before my daughter was born, but the topic of murdered and abused children made it impossible for me to read in that haze of new motherhood. I’m glad I circled back around to

it this spring, although the subject was no easier to read. The same could be said for book #13, Why Kill the Innocent. Sebastian’s wife Hero is a social justice crusader, despite her elevated rank in society, and this series is a truly heartbreaking look into the plight of the poor in 19th century London, especially in direct opposition to the excesses of the Prince Regent. As the series goes on, the uneasy relationship between Hero and her father becomes more and more untenable and I am on the edge of my seat as to where it goes next. Where the Dead Lie is available in trade paperback with Why Kill the Innocent in hardcover.

            I’m looking forward to A Tiding of Magpies by Steve Burrows (book #5 in the ‘Birder Mystery’ series, TP) and Island of the Mad by Laurie R. King (book #11 in the ‘Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes’ series, HC) in June. July is an even bigger month with European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss (book #2 in ‘The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club’, HC), Caught in Time (book #3 in the ‘Kendra Donovan Myseries’ series, HC), Competence by Gail Carriger (book #3 in the ‘Custard Protocol’ series) and Dreadful Company  by Vivian Shaw (book #2 in the ‘Dr. Greta Helsing’ series.

The Best Vacation Reading by Michael - The Missing Clue - June 2018

(Below is an edited transcript of a lecture Michael delivered in the Spring about “Beach Reads”. For even more specific recommendations, please come visit and ask.)

Accepting the initial premise, that there is such a thing as vacation reading, seems simple enough. At its broadest, the best definition I could come up with is that it is a leisure activity undertaken by people who do not spend their entire days surrounded by books that they should be reading and are not, figuring out why books are selling, or are not, or what it is that people will be reading next, or not, undertake for the general enjoyment of the activity itself.

So, I went about approaching the topic the best way that I know, what the academics among us would call a ‘thorough reading of previous literature and articles on the subject’, and which I have come to realize, and define in my post-university life, as “finding someone else’s good idea and stealing it”. This lead me to find a another term for the concept, “beach reads” as well as some background on the concept that I believe that I could agree with, in order to properly ground myself to move forward. Most notably, I came across a Guardian article by Michelle Dean from June 2016 entitled “Read it and keep: is it time to reassess the “beach read?”. And I quote:
“Now the term is so ubiquitous that its definitions are a point of contention. Many people, I’ve noticed by informally polling friends, are prone to distinguishing a beach read by genre. Some people thought all thrillers are beach reads; others thought all romances are. Some people thought only mass market paperbacks are eligible for beach read standards. 

Some thought a beach read must somehow incorporate summer or a vacation into the plot. Others thought it should be more escapist than that. Still others thought that the beach read was a way to designate the one summer bestseller that everyone was going to read. Gone Girl came up a lot. And still others thought the concept is gendered, that books marketed to women are more prone to being called beach reads. This is perhaps true, but in a survey of the literature, as it were, I found it applied to plenty of male books, and in particular those written by James Patterson.

Still, the essence of the beach read, most could agree, was more of a mood than anything else: attached to vacation, the book shouldn’t have any really weighty themes or social significance.

It should be enjoyable and easy, with brisk pace and simple diction. An element of fantasy – either of the Straubian-gentrified Brooklyn type, the super-macho-spy-novel type, or the unicorns-and-feudal-lords type – is generally involved.

Above all, the reader shouldn’t feel they’re doing intellectual work. It’s all right if the beach read is a tearjerker, a bone-chiller or an adrenaline pumper: what it must never, ever be is something that gets the old neurons firing.”

With Ms Dean’s informal poll of friends in mind, I thought that I would move on in the first part of this conversation to unpack some of those ideas before we moved forward with that which I have been brought to discuss with you today. Being the proprietor of a bookstore, and a genre one at that, it is hard for me to deny that there is some element of the idea of a bestselling mass-market paperback thriller as a core part of the vacation reading cannon. Other “books of a summer” that sprung to my mind when thinking about this topic along with Gone Girl were The Da Vinci Code, The Lincoln Lawyer, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

That said, once I put that idea to scrutiny with my own sales data, I discovered that summer purchasing is equally as complicated as any other time of year. To do this, I reached back into the sales records for WhoDunit back to 2004, the first year that the bookshop kept digital records of its sales. While the WhoDunit? sales records are, admittedly, an imperfect metric for this kind of discussion, it does serve as a starting point from which I can discuss great detail, and work through in a variety of manner. While there were certainly examples of those like the books listed above as being incredibly popular over the summers of their respective years (and, in the case of the Stieg Larsson, over the three years in which the millennium trilogy was being released in paperback), there was no marked performance difference for books that were being released in the summer versus other times of the year. Bestsellers were present certainly, but you will not convince me that if Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince had been released in autumn, not the summer of 2005 that it would have done any less poorly. I know that to be true for the Steig Larsson titles, as The Girl who Played with Fire did not fare as well as GWTDT in 2011, mainly because I myself carried copies of the UK paperback in my suitcases home that Christmas before it was released here, skewing the data. Also, popular, but by no means spectacular authors continue to do well throughout the summer without any of the same fanfare; every summer WhoDunit? sells nearly the same number of Victoria Thompson’s GasLight Mystery series.

There may be a very worthy discussion to be had in regards to format, and the way that it may be affecting that gets shuttled into the category of “beach read”, but that is one that is certainly for another time. Suffice it to say that any bookseller will tell you that there is real difficulty in comparing sales from the past five years to any period before, mostly due to the rise of the trade paperback format, and the depletion of the mass market format.

Finally, on the issue of gender; I will really only say this: the most violent books that we stock at WhoDunit? are most regularly bought by one of our oldest customers, who buys the most violent, bloodiest, thickest books we have in any given month. Nor is she the only. The converse is equally true for a number of our male clients, who unashamedly buy the sweetest, saccharine cozies, or the syrupiest romances. The point to this is mostly for me to say that neither books, nor authors have specifically gendered audiences.

Subsequently, I thought it might be a good idea to move onto discussing some books that would fit into my and Ms Dean’s agreed definition of the “beach read”.  As a result, I will try and create a (by no way exhaustive) list of books that fall within all parts of the spectrum that Dean has outlined. Some of these books are from extensive series, for those who want to put one book down and pick up another adventure with the same characters, while others stand by themselves. For any of you who have what my father has once described “the bane of the booksellers art”; that you need to read a series in order, I will certainly flag any series in this discussion for which those things are truly important. In general, a rule that will serve any book buyer well, regardless of what they are looking for in an author, is that the more recent the book has been written, the more likely it will be constructed for you to read it in order. Even until quite recently, books that had storylines that were interlinked were much more commonly found in defined trilogies, most notably, in terms of crime fiction, those produced by Len Deighton. The biggest difference in ease of access for some authors, at least in my own opinion, is that while if you want to read Donna Leon, Louise Penny or many other notables of modern crime fiction, you have to start at least with the first novel before moving forward to learn the secrets of Three Pines, or understand the relationship Brunetti has with his wife and his city. That is not true of many other older writers, who built their characters to popularity without the added concern of time, or aging. Sherlock Holmes even died and came back to life and it seems relatively inconsequential save for the two stories that deal directly with it.

Short Stories

These are a great way to meet characters without the concern of canon; also a wonderful way to consume multiple authors and themes all at once [new Bloody Scotland anthology, but also ones that deal with specific themes, or just random compilations]; allows readers to quickly digest a wide range, pick them up and put them down as they wish.

“Classics”
Arthur Conan Doyle [Holmes], Agatha Christie [Poirot & Marple], Michael Innes [Appleby], Ngaio Marsh [Alleyn], Dorothy Sayers [Wimsey], Josephine Tey [Daughter of Time]

-These characters are sometimes adopted by other writers, or sometimes the authors become characters themselves (Josephine Tey in the books of Nicola Upson)
-British Library Crime Classics; J Jefferson Farjeon’s Mystery in White; great cover art which truly evokes the English countryside – authors like John Bude, Freeman Wills Crofts
 

Cosies
Carolyn Hart [south Carolina bookseller character] and Janet Evanovich

Grip Lit

Susie Steiner, Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins

Travelogues
Donna Leon, Peter May - authors for whom the setting can be just as, if not more important than the plot or the characters; evoking a sense of a faraway place that people find pleasing.

Canadians
Louise Penny, Gail Bowen, Hilary MacLeod

Historical
Ellis Peters, CJ Sansom, Michael Jecks, Paul Doherty, Bernard Cornwell

Spies

Daniel Silva and John Le Carre

American Thrillers

David Baldacci, Dan Brown, Vince Flynn, Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, Mary Higgins Clark

Women detectives of the interwar period Strangely specific I know, but nevertheless, an exploding genre including Jacqueline Winspear and Jane Thynne.

American Police Procedural

Michael Connelly [Bosch], Ed McBain

Pharmacy books

The evolution of the dime rack has brought us to this: books by authors that come out in huge amounts; in many ways these are the ‘male’ side of the cosy novel, advantaged by a lack of significant link between on and the next, or really even the interest in building series
John Grisham, James Patterson [saving literacy, resurrecting careers, short chapters], Stuart Woods [four Stone Barrington’s in 2018]

Fantastical
Ben Aaronovitch – 7 novels Rivers of London; stories that come in other formats
Terry Pratchett – 41 Discworld novels of his own, some (Tiffany Aching) could be considered YA; starting at the beginning will skew your perception of what the series is to become [high fantasy spoof vs. cultural satire]
Neil Gaiman – Good Omens

There are of course, also countless others that might be named, still more that I have either glazed over or missed, and some subgenres and authors that even I have no real familiarity with. And it is likely that your preferred summer reading may not come from any of these lists, or be from an author that no one else has ever heard of. Let me be quite clear; that’s okay. In fact, while I, with the aid of Ms Dean’s definition, have attempted to provide you with some sense of what exists in the world that can be thrown into the bottom of a picnic basket or a backpack, should you prefer to carry Dostoyevsky, you should not be discouraged from doing so either. Overall, the idea of vacation reading should be done with the individual taste in mind. To be sure, if you are the sort to find it relaxing to read technical manuals on the mating patterns of guinea fowl, you should take that with you to the beach. How you achieve the relaxation that you are seeking through reading should always come paramount, and what allows you to reach that relaxation should never be discouraged.

With that in mind, I hope that I have not been too scattered to follow, or simply covered too much about which you already know. I thank you once again for your time.

Introducing...Laura

Hi everyone! My name is Laura, and I am excited to join the Whodunit team as the new Sales Assistant. I am about to begin my graduate program at the University of Manitoba in Archival Studies stream of the History department. I completed my Honours degree in History at the University of Winnipeg in 2016.

I particularly enjoy reading espionage and detective procedurals. This is largely due to my childhood consumption of the Nancy Drew series and Charlie’s Angels’ reruns, but I have branched out since then! I always like to find something new, so let me know your favourite authors and series next time you’re in!

June's Frequently Asked Questions - The Missing Clue - June 2018

Answers to some frequently asked questions:
1.  Will there be a new Louise Penny this year?

Yes. The 14th Inspector Gamache, Kingdom of the Blindwill be released in hardcover ($35.99) on November 27th. Louise Penny is also the editor of the 2018 edition of Best American Mystery StoriesThis will be released on October 2nd, in trade paper for $22.88.

2.  Is C.J. Sansom ever going to write another Matthew Shardlake book?

Yes. Tomblandthe 7th book in the series will be published in hardcover ($36) on October 23rd. It is Spring 1549 and England, now ruled by the boy king Edward VI and his Regent, Edward Seymour, Lord Hertford is sliding into chaos.

3. When are you moving?

Looks like early August, but still not a definite date. We will let you know as soon as we know.

Bestsellers: January to March 2018 - The Missing Clue - April 2018

   Hard Cover

1.      Alan Bradley – The Grave’s a Fine a Private Place

2.      Donna Leon - Temptation of Forgiveness

3.      Peter May - I’ll Keep You Safe

4.      Cynthia Harrod-Eagles - Shadow Play

5.      Charles Finch - The Woman in the Water

Trade Paper        

1.      Jane Harper - The Dry    

2.      Kerry Greenwood - Cocaine Blues       

3.      Felix Francis - Pulse

4.      Peter May - The Firemaker

5.      Andrea Camilleri - The Pyramid of Mud

Mass Market

1.      M.C. Beaton - Death of a Ghost

2.      Shelton Paige - Of Books and Bagpipes

3.      Cleo Coyle - Dead Cold Brew

4.      Joanne Fluke - Banana Cream Pie Murder

5.       Laura Childs - Pekoe Most Poison

Mystery Reading Club: Spring/Summer 2018 - The Missing Clue - April 2018

For the spring Jack has decided to be a little bit selfish and the group will be exploring the theme “Books that Jack Enjoys”:

Tuesday, April 24th – The Late Show by Michael Connelly

Tuesday, May 29th – London Rain by Nicola Upson

Tuesday, June 26th – Dark Saturday by Nicci French

We know that some non-members of the group do read the assigned titles. If you would like to have the questions that Jack writes, please let Wendy know (via email, phone, or in person). Books will be available for purchase at the store and feature a 10% discount. New members are always welcome.

Recent Reading by Wendy - The Missing Clue - April 2018

I have always been exasperated by novels where the heroine (usually the heroine but not always) steps into a darkened room, a hidden passage etc., actions that scream out that they are not the sensible or safe thing to do. So when the blurb on the back of Cass Green’s In a Cottage, in a Wood read, ‘When Neve arrives alone in the dark woods late one night, she finds a sinister looking bungalow with bars across the windows…’you might think that I would not pick it up but for whatever reason I did and thoroughly enjoyed it. Cass Green is an English writer and is usually regarded as part of the Grip Lit group of writers, not usually my cup of tea, but this book a good old fashioned thriller with a very interesting and unexpected twist.

After a twelve-year gap Margaret Maron came back to Lt. Sigrid Harald in Take Out, just released in mass market ($10.49). Sigrid Harald had not completely disappeared as she was seen in a couple of the Judge Deborah Knott novels, including Three Day Town and the The Buzzard Table, when Sigrid and her mother are visiting family in North Carolina. The Judge and the Lieutenant are cousins. Take Out set in New York deals with the poisoning of two men, one of whom was homeless, on a park bench. Although I don’t remember where I read it or maybe heard it, I think this is the end of the Sigrid Harald series just as Long Upon the Land was the last Deborah Knott novel, there is a sense in both of them of I’s being dotted and t’s being crossed, If you have not read either of these series they are well worth a try.

Lynda La Plante has written a new series starting with Tennison, which is a prequel to the Jane Tennison/Prime Suspect series. Set in the early 1970s Jane Tennison has just graduated from the Metropolitan Police Academy and is at her first posting in Hackney. The four titles in the series are being published over the space of the next few months. Tennison is in stock and will be followed in short order by Hidden Killers, Good Friday and Murder Mile.

I must admit that to call After the Snow a mystery is stretching it more than a bit. Susannah Constantine’s novel set in 1969 may have some mysteries in it but so far none of them have involved the staples of the mystery novel. I am not sure why I ordered it, perhaps I was carried away by the comment from Elton John on the front cover “A modern day Nancy Mitford” whatever the reason we have it in stock and I thoroughly enjoyed it. A perfect book to get you through these less than perfect “Spring” days.

Gail Bowen has a new book out. Sleuth is not part of her Joanna Kilbourn series but is a non-fiction guide to mystery writing (in stock TP $18.95). The various chapters lay out the nuts and bolts of constructing a mystery novel, Setting, Characterization, Plot etc. But I think that probably the most important piece of advice to the aspiring writer is in the third chapter called Prewriting Your Mystery. Bowen describes how important it is to use the interstices of your daily life, no matter how short, to think about and plan the story you want to write, so that when you do have the time to sit down to write you already have a good idea of what you want to say. I think that many of our customers if pressed would admit to having or have had an idea for a mystery novel. This book might be just the thing to get on with it. The 18th Joanne Kilbourne novel, A Darkness of the Heart, will be released in hardcover ($32) in August. The 17th novel, The Winners Circle will be available in trade paper ($18) in July.

Sarah Vaughan’s Anatomy of a Scandal, (in stock, trade paper $24.00), tells the story of British M.P. James Whitehouse whose own life and that of his wife, Sophie, descends into chaos and newspaper headlines after he confesses an affair to his wife. This is just the first step in what becomes a major scandal with James ending up being arrested for rape and standing trial at the Old Bailey. The book draws the reader in with the wonderful evocations of Oxford University, Houses of Parliament, the Old Bailey and Brighton at the Annual political party convention time. The novel certainly hits many chords in this era of #MeToo, but there is also an underlying plot of something that happened while James and some of his political associates were at Oxford University. Will both these events the present and the past end up being papered over.

On a lighter note Andrew Cartmel’s first title in the Vinyl Detective series, Written in Dead Wax, has just been released in mass market paperback (in stock $10.99). Cartmel’s main character is an avid and extremely knowledgeable collector of vinyl records. As such his expertise is often called upon to track down various rare and often valuable records. This series is extremely enjoyable with an interesting and quirky cast of characters. The third title in the series, Victory Disc, is due to be released in trade paper on May 8th ($16.95).