Recently, there has been a definite reduction in the amount of mass market titles, particularly cosies available. There are a variety of reasons for this. A number of long time writers have finished off their series, for example Margaret Maron. Some authors like Joyce and Jim Lavene have died. As many authors like the Lavene’s have more than one series and write under a number of different names this has left a large gap. A number of authors, e.g. Nancy Atherton and Emily Brightwell no longer have mass market editions, they only appear in hard cover and trade paper editions. From what we hear Kensington, one of the biggest publishers of the cosy mass markets is making a concerted effort to find and publish new cosy writers. We have seen some evidence of this, for example, murder by the Lauren Elliott’s Murder By the Book (MM $8.99). We will continue to look for and stock new cosy writers. We do have a new British series by Julie Wassmer, which is set in Whitstable in the South East of England. As the series has been out for some time in the UK we have the first four titles in stock. Pearl Nolan owns a café which specializes in oysters. In the first book, The Whitstable Pearl Mystery, the death of one of her friends brings Pearl into contact with Chief Inspector Mike McGuire and so it goes on in true cosy fashion. These books are published in the smaller trade paper size at $15.99.
It is always nice at Christmas to buy a book just for one’s self. Here are some books that Jack and Wendy have enjoyed in the last little while. Jack could not put Anthony Horowitz’s The Word is Murder (TP $24.99). He is really pleased that there is going to be a second title with Detective Daniel Hawthorne in the spring. Jack also liked Peter James’ Absolute Proof (TP $26.99). This is not part of the Superintendent Grace series but is a standalone. Will the late night phone call that investigative reporter Ross Hunter nearly didn’t answer change not only his life but also the course of society?
Wendy was pleased that there was, at last, a new Susan Hill novel in her ‘Simon Serailler’ series. The Comforts of Home is the ninth in the series and well worth the wait (TP, $25.00). For some reason Christmas titles have been being released earlier and earlier in the year. One very enjoyable book, which we hope will be the basis of a new series was Susi Holliday’s The Deaths of December, (tp $15.99). A British police procedural, the plot revolves around an advent calendar and Christmas craft fairs.
One of the things that has changed the most in the last year in Whodunit? is the volume of children and young adult books that we have been able to stock, especially since our move into the new space. As a result, we have started to be made aware of a growing number of picture books that, while mostly acceptable for children, are really directed at the adult who is probably reading it. These are not to be mistaken for the illustrated editions of novels like the ‘Harry Potter’ series, or Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, nor are they the graphic novels like the critically acclaimed Woman World by Aminder Dhaliwal or the posthumous release of Anthony Bourdain's Hungry Ghosts. Instead these are well designed, and often beautifully illustrated short texts for nearly everyone, but really directed at adults.
For many of you, the most familiar of these will be ones that have been written by the staff of American late night hosts. A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo made waves in the summer when ‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’ launched it to compete with the Marlon Bundo’s Day in the Life of the Vice President by Charlotte and Karen Pence, and was followed this autumn by Whose Boat is This Boat? released by Stephen Colbert's Late Show, and ‘The Daily Show with Trevor Noah's’ Donald J Trump Presidential Twitter Library.
However, while these have all taken advantage of the "laugh because it hurts" mentality brought on by 45, others take advantage of our nostalgia for the past. Die Hard Christmas, for example, is a re-writing of the Night Before Christmas poem that adds credence to the argument that the Bruce Willis film is, in fact, a Christmas movie. With a much more Canadian flavour is the The Log Driver's Waltz, beautifully illustrated version of the iconic Canadian cartoon, with illustrator Jennifer Phelan creating new images that still evoke the original National Film Board animation.
Finally, although they have not been released this year, we have taken advantage of the season to stock the absolutely gorgeous (albeit sizeable) Historium and Animalium. These fictional museum and zoo books collect together artefacts and animals that would otherwise be impossible to keep in one place, and carefully render and detail their origins, importance, and geographical home. While the publisher has also produced activity books that allow children to pursue the same lines of enquiry and lessons that they would get in a brick and mortar museum, the originals themselves make for wonderful adult reading, and coffee table conversation. (That is, if you coffee table is large enough).
With fresher examples appearing regularly, if none of these fit the needs of someone on your gift list, there are more that we can offer. These books are perfect for the readers and "non-readers" in your life alike, or as Secret Santa gifts.
The following is a list of the twenty five books we have sold most copies of since October 1st. As I am writing this on November 26th, it does not include a title that will have undoubtedly rocketed up the list by the time you are reading this newsletter, the new Louise Penny, Kingdom of the Blind, hardcover $35.99. I hope it might give you some ideas either for your own wish list or a gift for someone else.
1. C.C. Benison, Paul is Dead, TP $19.95
2. Ian Rankin, In A House of Lies, HC $34.99
3. Peter Robinson, Careless Love, HC $29.95
4. Craig Smith, The Wonky Donkey, $9.99
5. Anne Cleaves, Wild Fire, TP $25.99
6. Robert Galbraith, Lethal White, HC $38
7. Vicki Delany, The Cat of the Baskervilles, TP $23.95
8. Peter Robinson, Sleeping in the Ground, TP $21
9. Rhys Bowen, The Ghost of Christmas Past, TP $22.50
10. Kate Carlisle, A Wrench in the Works, MM $10.99
11. C.J. Sansom, Tombland, HC $39.95
12. Anne Perry, A Christmas Revelation, HC $27
13. Susanna Gregory, The Habit of Murder, TP $15.99
14. Felix Francis, Crisis, TP $22
15. Kate Ellis, The Mechanical Devil, TP $15.99
16. Reed Farrel Coleman, Robert B Parker’s The Hangman’s Sonnet, MM $12.99
17. John Sandford, Holy Ghost, HC $39
18. H.B. Lyle, The Irregular, SPY $20.49
19. Graham Reed, The Chairman’s Toys, TP $22.95
20. Sophie Hannah, Mystery of the Three Quarters, TP
21. Kate Atkinson, Transcription, HC $32.95
22. Emily Brightwell, Mrs. Jefferies and the Three Wise Women, TP $22
23. Janet Evanovich, Hardcore Twenty Four, MM $12.99
24. Cleo Coyle, The Ghost and the Bogus Bestseller, MM $10.99
25. Sherry Thomas, The Hollow of Fear, TP $20
In Valhalla’s Shadows by W.D. Valgardson, HC, $32.95
Although I only had half a year of working at the shop to judge from, my Book of the Year 2018 is W.D Valgardson's In Valhalla's Shadows. Valgardson paints a gritty and immersive portrait of rural Manitoba from the perspective of an outsider in a tight-knit community on the shores of Lake Winnipeg. Valgardson's own experience growing up in Gimli is evident in his sense of place and his portrayal of the local community. His protagonist, Tom Parsons, is an ex-RCMP officer and recent divorcee, and has uprooted his life to find solace in the tiny lakeside community of Valhalla. Unfortunately, his discovery of the body of an indigenous teenage girl sets off a string of events in the town, after Tom refuses to see her death as an accident. He discovers the criminal underbelly of what may be seen by outsiders as an idyllic town. Valgardson sprinkles Viking legend throughout the book, making allusions in the place name, Valhalla; casting Tom Parson as the Norse god, Odin; his love interest named Freyja, reminiscent of the Norse goddess of the same name; and three fortune-telling sisters, as the Norns (the fates). I thought that it added much to the story, and while dealing with quite different events, did seem to fit the narrative (and length) of a Viking saga.
A sure sign of a good book, I found it difficult to put down, and even when absolutely necessary to do so, I still found myself thinking about the book. The pressures that the characters were dealing with are not simple, and I think that was what made it so engrossing - so many of the actions of the characters fell into a sort of grey area, people trying to make do with what they could in order to survive.
At 19-months, Penelope has a good number of words, but is as yet unable to answer questions like “what was your favorite book of the year?” So I will have to allow her actions to speak louder than her words. We read Maisy Goes to the Local Bookstore at least three times a day. Penelope never tires of it. We have owned it for less than a year and it is already taped together on most pages from love and use. And we hope that you’ll bring your little ones to our local bookstore to visit us over the holidays!
The Irregular by HB Lyle, TP $20.49
The early twentieth century is not normally a setting that I am drawn to. Until I had chosen Joe Ide's book for my book of the year, Sherlock Holmes pastiche would not have been either. This year however, despite truly enjoying a number of novels that would have fit more into my choices of the past, it was HB Lyle's debut spy novel The Irregular that has created made me consider both the period and the Holmesian oeuvre as a whole. Lyle's protagonist, Wiggins is, one of the orphans trained by the Great Detective to be his Baker St Irregulars. Now an adult, and with the Empire facing new challenges, Wiggins is encouraged by Holmes to work for Vernon Kell's new 'Secret' Service: the first non-gentleman agent to become a member.
Well grounded in the history of London and (England) in the build-up to World War One, and framed within the canon of Sherlock, it is nonetheless a refreshing and finely crafted narrative with a refreshing villian and twist. Any fans of historical fiction would do well to pick this up, as would anyone with an interest in the development of modern spycraft, or just new stories with Holmes in mind.
When it comes time every year for me to pick my favourite book, I scroll my Goodreads records for books I’ve rated five stars. This year I rated 16 books with five stars: 11 romance novels, three mysteries, one fantasy, and one non-fiction. Of the three mysteries, the first was Laurie R. King’s Island of the Mad and the second was Vivian Shaw’s Dreadful Company. I adored both books, but I picked Vivian Shaw last year (and certain persons who shall remain nameless don’t like it when I do that). Island of the Mad was a strong contender, until I read Sherry Thomas’ The Hollow of Fear in October.
It is an extraordinary book. Despite being set in Victorian England it manages to address modern issues like gender equality in a way appropriate to the setting. Romance is featured but emphatically not the only element that drives the story. And I did not see the ending coming at all. This is an excellent mystery, a heart-tugging romance, but above all a story about the choices that women are forced to make in order to preserve their livelihoods and their sanity. Look, you absolutely must read the first two books (A Study in Scarlet Women and A Conspiracy in Belgravia) to enjoy this one, but I am so jealous because that means you get to read the three in quick succession and I could not think of a better way to read my way through the holidays.
In a Cottage in a Wood by Cass Green, TP $21.99, (coming in mass market January 29th, $12.99)
Cass Green is a British writer whose first book, The Woman Next Door, was originally published as an e-book. It quickly became a number 1 best seller. In a Cottage in a Wood is her second novel. Although not a fan of ‘grip lit’ or ‘domestic noir’ as it is now often called, I really enjoyed this book. I liked the settings, London and Cornwall and I found the characters generally likeable and believable. The plot moved along at a good pace. It was everything a good mystery should be, engaging and not too long.
Lethal White by Robert Galbraith, HC $38
Lethal White is the fourth novel in the ‘Cormoran Strike' series written by Robert Galbraith, aka J.K. Rowling. I have thoroughly enjoyed this series. I knew that it was a winner when I read the first book The Cuckoo’s Calling, when no one knew that Robert Galbraith was a nom-de-plume, for J.K. Rowling. I must admit to a few initial misgivings about Lethal White as the beginning of the book seemed a little heavy on romance, including a long sub plot involving Strike’s failed romantic relationships. However, as the book went on it returned to form. I really enjoyed all the details that were added to enhance the four interlocking storylines that make up this novel. Galbraith is a good enough writer that I really cared what was happening in all the storylines, all of which offered considerable scope for detail which the author took advantage of. Also the author handled with panache the flicking between the different storylines. A compelling and enjoyable read.
Local favourite C.C. Benison aka Doug Whiteway will be hosting a come and go tea event with us on Thursday, December 20th, starting at 11:00 am. We invite you to come and join us and Doug to talk about his new book, Paul is Dead, his old books, or anything else that tickles your fancy. Refreshments will be served. Limited Seating.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.