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.

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

Carolyn Hart [south Carolina bookseller character] and Janet Evanovich

Grip Lit

Susie Steiner, Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins

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.

Louise Penny, Gail Bowen, Hilary MacLeod

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


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]

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.


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).


Ms. Sherlock, Part II: YA by Sian - The Missing Clue - April 2018

In April’s ‘The Missing Clue’, I talked about Sherlock Holmes pastiches featuring women. It turns out that as many as there are for adults, there are at least as many aimed at the young adult (YA) market that adults will find equally engaging. Sherlock Holmes apparently has a sister, a granddaughter, and several nieces, among others, who inherited his gift for solving crimes. Please note, some small spoilers about the identity of the protagonists is necessary to discuss the titles in question (and nothing more than you’d find in the description of each book online) but beware if you really want to be surprised.

            We were lucky enough to host Toronto author Angela Misri for an event at the store a few years back in honour of her ‘Portia Adams’ series. After the death of her mother, 19-year-old Portia is whisked to London in high-style by her mysterious new guardian to 221 Baker Street. At first, she believes herself to be the granddaughter of Dr. John Watson, but it soon becomes clear to the reader that she more closely resembles the great detective himself. The end of JEWEL OF THE THAMES, the first book in the series, reveals that her guardian is Irene Adler and that Adler and Holmes are her grandparents. This is a great series for young Sherlock fans, as there’s no objectionable content. I had fun imagining Irene Adler as an older lady. I thoroughly enjoyed JEWEL OF THE THAMES, and I look forward to reading THRICE BURNED and NO MATTER HOW IMPROBABLE. We’ve got all three in the store in trade paperback.

            It’s hard to imagine Sherlock Holmes having a mother, but if he had a brother, he could just as easily have had a sister. Nancy Springer’s ‘Enola Holmes’ series posits that Mrs. Holmes had a much younger daughter named Enola. On her 14th birthday, Enola’s mother disappears, and she is forced to summon her older brothers Sherlock and Mycroft. When it becomes clear that Sherlock is only focused on finding his estranged mother and Mycroft wants to send her away to school, Enola decides to take matters into her own hands. While lots of Sherlock pastiches feature characters who closely resemble Sherlock, the similarity is less obvious to Enola herself, at any rate. I really liked THE CASE OF THE MISSING MARQUESS, the first in the series. I enjoyed the inclusion of Mycroft into the mix, as he is a particular favorite of mine (I’m thinking especially of Laurie R. King’s Mycroft). There are six books in this series, all available to order and most for under $11. It’s a little more sophisticated than the Misri series, but will still appeal to young adult readers as well as grownups. If you enjoy a graphic novel, the first book has been adapted into the format and ENOLA HOLMES: THE CASE OF THE MISSING MARQUESS will be released in October 2018.

            A confession here: I never actually finished A STUDY IN SILKS by Emma Jane Holloway. Which is a surprise because it ticks ALL my boxes. It’s a Sherlock Pastiche, starring a woman (in this case Sherlock Holmes’ niece Evelina), and it has a steampunk slant. That said, I’m planning on diving back in because maybe it was an off day. I should also mention that I’m including it in this YA roundup rather than April’s Adult titles because I really felt like it read as YA. At any rate, all three books in the series are available for order in mass market and we’ve got a single copy of A STUDY IN SILKS in used for one lucky reader.

            Another niece and another series I haven’t read, but I’m including it because it’s on my ‘To Read’ pile and we have some in stock. Colleen Gleason’s ‘Stoker & Holmes’ series features Evaline Stoker, sister of Bram, and Mina Holmes, niece of Sherlock, so you can expect vampires and detection of crimes. This is another steampunk series and we’ve got two out of four titles in stock (THE CLOCKWORK SCARAB and THE CHESS QUEEN ENIGMA).

            I started reading THE STRANGE CASE OF THE ALCHEMIST’S DAUGHTER because Deanna Raybourn recommended it in her monthly newsletter, without any sense it related to my Sherlock Holmes project at all. And yet Sherlock himself turns up as a major character (if I had to take a guess, he’s meant to be a love interest as the series progresses). But don’t read this book for the Sherlock connection. Read it because it’s really excellent and a clever concept. It’s too complicated a premise to explain in a sentence, but it begins with Dr. Jekyll’s daughter finding Mr. Hyde’s daughter hidden away in a nunnery, paid for by Mrs. Jekyll. It’s got very much the same flavor as my favorite book of 2017, Vivian Shaw’s STRANGE PRACTICE, but with a historical setting. Also not technically YA, but appropriate for older readers on the YA spectrum. We’ve got more copies of THE STRANGE CASE OF THE ALCHEMIST’S DAUGHTER en route in trade paperback and we’ll be getting book #2, EUROPEAN TRAVEL FOR THE MONSTROUS GENTLEWOMAN, in July.

            For all the Sherlock Pastiches, very few have contemporary settings. There is Michael Robertson’s ‘Baker Street Letters’ series, of course, but when we think of modern Sherlock retellings, we think immediately of the excellent BBC reimagining starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Charlotte Holmes is a direct descendent of the great detective (her great-great-great-grandfather). Likewise, Jamie Watson is the great-great-great-grandson of Dr. John Watson. When they end up at the same Connecticut boarding school and a classmate is murdered, the inevitable pairing results.

            A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE was one of those books I wasn’t sure if I liked, but I couldn’t put it down and I immediately went out of my way to read the second book (THE LAST OF AUGUST). In fact, very much my reaction to the recent Sherlock TV series. Like the Leonard Goldberg book THE DAUGHTER OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, it somewhat beggars belief to imagine that generations of Holmes, Watsons, and Moriartys behave the same way generation after generation. Still, that’s what make all of these pastiches so fun: imagining what Sherlock Holmes would be like if he weren’t a middle-aged man. The subject matter of these books is dark and there is sex (both consensual and non-consensual) and drugs. If imagining Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock as a young teenage girl makes you uncomfortable, so too will this book. It’s also the kind of book I would have loved to read as a teenage girl, so there you go. The only reason I didn’t bring back a copy of THE CASE FOR JAMIE from my most recent trip to Winnipeg is the degree to which my To Read pile is backlogged. We’ve got A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE in stock in trade paperback, THE LAST OF AUGUST available to order in trade paperback, and THE CASE FOR JAMIE in stock in hardcover.

            I’ll mention here for want of a better place to say it that YA books are usually priced lower than adult books. So THE CASE FOR JAMIE, for example, is a hardcover priced at $21.99 and A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE in trade paperback at $12.50. If you’re looking for some budget reads, we have some excellent young adult titles that will appeal as much to the adult reader, especially as we grow our children’s section in the new store.

Announcements: Canadian Independent Bookstore Day, Farewell Sam, and Our Upcoming Move - The Missing Clue - April 2018

STORE EVENT - Canadian Independent Bookstore Day - April 28th

For the past few years, we have been thrilled to be included in the celebration of bookselling that was held at the end of April called "Authors for Indies".  Well, this event is evolving, and will now be called "Canadian Independent Bookstore Day".  This year it will be on the 28th of April, and there will be authors, and giveaways, and treats, and all sorts of things that you will need to stay tuned to your email, and our social media to find out more about!

Good-bye and Good luck to Sam

It is with a bittersweet feeling that we are saying goodbye to Samantha Wigston.  We know that many of you have also had very positive experiences on the phone and in the store with Sam, and we have enjoyed having her here this autumn and winter.  Sam is heading west, in an effort to reach her goal of living in Vancouver, and we wish her the best of luck!

Store Moving News - Quick FAQ

For those who have missed our posters, Michael's appearances on the radio, or the headline from February's newsletter, we are moving to 163 Lilac St this summer [yes, that's next door].

For those who want to know more, we do too.  However, the reason that we cannot be more specific about when is that we in fact do not know ourselves Beyond Flowers, who are moving out, have had a number of delays with the renovations on their new location, which have made precise dates difficult for both they and us. Nor do we know how long the renovations to the space will take once they have moved out.

What we DO know is that we will be open at 165 Lilac until it is time for us to move the books next door.  How that will happen, and whether we will be accepting the many kind offers of assistance that you have provided, will be answered in June's newsletters.  

Winter and Spring Mystery Reading Club - The Missing Clue - February 2018

The theme for Winter 2018 is Australia.  Books are available now in store. New members are cordially invited to join the fun.

Tuesday, February 27th – The Dry by Jane Harper (available January 2nd, 2018)

Tuesday, March 27th – Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood

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

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.

Stealing Van Gogh and Other Art Mysteries by Wendy - The Missing Clue - February 2018

One night last week Jack and I watched Andrew Graham-Dixon’s television programme, ‘Stealing Van Gogh’. Graham-Dixon is a British art historian and you may have seen some of his other series which includes one on the art collection of the Royal Family. This programme was different in that it not only talked about Van Gogh’s art but also described a crime which took place in December 2002 and followed the story to its final resolution in September 2016. On December 7th, 2002 a daring robbery took place at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, two smallish Van Gogh’s were stolen. The whole thing took three minutes and 40 seconds, from the time the burglars’ dressed as workmen put up their ladder against the museum wall to when they drove away with their ill- gotten gains. The paintings were retrieved 13 years and nine months later in Naples, Italy. Due to carelessness, he lost his hat during the exit from the museum and the police were able to trace his DNA, one of the burglars was easily apprehended but there was no sign of the paintings. Evidently, valuable paintings are used as currency in the underground drug dealing/crime gang world. If a painting is worth say $14 million dollars, the possessor is able to use about ten percent of its value as collateral for purchasing drugs etc. Possession of stolen art is also often used as a bargaining chip by criminals for reduced sentences. “I’ll give you back the paintings, you can knock x years off my sentence.”

Watching the programme got me thinking about mysteries I had read that involved art. The first one that came to mind, probably because of the title, was A.J. Zerris The Lost Van Gogh, (in stock, used MM, $4). This book starts not with the theft of a Van Gogh but with the return of a missing Van Gogh to the Met in New York, in an ordinary UPS package. Timothy Holme’s, The Neapolitan Streak, was another obvious connection with the television show I had just watched. There are five books in this series featuring Inspector Perini. We have a copy of book #4, The Assisi Murders, in used mass market ($7). Iain Pears has written a number of books with art themes. He has a series which features the Italian National Art Theft Squad and British Art historian Jonathan Argyll. In a classic mystery construct the officials and the amateur, are sometimes working together and sometimes working from opposite ends of the problem. I have really enjoyed this series.

Barbara A. Smith, the thriller writer, has started to write mysteries with an art theme. The first title is The Art Forger (in stock, TP, $16.99) which is based in the Isabella Stewart Gardiner Museum in Boston, which itself was the site of spectacular art theft. In March 1990, two men posing as policemen gained entry to the museum, tied up the guards and during the course of the night stole 13 paintings valued at $500 million. Despite the offer of a $10 million reward the paintings have never been recovered. There were suspicions that criminal gangs were involved and the museum has made announcements regarding the way the art work should be treated to preserve its value. Shapiro’s second novel is The Muralist (in stock, TP, $19.99) and the third novel The Collector’s Apprentice will be published in hardcover in October 2018.

Many mystery writers have one title in a series that includes an art theft. The 17th title in John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport series, Invisible Prey is one example (in stock, used mm, $5). The plot in sixth title in A.D. Scott’s Highland Gazette series, A Kind Of Grief, revolves around the death of an artist (in stock, new TP $18.50, used TP $10). In other series art and art related crime are a continuing undercurrent and subplot. The hero of Daniel Silva’s long series is Gabriel Allon an art restorer by trade. Inspector Roderick Alleyn, the main character in Ngaio Marsh is in a relationship and then married to painter Agatha Troy. The sixth title in the series, Artists in Crime, takes place in an art class (in stock, used mm, $6). Marsh died in 1982. There was an unfinished manuscript which has now been completed by Stella Duffy. Money in the Morgue will be published in hardcover in March 2018 ($32.99). This book like Died in the Wool (published 1944), is set in New Zealand during the second World War (in stock, used mm, $5).

The first title in Margaret Maron’s ‘Sigrid Harald’ series, One Coffee With, starts with a murder in a university Art Department (in stock, used mm, $8). There are eight titles in the series that were published between 1981-1995. Because of Harald’s relationship with an artist she meets during the first murder investigation there is an undercurrent of art in most of the other titles. Maron stopped writing this series and moved on to the Judge Deborah Knott series. Maron announced that Long Upon the Land published in 2015 would be the last title in that series (in stock, new mm, $9.49). In 2017 after a 22 year gap, Maron published Take Out which is to be the final Sigrid Harald title (mm, $10.49, March 2018).

Michael Redhill won the 2017 Giller prize for Bellevue Square (in stock, hard cover, $32), one of his earlier novels Martin Sloane (in stock, TP, $19.95) which is about a missing artist was also short listed for the Giller. Since 2008 Redhill has been writing the ‘Hazel Micallef’ mysteries under the pseudonym Inger Ash Wolfe. We’ve got books #2, 3, and 4 in stock.

A quick look through the store’s inventory produced many books in stock (both new and used) where the plot had an art theme. I am going to list a few of them here but there are many more which we could point out to you. Janice Law has a series in which Irish born British artist Francis Bacon is the main character. The first title is Fires of London which takes place during the Blitz (in stock, TP, $16.99). Other writers and titles would be Arturo Perez-Reverte The Painter of Battles (in stock, TP, $19), John Malcom A Back Room in Somers Town (in stock, used mm, $6), and Barbara Ewing The Fraud (in stock, new, $14.99).

What survey of mysteries would be complete without one of the major figures in the genre Ian Rankin. And yes, he also has an art mystery. Back in 2007 when Rebus had departed, supposedly had his last stand in Exit Music, Rankin published a completely different mystery Doors Open (in stock, used TP, $8/$9). This is a classic heist story revolving around millionaire Mike Mackenzie and the National Gallery of Scotland.

Ms. Sherlock by Sian - The Missing Clue - February 2018

I will first confess that I was never much into Sherlock Holmes. I never read any of the Arthur Conan Doyle stories, although I think I may have tried as a teenager. Before we owned Whodunit? I read some mysteries. I remember buying a number of Stephanie Barron’s excellent ‘Jane Austen’ series at Whodunit? as well as the riotously funny (though likely now very dated) ‘Sam Jones’ series by Lauren Henderson. But once we bought the store I started expanding my palate, often just by perusing the used shelves and seeing what jumped out at me. I can’t recall what prompted me to pick up a copy of Carole Nelson Douglas’s Good Night, Mr Holmes, but Goodreads indicates it was in July of 2010. It was around this time that the first Sherlock Holmes movie starring Robert Downie Jr. came out featuring Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler as well as the modern BBC series starring Benedict Cumberbatch (Irene Adler doesn’t appear in that series until Series 2). However, I got there, Carole Nelson Douglas was my introduction to the genre of Sherlock Holmes Pastiche and I haven’t looked back since.

I remember being confused by Good Night, Mr Holmes originally, as I had understood Irene Adler to be the protagonist. As it turns out she is  not the narrator of the books. That honour falls to Nell (or Penelope, who could possibly have been the inspiration for my daughter’s name), who is Irene’s sidekick throughout her various adventures. I have very fond feelings for this whole series, there are 8 books in total, but my Goodreads ratings indicate things really picked up around book #4 (Another Scandal In Bohemia). Sherlock himself pops up throughout the series but is by no means a main character. I do love a recasting of villain though, and this is an excellent example of it with Irene as the heroine. These are long and meaty books. Not hard to read by any means, but wordy and detailed. Unfortunately, two things make it difficult for me to easily recommend these books. Firstly, they are very difficult to find, particularly book #2 (which is entirely out of print). Secondly, books #2, 3, and 4 have all had title changes since their original publication. It would appear that Nelson Douglas is getting back the rights as they go out of print through her original publisher and is selling certain titles as ebooks. If you’re interested in this series, we are able to get Good Night, Mr Holmes in new trade paperback. We also have book #3 new and books 5 and 7 in used. If you enjoy looking for a hard to find series in used bookstores, this is a good one to pick.

            Similarly, I can’t remember how I came to pick up Laurie R. King’s The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, the first in her Mary Russell series. I know I’d heard about it, but finally in July of 2011 I read it and was instantly hooked. Like Carole Nelson Douglas’s Sherlock, King doesn’t ask us to do much reimagining of the great detective. He is retired now, of course, but also falls in love with his protegee, young Mary Russell. He has also given up some of his more dangerous vices. Mycroft is a regular character, Uncle John (Watson) is often referenced, and Mrs. Hudson still tends the house (and is the main character in book #14, The Murder of Mary Russell). Like any series, there are wonderful books and not so great ones. I don’t think I was alone in feeling like Pirate King was a weaker story. But the subsequent books redeemed themselves and the series continues with book #15, Island of the Mad, being released in hardcover in June. The Mary Russell books really captivated me because they inserted a female perspective into the canon without asking the reader to completely reimagine Holmes. We have most of the books in stock at any given time in new (mostly in trade paperback) and used (often in used), as well as the collection of short stories that had previously only been available online (Mary Russell’s War). The early books are my favorite and I envy anyone who has the opportunity to discover them anew.

            The first book in a new series by Leonard Goldberg called The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes was released last summer. The premise here is that the son of John Watson, the daughter and grandson of Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler, and the son of Inspector Lestrade all find themselves thrown together to solve crimes. I will admit to finding it a bit silly and contrived that these original characters should all have children who do exactly the same things that they do, but it was an easy read and might scratch an itch if you enjoy Holmes pastiche and none of your favourite authors have anything new. The second book in the series, A Study in Treason, will be released in hardcover this summer.

            But now I want to come to the inspiration for this piece: A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas, the first in her ‘Lady Sherlock’ series. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything that reading a blurb about the book wouldn’t tell you, but if you haven’t read the book and want to be surprised, skip to Wendy’s piece about art theft.

            As I was saying…I didn’t read this book until this summer, almost a year after it was published, because Wendy said she couldn’t get into it and I trust her judgment. She kept promising me her copy and we couldn’t find it but when we were on vacation this summer I borrowed a digital copy from the library (yes, it’s ok to do that sometimes, we aren’t offended). The first few chapters were slow as Thomas built to the premise of the book. I could absolutely see why Mum gave up. But. Once we have the big reveal that Charlotte Holmes has created Sherlock as a fictional creation to allow her to solve crimes, it’s really wonderful. Ms. Holmes benefactor is named Mrs. Watson while her sister Livia plays the part of the writer of Sherlock’s exploits. I love that the series doesn’t require Sherlock Holmes to be real at all, so we aren’t required to suspend any disbelief about what Holmes might or might not do. Book #2 in the series, A Conspiracy in Belgravia, is just as good and includes a sub-plot featuring the stand-in for Mycroft. Book #3, The Hollow of Fear, will be released in October 2018 and it is the book I am most looking forward to in 2018. I won’t pretend this series has universal appeal, but if you love a Sherlockian pastiche and well-written female characters, you will enjoy it.

            In April I’ll be talking about lady Sherlocks (and Watsons) in young adult titles, including the new modern ‘Charlotte Holmes’ series that begins with the excellent A Study in Charlotte.      

We're Moving! - The Missing Clue - February 2018

That's right! As some of you have already heard, we will be moving the store this spring/summer.  All the way from our current address at 165 Lilac St to [drumroll please]...163 Lilac St. Next door!

While there will be more details that we have not fully worked out, and others that will no doubt come up that we cannot predict, the things we can tell you now are as follows:

1) This moves allows us to be twice as big, without having to leave the neighbourhood.

2) It means that there will be more space for us to display what we have, and stock more of what you, the customers, want.

3) It will provide us with a better space to host more events, both public and private, on a more regular basis.

We would like to thank you, our newsletter subscribers, first and foremost, because it is your support that has allowed this to happen.  By shopping with us, telling us what you do and do not like, and participating in the events and promotions that we have run in the past you have made it so that growing the store not only seemed possible, but necessary.  We look forward to your continued support in the future as we move into this exciting new phase.

Obviously, these changes will have effects that we cannot predict, but we are thrilled that we are going to be moving forward into this exciting new phase for Whodunit?

Holiday Special Orders - The Missing Clue - December 2017

Of course, if we do not have what you are looking for, we are also happy to order it for you. The last day for ordering (to guarantee in-store availability for Sunday, December 24th) is December 10. We can also ship wrapped books for you, in case you need to get it further afield. The last day for guaranteed shipping arrivals is December 20th.

Top Selling Authors at Whodunit

We love a bit of sales analysis trivia! Here are the top selling authors at Whodunit. Did you rediscover Agatha Christie this year too?

Rank  Author                       Change from 2016                                           

   1.      Rankin, Ian                                                                     =                                        

   2.      Robinson, Peter                                                             =                                        

   3.      Beaton, M.C.                                                      =                                       

   4.      Christie, Agatha                                                    +4                                         

   5.      Smith, Alexander McCall              -1                                     

   6.      Perry, Anne                                      -1       

   7.      Mankell, Henning                           -1              

   8.      Penny, Louise                                 +2         

   9.      Connelly, Michael                           -2              

  10. Leon, Donna                                  -1         

  11      . Bowen, Rhys                                   =        

  12      . Childs, Laura                                   =        

  13      . Evanovich, Janet                          +1           

  14      . Doherty, Paul                                -1        

  15      . Parker, Robert B                           -2          

  16      . James, P.D.                                     =      

  17. Granger, Ann                                  =         

  18      . George, Elizabeth                          =            

  19      . Marric, J.J.                                       =   

  20      . Bowen, Gail                                   +1       

  21      . Rendell, Ruth                                 -1          

  22      . Grafton, Sue                                   =        

  23      . Benison, C.C.                                   =       

  24      . Crombie, Deborah                       +2              

  25      . Reichs, Kathy                                  =         

  26      . Purser, Ann                                   +2        

  27      . Albert, Susan Wittig                     -3              

  28      . Jardine, Quintin                            +3          

  29      . Braun, Lilian Jackson                    -2               

  30      . Tremayne, Peter                           -1