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Mayhem of the Month, April 2020

The Internet these days is full of ideas for how to turn the lemons of our Current Situation into lemonade. Homeschool the children! Clean out your kitchen cabinets! Learn German!

I respond to most of these suggestions with a ladylike Bronx cheer…and yet I offer one of my own: Consider using the enforced down-time, combined with our ebook sale, to explore some writers with whom you might not be familiar. So many mystery authors write in series, and what could be more wonderful than finding a new voice that really speaks to you? Our plan is to use this space to highlight some of our Felonious Favorites, in the hope that you will find, among these lesser-known names, that new writer who will delight and surprise you and make the time go faster.

For example, you probably know Ngiao Marsh (one of the great queens of the British Golden Age of Detective Fiction), but…have you read Elizabeth Daly? She was, famously, Agatha Christie’s favorite mystery writer, and she wrote a delightful Gentleman Sleuth series set in and around New York City in the 1940s and '50s, when Gotham was at its most glamourous and all the men wore hats. It is splendidly civilized. 

Speaking of civilized—are you a fan of The Thin Man, of William Powell and Myrna Loy trading quips (and cocktails!) while solving crimes? You might have a ton of fun with Nathan Aldyne’s “Valentine and Lovelace” series, set in Boston in the late 1970s. I know, from 1930s elegance to the Disco Era sounds like a stretch, but the quips and the cocktails bridge the decades. The Aldyne series also shares a certain relaxed glee common to our favorite vintage fare: it was written and is set in the years just before AIDS cast a black cloud over the gay community, and reading the books is like taking a little vacation in a world where the sun shines and there’s nothing to be scared of. Well, except murderers. Dunno about you, but I could use some of that right now. 

But maybe civilized is not what you’re after. A lot of people opt to deal with real-life uncertainty by delving into the imaginary kind. Truly scary books do not make up much of our list, but we do have a handful, chosen because they were so well written, we simply had to publish them. If you have a taste for the shivers, Sarah Rayne’s A Dark Dividing will give you the chills you desire, all wrapped up in an exquisite storyline that drifts between contemporary London and the Edwardian era. Incidentally, I once asked Ms. Rayne why so many of her books feature trips to the very start of the 20th century, and she gave an awfully interesting answer: She said that it’s the earliest period for which we have recordings that allow us to hear what the world really sounded like—the accents, the noises of machinery, the life of a city. I think A Dark Dividing is her best, but you won’t go wrong with her other titles, all of which span various historical periods, none of which are in a series, and all of which are deliciously creepy.

Stay home, stay safe, and take encouragement from Melvin the Marketing Intern, shown here singing the song of his people:

See you in the stacks!


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