Q: How did you get into this line of work?
A: It was the life experience and passion of my business and life partner, Ann Whetstone, and I. We are mystery novel readers and collectors since we were age 10. We are both textbook editors who work with production houses for a lot of big publishers. We had been talking about opening this store for 35 years. When we finally did, a reporter from a local newspaper asked us why (we’d want to undertake this business venture now, at age 60-plus each). We looked at each other and said, “Look at us! If not now, when?”
Q: Do you rent that space?
A: No. That’s the other beauty of this business. My partner and I live in a 200-year-old home that came with an old barn-turned-garage. We converted that space into our store.
Q: What sets your bookstore apart from others?
A: We are a niche business that exclusively sells mystery novels, many of them previously owned books that are (in mint) condition. Our goal is to sell new quality books, at affordable prices, while introducing readers to the works of authors they may not be familiar with or access to works authors previously wrote. We love international mysteries and have a lot of those here. You’re not going to find a lot of those at Barnes and Noble.
Q: How is the store laid out?
A: We separate hardbacks from paperbacks and we have them displayed in specific sections of the store. We have a nice selection of Maine and New England mysteries that either take place in or were written by New England authors. Then, we spread out internationally by country. Every month we feature a different kind of book. This month it is French mysteries that either were written by French authors or mysteries that take place in France. The other special feature are mystery books that are linked to food, like “Death by Chocolate” (the 8th in the Savannah Reid mystery series). We also sell a limited amount of related items like Pemberton’s Death By Chocolate Original Chocolate Sauce, that is made here in Maine, and things like crime scene tape and “How to Host a Murder” games.
Q: Do you carry rare or limited edition books?
A: I would consider a handful of them rare. You won’t find a first edition Edgar Allen Poe book here but we do have a good inventory of books from the 1920s and 1930s, a period considered to be the Golden Age of mystery books that were written by authors like Agatha Christie, Josephine Tey, Dorothy Sayers, Dashiell Hammett, Erle Stanley Gardner and writers of that ilk. Their works are considered real classics and were books we grew up reading.
Q: Do you offer a wide variety of mystery writing styles?
A: Yes. We’ve got everything from cozies to darker Scandanavian mysteries.
Q: What is a cozy?
A: Cozies are often described as mysteries in which the description of violence is limited — often taking place away from the reader’s view — and involving, in most cases, an “amateur” detective and humor. Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple books are the archetypal cozies. Other types of murder mysteries can be dark and graphic, like Scandinavian author Steig Larsson, who wrote the three-book detective series beginning with “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” He turned his three books in to his publisher and almost immediately dropped dead. The books have since been made into movies.
Q: Where do you find your inventory?
A: All over the country — from library and book sales, book dealer overstocks, online, etc. We drive up and down the coast looking for them on our days off. We have customers who give us their “wish lists” of authors whose works they read or collect in case we find them.
Q: Do you also sell new books?
A: Occasionally. Sometimes we bring in the newest works of authors like Tess Gerritson and Julia Spencer Fleming because they are Maine authors with a national following and it may introduce new fans to their older works that we have available here. We try to make available all the books in an author’s series. Another thing is that a significant amount of these older books are signed copies.
Q: What makes for a good whodunit?
A: It’s different for everyone. I prefer to read books that are character-driven while other people like to figure out the mystery or the whodunit.
Q: Do you ever take a sneak peek of the last page to discover the resolution of the plot?
Q: Are these works also available for purchase online?
A: We don’t have an online catalog. But we do try to find items for customers that are still in print.
Q: Do you offer any book discussion groups on site?
A: Not yet, but we intend to. Many people have asked about it. We put out a monthly e-mail newsletter to discuss varied mystery books and authors. It’s not a sale sheet but a sharing of knowledge. We offer monthly trivia questions with winners receiving a $25 gift certificate to the store.
Q: What are the most popular reads right now?
A: Lee Child, David Baldacci, James Patterson and Sue Grafton. (Grafton is) the author of the alphabet murder mystery series that began with the book “A is for Alibi.” She’s nearly through the entire alphabet. Her new book, “V is for Vengence,” is coming out next month. It’s one of those rare times when we will probably bring in copies of the new book. I’m a big fan of hers.
Q: How often do you upgrade your stock?
A: Daily. We take books in and out of here all the time. We have space in the bookstore to display about 4,000 titles but we have an inventory of 10,000 titles, which are kept in storage in our home, that is adjacent to the bookstore.
Q: In a day when ebook readers like Kindle and other forms of digital media are so popular, what keeps your customers coming back?
A: There is nothing like holding an actual book in your hands. We provide a place where people can come in and look at books and talk to others who have read them or share recommends about other, similar works that others may enjoy. Too, since everything we sell here is mystery, customers do not have to wade through other genres to find what they want.
Q: What do you love most about your job?
A: To be doing something we are passionate about. That’s the absolute best.