Hello. MM here, stepping in to write this month’s summary of the Reading Challenge.
This month’s selection was A Mystery or Thriller, perhaps partly because of our schedule: it was a dark and stormy end of the semester and finals were on the horizon, and H. is a happy and well-versed fan of Ngaio Marsh—in a pinch, she could fall back on that; and we’ve all read Doyle, one can always revisit Holmes. R also thought she might reopen the Case of Agatha Christie Books she loved way back in those murky dark trees closed together back there behind us at the vanishing point into the deep past, the creaky gate, the unknowable, uncertain almost certainly suspect and threatening, the vaguely sinister and definitely mysterious…1970’s.
But as it happened, fate held a different…fate… in store for us, when a seemingly innocent trip to the local book supermarket took a strange turn, just past Christian Romance Fiction, and led us, unsuspectingly and perhaps inevitably, to the subset of the Mystery section that was dedicated to… “Genre Mysteries”—shelves of whodunits involving cats, dogs, tea, antiques, what have you, whole series of mysteries related to particular special interests readers might have. We thought this sort of thing started and ended with the “The Cat Who…” series by Lilian Jackson Braun, from 20 or more years ago—but evidently Lilian was enough of a success that she’s spawned a subgenre, which I think we can all agree can only be called…copycat crimes.
Some are obviously tongue in cheek, others more serious. Most are potboilers (where does that term even come from), but evidently even those are divisible into two categories—one, books where people are trying to do their best, and shooting for literary merit or at least sales, doing the best they can do. Others are cranked out (that’s the only term that applies) by more “serious” writers looking for some fun or even an outlet for silliness, and maybe snap up some quick sales on the side while watching that Pulitzer Prize receding into a spinning vortex like the poster for Vertigo when you stared at it too hard.
What a discovery. What a lot of fun.
We’ll leave it up to you to discover the awful secret of which category _your_ pick falls into, should you venture into this section of your local Books A Million. Ours by the way still has the masking tape around it in the parking lot from where it dropped dead, as a Borders store, early one morning years ago, and don’t tell me nobody saw anything. West Lebanon is worse than Cannery Row: drugstores everywhere the cops can’t—or won’t— shut down; Supercuts is nothing but a clip joint, and I don’t want to know what Family Dollar does a dollar at a time to feed its kids. But nobody saw a thing when Borders went down. OK, if that’s the way you want to play it.
Anyway, our eventual lineup back at the station looked something like this:
“Rubbed Out – A Memphis BBQ Mystery”, by Riley Adams (Mine)
“Antiques Roadkill – A Trash-n-Treasures Mystery”, by Barbara Allen (H)
“Fillet of Murder: A Deep Fried Mystery”, by Linda Reilly (R)
And yes, as an added fillip, as if the authors (or publishers) were hedging their bets, these books all have recipes at the back, for some of the foods that show up over the course of the very mysterious journey they lead you on. Unsatisfied with whodunit? Maybe some pineapple casserole or bbq loaf will make you feel a little better, like that first shot of rotgut in the morning —just take it from me, and don’t use Mystery Meat, in either recipe.
Did you read a mystery this month? We’d love to hear about it!
The category for the coming month is:
A book by a female author
We’ll reveal the next category somewhere around the middle of March.
This post is part of our multi-year reading challenge. We’d love to have you join us for the whole challenge or any portion. Take a look at the checklist to see the current category (in green). We’ll announce the next category in the middle of next month.