Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Mystery Readers Book Club

My mystery book club meets once a month. Because of the happy turmoil and pressure of the holiday season, we don’t choose a book to read for our January meeting. Instead, we are going to one member’s house to watch a movie based on a crime novel. Until we get there, we won’t know what the hostess has selected.
Nathaniel Parker as Armand Gamache

For last year’s January meeting, we watched Louise Penny’s Still Life. We enjoyed it, although we all agreed Nathaniel Parker didn’t meet our preconceived notion of Inspector Armand Gamache.

We’ve gone on a couple of field trips, the most recent to the Edgar Allen Poe house in Baltimore, and to hear authors give presentations in the area.

Usually, though, we follow the more conventional mode of selecting books for everyone to read for the other months. The members cast their nets widely, drawing in a combination of contemporary, old favorites and books that intrigue us.

A popular mystery
set in Christchurch,
New Zealand
One member is from New Zealand, and she introduced us to Paul Cleave’s noir series set in Christchurch. That one, Cemetery Lake, inspired a heated debate about the main character, Theodore Tate, an alcoholic former police officer who is now a private detective.

A few times we’ve gone back and pulled up old classics. We read The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers, a Lord Peter Wimsey book I hadn’t read before. Somewhat to my surprise, it turned out to be about bell-ringing in a church, and I have to admit I skipped major portions of the book which described bell-ringing in its entire mathematical complexity. I’m sure some people would say I missed the entire point, but I didn’t find I missed out on much of the storyline. The story unfolded well without it.

Our February choice is any of the Hamish MacBeth series by M.C. Beaton. That’s a series with which I am
Robert Carlyle as Hamish MacBeth
in BBC Scotland series
familiar. In fact, I have dog named Hamish, a goofy reddish labradoodle. He is well-intentioned, sincere, tries hard to do what he feels a good dog should do, but unfortunately comes up short in the intelligent choices category, and is often saved by fate. I’m reading Death of a Valentine. So far, it’s following the very successful “formula” of the other books in the series.

When it was my turn to choose, I selected A Morbid Taste for Bones, the first Brother Caedfael novel set on the English/Welsh border in the first half of the twelfth century. I am thinking about a
Dick Francis book for my next choice.

The hostess supplies refreshments suitable to the book, which is something I failed to take into consideration before choosing this. I fell short in supplying snacks based on oats, but we did have plenty of fruit and cheese. No one objected to the substitution of St. Brendan’s Irish Cream Liqueur for mead.

The book club selected
the first in my series
I think, though, that my favorite meeting of the club was the first one I attended, when the book selected was my own Steeled for Murder, first in the Jesse Damon Crime Novel series. That one was a culinary challenge, too, since Jesse’s diet consists of ramen noodles, peanut butter sandwiches and canned chili.

I’m looking forward to the selections the coming months will bring, both old familiar friends and authors who for some reason I have missed.

And our field trip suggestions are coming in, including the possibility of attendig a one day local conference, Murder as You Like It, organized by the local Mechanicsburg Mystery Bookstore and Mystery Writers of America.

Do you belong to a book club or other group centered on crime fiction?


  1. I was introduced to a book club in Savannah when they chose Bad Policy as a read. We enjoyed the people so much we joined the club. One of the aspects I like is that it exposes me to a wide variety of books that I would not otherwise be tempted to pick up. Sometimes they are great reads, and sometimes they remind me why I don’t routinely read certain kinds of books.

    ~ Jim

  2. Sounds fun! Our local independent bookstore, which specializes in mysteries, sponsors several bookclubs. I belong to its Last Wednesday of the Month Bookclub. We read widely, fiction and nonfiction, but my choices for the coming year are two mysteries from writers I love: Tana French and Jane Casey. Like Jim, I like the fact that the bookclub gets me to read outside my normal genres.

  3. I'll have to give finding a book club another try, but when I'm locked down in full writing mode, I don't read much fiction, just gardening books and catalogues.

    I remember reading that Sayers spent several years working out all the changes for the bell-ringing episodes in Nine Tailors.

  4. you cannot lose with a Dick Francis novel. Best heroes in print.

  5. I envy those of you in book clubs. I have belonged to book clubs that I've enjoyed in the past, but usually work takes over my time, and I have to drop out. I've pretty much given up on the idea for now. Maybe some halcyon day in the future.

  6. KM, I belong to two book clubs, but neither of them is a mystery book club. However, in December when we meet instead of having a book to read that month, we pick out books for every month except December for the following year. We often choose at least one mystery. For this month they picked my choice BOOTLEGGER'S DAUGHTER by Margaret Maron. I*m on a Margaret Maron marathon reading every one of her books, some rereads and some new ones I haven't read before.

    At my other book club, the hostess of the month picks the book and once in awhile, a mystery is picked and almost always when I'm the hostess. Both of my book clubs have read STILL LIFE. I didn't see the movie, but I did see a short preview with Louise Penny and the two male leads, and you're right, the actor didn't fit Gamache at all, although the other actor seemed to be a good fit for Jean Guy-Beauvoir. One of the members of my book club in which the hostess picks the book, wanted to feature my book, but it was shortly after I'd published it and not in libraries, so I told her no. I didn't want the other members - 12
    of them forced to buy it, and it will also limit and honest discussion on the book because
    those who didn't like it would not feel comfortable in criticizing any part of it. There are members in both of my book clubs who buy my books and enjoy them.

    As for Brother Cadfael, I love those books and may start another Marathon reading them when I'm done with Margaret Maron.

  7. Jim, I agree that reading books I would not have selected myself is an advantage to the club. It's introduced me to some new authors.

    Julie, book stores that sponsor clubs are a true find. I think we all support independent book stores, especially the ones who feature mysteries.

    Margaret, I would believe she spent that much time sorting out the changes for the bell ringing in Nine Tailors. And I'm sure there must be some people who appreciated it. However, I was not one of them. But I enjoyed the book.

    Carla, I was dismayed to discover that most of the Dick Francis books aren't available as e-books. Most of us put the selections on our Kindles.

    Linda, I'm fairly new to the book club. Until recently, I could not carve out the time for either reading the books (I still have so many I want to read myself!) or the meetings. But life has slowed down a bit for me, and I'm enjoying this.

    Gloria, I was thrilled when someone I used to work with, who is a founding member of the bookclub, selected my Steeled for Murder. It's not expensive as an e-book (I made the deliberate choice to have it priced in the affordable range. Presently it's $2.99) and for the two members of the club who don't read e-books, I gave them copies. Of course you're right--having the author there did sway the discussion somewhat.

  8. What a fun and vibrant group. So far, I have not found a book club, but I am still looking.

  9. I've been in the same book club for almost 15 years. It has been a good way to get me to read outside my comfort zone since for a very long time they didn't read mysteries. But after reading Kate Atkinson and Louise Penny, the other readers in the group became big fans and even started going to Louise's author events!

  10. Kait, finding a compatible book club is well worth the search.

    Shari, sounds like you've been a positive influence on your book club.