Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Mysterious “M” Panel at Malice

by Paula Gail Benson

Last Thursday, thanks to Gloria Alden, those of us who attended this year’s Malice Domestic put together our happy remembrances along with regrets at having too little time to spend together.

One of the great privileges at Malice is to be able to participate on a panel. This year, I was fortunate enough to be assigned as moderator for “Oh, to Be in Britain!” My authors names all had the letter “M” as an initial: Molly MacRae, G. M. Malliet, Leslie Meier, and Melinda Mullet. We figured I got to be moderator since my name had no “M.”

Being a moderator allows you to learn about a wonderful group of writers. I had interviewed G.M. (“Gin”) previously and was familiar with Leslie’s books, but Molly and Melinda were new to me. I began studying to see the similarities that brought us all together.

As I looked through the Malice schedule, I noticed it contained another panel featuring authors who wrote about Great Britain, called “Murder Most English.” Its participants were Stephanie Barron/Francine Mathews, Frances Brody, Susanna Calkins, and Charles Todd (both Charles and Caroline) with Verena Rose as moderator and it would take place the hour before my panel.

My challenge became how to showcase the “M” panel, particularly for those who attended the previous session about British writers. Then, I realized, the writers in the first panel wrote from a historical perspective, while the authors I would moderate featured contemporary settings and characters. In fact, the more I considered it, I concluded that the “M” panel truly represented Agatha Christie’s legacy because they wrote the type of novels that she had written.

G.M. Malliet
Gin writes the St. Just and Max Tudor series. Her St. Just mystery, Death of a Cozy Writer, was selected for a Malice grant, then won the Agatha for best first novel. With Max Tudor, she combined in her protagonist two quintessential British character types: an Anglican priest and former MI5 agent. He lives in the village of Nether Monkslip, which is illustrated in the books and on Gin’s website.

Leslie Meier
I was initially surprised that Leslie had been included in the panel. I was familiar with her Lucy Stone mysteries that involved a mother and small town reporter from Maine and usually took place during holidays or seasons. In her more recent novels, Leslie follows Lucy’s adventures with travel groups in England and France. The two that take place in Great Britain are the English Tea Murder, which features the Grim Reaper in a Mary Poppins’ pose on the cover, and the British Manor Murder, which gathers the suspects in a very traditional setting.

Molly MacRae
Molly MacRae’s Haunted Yarn Shop mysteries take place in Blue Plum, Tennessee. Her Highland Bookshop mysteries follow four American protagonists as they purchase and operate a book store in the small town of Inversgail on the west coast of Scotland. During our panel presentation, she was quizzed by an audience member about the exact location of the store. I think her protagonists have a potential customer or at least a devoted fan. Plaid and Plagiarism is the series debut.

Single Malt Murder, the debut novel in Melinda Mullet’s Whiskey Business mysteries, was inspired after many tours of whiskey facilities Melinda took with her whiskey collecting husband. Her protagonist, an English photographer living in London, inherits a Scottish whiskey distillery. Melinda, a child of British parents, is a lawyer and children’s literacy advocate. At her signing, she treated guests to delicious truffles heavily laced with the beverage.
Melinda Mullet

The “M” panelists were a true delight. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and learning about them, and I highly recommend their books as wonderful reading.

They were encouraging to any in our audience who might be unpublished authors. Gin Malliet mentioned how helpful her association with the online Guppy Chapter of Sisters on Crime had been in teaching her about the writing business. I completely agree with her endorsement.

What modern writers of British mysteries do you enjoy? Any names that begin with “M”?


  1. Ann Cleeves, GM Malliet, Elly Griffiths, Peter May. Two out of four with "M" names. Not bad!

  2. Anne Cleeland, The Doyle & Acton Scotland Yard Series -- 0 for 1 on the M's, but adding to Margaret's C's!

    ~ Jim

  3. Martin Edwards! I got an M! :-)

  4. This was a great panel. I agreed with your premise that these writers are carrying on in Agatha's footsteps.
    Hmmm, I love Kate Atkinson, Anne Cleeves, Tana French, and Gin Malliet, so I got one "M"!

  5. What a terrific group on your panel. Sorry that I missed it.

    Here are my favorites: Edward Marston (one 'M'), Simon Brett (emphasis on the 'M' in Simon), Ellis Peters, Jacqueline Winspear, Anne Perry, and Frances Brody.

  6. Adrain Mckinty (spelling?) but he's Irish so I don't know if he'd describe himself as British.

  7. Paula, I sat in on your panel and thought you did a fantastic job. I love G.M. Malliet books. especially the Max Tudor books. I have one left to read that's waiting on my shelf to be read.
    I love the Jacqueline Winspear Maisie Dobbs series and the one stand-alone she wrote, too.
    and then there's Laurie R. Kings Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series. Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce Mysteries are fantastic, too. I know if I take time to browse through my extensive collection of books, I'll find more. Okay, only one "M" though so far.

  8. not forgetting the grande dame PD James and also Susan Hill, author of the Simon Serrailler series.

  9. She may not be "modern," but one of my all-time favorite crime writers is Margaret Yorke. An "M' in the first name, at least.

  10. Thanks so much to everyone for stopping by to read. Even more thanks for the kind comments and the list of authors. I've been struggling to think of another "M" all day while contemplating Dorothy Sayers and Elizabeth George. Then, it came to me:Daphne du Maurier, who said: "Writers should be read, but neither seen nor heard."

  11. Don't force me to think of authors, I can never do it at command, but it was the English authors that engendered my love of mystery. The better known, PD James, Dick Francis, Ruth Rendell, Dorothy L. Sayers, OMG - I can't think of two that I love and the names and characters are escaping me! One was a PBS series - he drove a Jaguar and it was set in Oxford. YIKES!

    I love that in Brit mysteries you get to know the characters, good and bad before the body drops. The reader has a stake in the victim and the villain. Makes it so much more personal.

  12. Thank you for mentioning our M panel here, Paula. You're a marvelous moderator and we all had a marvelous and memorable time. Some of my favorite British authors? M.C. Beaton, Alexander McCall Smith, Russel McLean, and Catriona McPherson. 'M's all around!

  13. Paula, you were such a good moderator with such well-prepared questions. I was in awe. Moderating is a tough job and you handled it with aplomb.

    I think Kait must be thinking of Inspector Morse. So many Ms!