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By: Annette Star Lustgarten
For: Red Rock News
Date: March 4, 2011

Library is the Place for Mystery Book Lovers

If you love a mystery, the Sedona Public Library is the place for you. Mystery books are located in their own section, with the letter M on the spine of the books for easy identification. Stop by the Reference Desk to find lists of mystery books divided into categories such as: Medieval Mysteries, Dynamic Duos and Hard-Boiled Detectives.

The selections available run the gamut from established authors like Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle to more contemporary writers like Linda Fairstein, Sue Grafton, Janet Evanovich and Harlan Coben.

Christie’s sleuth, Miss Marple, operates in a small, English village, in a style of mystery called a ’cozie’. With her developed powers of observation, she follows the clues, questions witnesses and solves the crime. Agatha Christie created her own mystery when she disappeared for eleven days in 1924, when her first husband announced he wanted a divorce because he was in love with another woman. When she reappeared, she never explained where she had been or why she had left.  Christie’s other famous sleuth is Hercule Poirot, the Belgian detective living in England, who appeared in 33 of her novels. In “Murder on the Orient Express“, Christie allows the murderer to escape justice.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created the world-famous Sherlock Holmes and his associate, Dr. Watson. Through use of his skills in observation, scientific experimentation, use of disguise and deductive reasoning Holmes is the master detective. Holmes’ house at 221B Baker Street, while fictitious, was created as the Sherlock Holmes Museum in 1990. It is located between numbers 237 and 241, but is permitted to use 221B by the City of Westminster. There are Sherlock Holmes Societies, first founded in London, throughout the world, whose members meet regularly and visit the scenes of Sherlock Holmes adventures. In 1934, the Baker Street Irregulars was founded in New York. Here are some interesting web sites:;;

Linda Fairstein, who was a prosecutor for 25 years and the head of the Sex Crimes Unit of the District Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, writes about murder in New York City. Her main character Alexandra Cooper investigates and prosecutes. All her books include wonderful historical background about the City’s landmarks, such as Gracie Mansion in “Hell‘s Gate” and the New York Public Library in, “Lethal Legacy“. Her next novel is “Silent Mercy“, due in March 2011. The character Alex Cabot, the Assistant District Attorney, on “Law & Order: SVU” is based upon Linda Fairstein.

Sue Grafton’s titles always include a letter of the alphabet. Thirty-year-old Kinsey Millhone, a private investigator, solves crimes that take place in a fictitious coastal California town in the mid-1980s. This is well before cell phones and computers, which in light of current technology puts her at a disadvantage at times. Her most recent book is “U is for Undertow” (2009).

Janet Evanovich uses numbers in the titles of her bounty hunter Stephanie Plum series. Stephanie operates in a working class Newark neighborhood. Evanovich’s most recent book is “Sizzlin‘ Sixteen” (2010). Her next book, “Smokin’ Seventeen“, is due on June 21, 2011.

One of Harlan Coben’s main characters is Myron Bolitar, a former professional basketball player. He lives in the home he grew up in and solves crimes in a suburban New Jersey community. Coben is the father of four children and writes with first-hand knowledge about teen-age angst. His most recent book is “Long Lost” (2009). Coben’s next book, “Live Wire“, is due in 2011.

Of particular interest to Arizona residents are the mysteries of Jon Talton, Betty Webb and J.A. Jance. Jon Talton, a native of Arizona, used to write the business column for the “Arizona Republic” before moving to Seattle. His main character, David Mapstone, is native to Arizona and investigates in and around Phoenix. The author of eight books, his first book was “Concrete Desert“. All his books take place in Phoenix. His most recent book is “South Phoenix Rules” (2010), and was published by Poison Pen Press in Phoenix.

Betty Webb, a former reporter for the “Arizona Republic”, writes Lena Jones Mysteries, which take place in Arizona. Jones owns Desert Investigations on Scottsdale Road. Webb’s “Desert Wives” and her most recent book “Desert Lost” (2009), deal with polygamist sects in Arizona.

J.A. Jance is famous for her main characters, Joanna Brady, a sheriff in Southwest Arizona, J.P. Beaumont a retired police detective in Seattle and newscaster Ali Reynolds. Jance, who grew up in Bisbee, spends her time between Tucson and Seattle. The Ali Reynolds mysteries take place in Sedona, including “Cruel Intent“. Jance's most recent book is “Fatal Error “(February 2011).

The universal popularity of mystery books is illustrated by the books on the “New York Times” Best Sellers list. Of the fifteen books listed in February, nine of the 15 are mysteries.

We here in Sedona are lucky to have a Mystery Book Club that meets every two months, on the second Tuesday of the month from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., in the Quiet Room of the Sedona Public Library, The next meeting is Tuesday, March 9, 2011. The members are reading: “Miss Zukas and Library Murders“ by Joe Dereske, and “Still Life“ by Louise Penny. The meetings are open to all mystery book lovers.

Annette Star Lustgarten
Library News appears each Friday in the Red Rock News and is also presented on: Gateway to Sedona and Sedona Biz.
Annette Star Lustgarten is a Member of the Board of Trustees of the Sedona Public Library.