Mystery Scene Magazine

At the Scene, January 2012                        Solving the mystery of what to read next!
In this Issue
Betty Webb on Agatha Christie
The Chalk Girl Reviewed
Sherlock returns to PBS
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January Greetings

Betty Webb on Agatha Christie, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Overheard, Carol O'Connell's The Chalk Girl, and Sherlock on PBS.

Happy New Year everyone! I hope your 2012 is off to a great start. 


Last year, we profiled some of the best mystery bookstores in the US, with more to come in the months ahead.  


So far, we have featured: Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore in Forest Park, Illinois; Once Upon a Crime in Minneapolis, Minnesota.; Murder By the Book in Portland, Oregon;  Book Carnival in Orange, California; and Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. 


Why not make it your new year's resolution to visit as many as possible? 


Best wishes,

Kate Stine


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Poisoned Pen Press Advertisement  
Betty Webb salutes Agatha Christie's
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

 Agatha Christie, Murder of Roger Ackroyd

In college, I was a literary snob. I read the Russians, the Greeks, the French, and the Romans (as opposed to the Italians). Just about the only American authors I read were Roth, Updike, and Heller. Males all, not a genre writer in the bunch.


This changed abruptly when during one Christmas vacation a bout of flu sent me whimpering to bed. In between fits of coughing I stared at the ceiling, bored out of my snobby little mind. The only reading material on hand was a carton of Agatha Christies I'd been duped into buying a week earlier at a yard sale. The wily seller had layered the top row with literary tomes guaranteed to suck in a nose-in-the-air college sophomore like myself, but once I lugged my $5 bargain home, I discovered the other layers held nothing but Christie, Christie, Christie, a writer much too lowbrow for me. But having already read everything else in my TV-less apartment, I swallowed my pride and grabbed The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.  


Whereupon Agatha Christie changed my life.


By the time I finished Ackroyd, Dame Agatha had liberated me from my ill-founded literary snobbery and sexism. She'd demonstrated that the logic inherent in a good puzzle ensures smart reading for smart people. As I read my way through the rest of her books, I discovered that - surprise, surprise - female sleuths could be logical, too. On the down side, Christie also taught me that mystery novels are as addictive as crack, so after closing the last book (A Murder Is Announced), I took myself to the nearest used bookstore, where I purchased more Christies. But that wasn't all. Her intelligent plotting had whetted my appetite for other mystery authors - especially the females - so for the next few months, I abandoned Roth, Updike, et al, to immerse myself in the feminine side of murder and mayhem. When the pendulum swung back, as it always does, I began reading the guys, too.  


The writer I eventually became learned the subtleties of character development from P.D. James, the importance of setting from Tony Hillerman, restraint in confrontational dialogue from James Sallis, and the interconnectedness of every human being from Kate Atkinson.  


Yet of all lessons learned, it is Agatha Christie's insistence on logic that remains paramount.



Betty Webb's Desert Wind
Betty Webb's latest book is
Desert Wind (Poisoned Pen Press, February 2012).

"Writers on Reading" is a special ongoing Mystery Scene series available as a first look exclusive to our newsletter subscribers. 
Mystery Scene Hangman  



Oliver Lacon and Geroge Smiley, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

"It's the oldest question of all, George.  

Who can spy on the spies?"  


- Oliver Lacon (Simon McBurney) commissioning George Smiley 

(Gary Oldman) to do just that in the film adaptation of John le Carré's

TIinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011).  



The Chalk Girl
NYPD detective Kathy Mallory returns after a long absence.

Carol O'Connell The Chalk Girl The Chalk Girl  

by Carol O'Connell 

Putnam, Jan. 2012, $25.95 


If there ever is for fiction characters, it wouldn't be surprising to learn Lisbeth Salander and Kathy Mallory are distant cousins. Both grew up as near-feral children, both are misunderstood and both can be lethal when pushed. Both also are one millimeter from a life of lawlessness - Lisbeth saved by her computing skills and Mallory because she is a NYPD detective.  


Mallory's virulent persona and her compassion for victims enhance the strong plot of The Chalk Girl, Carol O'Connell's 10th novel in this series. The last Mallory outing was Find Me in 2006 and her absence is attributed to the three months she simply disappeared after walking away from the Special Crimes Unit... (Read the review.) 


Check out Mystery Scene's web exclusive review of  The Chalk Girl, as well as other special web content online at


The Return of Sherlock Holmes
Masterpiece Mystery's hit TV series to re-air Series I episodes in January; Series 2 to air in May 2012.

PBS Sherlock

This witty, highly praised series reimagines Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson for the 21st century and became a worldwide hit. Benedict Cumberbatch (War Horse) as the brilliant but cocky Sherlock and Martin Freeman (The Hobbit, The Office, UK) as Dr. John Watson star. This slick reimagining of Arthur Conan Doyle's classic sleuth is the work of co-creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat (Doctor Who).    
Now the three 90-minute episodes from Series I are returning to Masterpiece Mystery!, to be followed by three more in May of 2012. 

The rebroadcasting of Series I begins January 15, 2012 at 10pm (Check local listings). Check it out, we think you'll like it!  

"A Study in Pink"
This award-winning episode is where Sherlock begins. Arthur Conan Doyle's sleuth is recast as a high-functioning sociopath in modern-day London. He befriends John Watson, an Afghanistan War vet, and the two pursue the fiendish killer behind a series of "suicides."

"The Blind Banker"
After a baffling break-in at a bank, Sherlock springs into action. Nothing has been stolen but indecipherable graffiti has been painted on a wall. A bank employee is soon found dead in his apartment, the windows and doors locked from the inside, and Sherlock is at full, frenetic attention.

"The Great Game"
An explosion rocks Holmes and Watson out of their doldrums and into a series of deadly puzzles conceived by a brilliant bomber. It starts with a pair of shoes left in the center of an empty room - shoes connected to a case that caught Holmes' interest 20 years ago as a boy. Soon a blood-soaked car, a television star, and a recovered classic painting figure into an ever-widening cat-and-mouse game.    


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