The Mystery of Mysteries

Hey all. Gerry Boyle here, up bright and early to tell you about the book I was reading into the wee hours.

But first a thought of two about last Saturday’s Books in Boothbay gathering. Never were so many Maine authors in one place, from thriller writers to illustrators to novelists to memoirists to historians. I spent most of my time at my station but it was fun to gaze around at the collection of scribes, sprung from their writing rooms and herded together for all to see.

Of course, there was a good representation of Maine Crime Writers, lined up like employers at a job fair. To my left, Kate Flora and Lea Wait. To my right, James Hayman, Vicki Doudera, and Barbara Ross. And it struck me, watching Lea’s young-adult fans buying her books, Jim talking thrillers, Kate chatting with a passing prosecutor, what a varied lot we are. This was the mystery section of the event and it was a cross section of the genre. A crime at the heart of all these very different stories; invested readers driven by the need to know what will happen next.

Fascinating phenomenon, don’t you think?

I thought of this again last night, reading a book called  Star of the Sea by the Irish writer Joseph O’Connor. My friend Andrea Kuhlthau loaned it to me. She can be counted on for good taste in books and this was no exception. Published in 2002j to great acclaim, it’s a historical mystery/thriller yarn that takes place (sort of) on a famine ship bound for America in 1847. But that’s not quite right. It’s a historical and metaphysical ramble that leads the reader through this sad time in a most marvelous way. But that’s not quite right. It’s like Melville had been told to write a crime novel. “Yeah, you can do the ship thing again, Herman, but leave out the white whale.” Okay, how’ bout this: It’s a novel filled with characters drawn in such delectable detail, it’s like P.D. James hooked up with Charles Dickens. (I’m starting to like this book reviewer thing. Can you tell?)

Anyway, it’s a great book and O’Connor, who lives in Dublin, is a highly skilled writer. But what I’m getting to is that the blurbs on the book jacket describe it as a thriller.  A mature novel. “A thoroughly gripping murder mystery.” I would say that it’s an addicting story and O’Connor is a master storyteller.

And that, my friends, is what all of us who are painted by the broad brush of mystery writer set out to do. First and foremost we’re storytellers, up and down the table at the Boothbay book fest, in the mystery and crime section of your favorite bookstore. Storytellers all.

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2 Responses to The Mystery of Mysteries

  1. John Clark says:

    Sadly, I had to work, but the rest of my family went and had a great time.

  2. Sarah Graves says:

    Thanks for the book review, Gerry — I have been looking for something just like Star of the Sea to read.

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