Hi! Kate here, coming to you over the airwaves while at vacation. At Maine Crime Writers, we’re happy to share another guest post from our friends at Mainely Murders Bookstore today. Hope you’ve had a chance to visit them this summer…or will this fall. And if you have a chance, go to their website (link below) and sign up for their terrific newsletter.
Summer visitors to Mainely Murders Bookstore in downtown Kennebunk know we have a garden plot—albeit, much overgrown—but one we think is a perfect place to hide the body. That’s why, each year, we highlight mysteries set in gardens.
We like the names of the books—titles like Thyme of Death, Deadly Slipper, The Azalea Assault, Slay It with Flowers, Gardens of Secrets Past, Slugfest, Three Dirty Women, and Death in the Garden.
Many are from today’s crop (no pun intended) of writers of cozies. Most are set in the U.S., but some are set outside the country, often in England.
But there’s nothing new about garden-themed mysteries. Obviously, we’re not the only ones who see the possibilities for murder weapons and burial sites. But, the writer who really set the tone for “murder in the garden” was Ireland’s Sheila Pim, who between 1945 and the early 50s, wrote titles like Common or Garden Crime, Creeping Venom, A Brush with Death, and A Hive of Suspects to entertain her father, who loved mysteries.
But, here at Mainely Murders, our best selling “garden-variety” murder is from much closer to home, the ever-popular The Maine Mulch Murder (2001), written by the late A. Carmen Clark—mother of our very own Kate Flora and John Clark. Evidently, interest in mysteries (and murder) run in that family.
I never met Mrs. Clark. But The Maine Mulch Murder, now out of print, has long been a favorite of mine. Maybe it’s because, although we have a lovely small garden outside our Kennebunk home and bookstore, gardens have always held a sense of danger for me. All those bees flying around. And, I can’t tell you how often I’ve stumbled into a hole dug by some creature, obviously out there to do no good.
But The Maine Mulch Murder has retained its innocence. After all, like all the books in our shop, the murder and havoc wrecked upon the small town of Granton, Maine, is pure fiction. And, talk about innocent, it was dreamed up by a sweet little old lady (she was 83 when it was published), when she tired of writing garden news for the local Camden newspaper.
So, this summer, as I’ve done every summer since we opened our bookstore five years ago, I set about creating our Garden Plot of garden-themed mysteries. On dry, sunny days, it’s just outside our front door; rainy days send the display indoors. There, front and center, I place The Maine Mulch Murder—and replace it and replace it. It never lasts long on the shelf.
This year, I e-mailed Kate, telling her how very much I’d always enjoyed her mother’s book, and that it was very popular at Mainely Murders. She seemed pleased and said she believed her mother, who died in 2005, would be happy that a few people were still reading her book.
“No, no,” I said. “A lot of people are enjoying it and, in fact, The Maine Mulch Murder is, year in and year out, a steady seller. We can never get enough copies to satisfy demand.”
Needless to say, I pounced on the 20. (In truth, she could fit only 18 in the box she shipped to me. But I have my eyes on those two left behind.)
So now, when customers, quite often vacationing from away, spot the book’s bright red cover, emblazoned with the title, and reach for it at the same time, I needn’t worry breaking up a tug-of-war. For a little while now, I can let them both have it.
Paula Keeney, along with partner Ann Whetstone, owns Mainely Murders Bookstore (www.mainelymurders.com) at 1 Bourne Street, Kennebunk. While she claims to be a little afraid of their garden, it was the setting for their wedding three years ago. She says the bookstore was too small.