2017-03-30 / Editorial

Happy anniversary, Sisters in Crime

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by Melanie Taylor Coombs

A crazed maniac is chasing Kinsey Millhone down the halls of a deserted hospital building holding a giant knife and eerily singing nursery rhymes. Thirty years later, I still remember the physical terror I felt reading late into the night as I finished one of Sue Grafton’s “Alphabet” books. Her latest mystery/ thriller is due Aug. 22 and is entitled “Y is for…” It is amazing to think that most of her readers have followed her character for more than 30 years.

What we forget today is that Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky and Marcia Muller broke barriers in the literary world. Prior to the 1980s, nice girls did not read or write crime novels. According to Paretsky, “As a reader of mysteries, I always had trouble with the way women are treated as either tramps or helpless victims who stand around weeping. I wanted to read about a woman who could solve her own problems.” Thank goodness the literary world has changed. And thank goodness for those women authors who paved the way for Maine’s own Sisters in Crime!

Sisters in Crime started 30 years ago with a very clear vision: “to help women who write, review, buy or sell crime fiction.” McArthur Library is proudly one of 30 locations throughout New England to help celebrate the 30th anniversary of Sisters in Crime. On April 20 at 6:30 p.m., three very popular authors will be at the library to read from their books. We could not be more thrilled.

I read a lot of books, usually about 150 a year, often buzzing through a series of titles by an author. It is rare that I take time to write a fan letter to an author. Last fall I did take the time to write to Maureen Milliken after finishing her first book, “Cold Hard News.” For years, I lived in western Maine and the culture in that part of the state is very different than southern Maine. Milliken nailed it. The landscape, characters and every minute detail was spot on. Her book on Amazon has 21 ratings and most have given it five stars. Clearly I am not alone in my admiration.

Since we set up the program, I have been madly reading and enjoying books by Lea Wait and Kate Flora. Wait is well known for her cozy styled mysteries. She has two main series: the “Antique Print Mysteries” and “Mainely Needlepoint Mysteries.” In both series, chapters begin with glimpses into the past in the form of historic tidbits either on needlework or antique prints. So far I have enjoyed three of these and hope to have time for more before the big day. Fans of cozies will not be disappointed; the characters are very rich and likeable. Fans of Maine literature will enjoy the coastal ambiance. And they are likely to make you hungry with talk of lobster rolls and clams. Wait has also penned several notable children’s books.

Flora is one of those amazing writers who glides seamlessly between fiction and non-fiction writing. Last weekend I read the first in her “Joe Burgess” series. The series is based on a tough Portland detective. There is a gritty honesty to the novel; it is obvious that Flora’s research into the city’s criminal scene is impeccable. Flora is well known for her other series featuring Thea Kozak and her for nonfiction writing. In 2005 she explored the death of a young woman who disappeared in Portland’s Old Port and due in October 2017 is “Shots Fired: The Misunderstandings, Misconceptions and Myths About Police Shootings,” which is written by Joseph K. Loughlin and co-authored by Flora.

This will be a special evening with a party theme. Please join us in celebrating with the marvelous writers from Sisters in Crime. Books will be available for purchase. The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 20. As always, events at the library are free and open to the public. Currently we have an expansive display of the authors’ works in the lobby – stop by and check one out.

Melanie Taylor Coombs is adult services supervisor at McArthur Library on Main Street in Biddeford.

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