Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Christmas At the Mysterious Bookstore

Secondary Audience. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed many—if not most-- of the short stories in Christmas At the Mysterious Bookstore, edited by Otto Penzler. I loved "The Lesson of the Season" by Thomas H. Cook because it spoke to my experience as a book—sometimes mystery—reader. I especially enjoyed "The Killer Christian" by Andrew Klavan and "I Saw Mommy Killing Santa Claus" by Ed McBain; both included endings that were emotionally touching. But I could not relate as much as I would have liked to many of the stories because I was not the primary audience: a mystery bibliophile, a New Yorker, a serious mystery reader, or, especially, one of The Mysterious Bookstore patrons. I, on the other hand, occasionally read quirky mystery novels to forget my troubles for a few hours and have never even been to New York, though I have worked at a bookstore.

A brief history. “Each year, for the past 17 years, Otto Penzler [Owner of The Mysterious Bookstore] has commissioned an original story set during the Christmas season by a leading mystery writer, with some of the action taking place in The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City. These stories were then produced as pamphlets, 1,000 copies, and given to customers of the book store as a Christmas present.” The book contains those short stories. This venerable store sells mysteries of all kinds and features rare and collectible hard backs.

While I am glad I read the book, I missed many of the allusions to famous mystery writers and the Mysterious Bookstore, and I occasionally felt like a dilettante. (This happened more with the stories written in the earlier years.) My guess is that the more the reader relates to the original audience of the short stories, the greater their enjoyment of the book will be.

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