Introducing Bibliomysteries: Short tales about deadly books!
If you go to the dictionary (as a traditionalist) or hit your computer’s spell check, you will discover that there is no listing for the word bibliomystery, or the squiggly little red line in your word processing program will point out the fact that you have typed in a non-existent or misspelled word.
Nonetheless, bibliophiles who also are mystery fiction aficionados certainly know what the word means, however abstruse or esoteric it may seem to those poor souls who do not share those affections. Books and short stories that fall into this small but elevated category of literature are, of course, mystery stories set in the world of books. Bibliomysteries cross all sub-genres, from hard-boiled private eye stories (such as Raymond Chandler’s classic The Big Sleep) to the cozier tales of Charlotte MacLeod’s librarian sleuth and the mainstream Booked to Die by John Dunning. Admittedly, “the world of books” covers a lot of geography and is not nearly as specific as the reader or collector might wish it to be.
It’s pretty clear if the crime involves rare books, or if a book or books are the primary macguffin (another word not in the dictionary or accepted by spell-check). If much of the action is set in a bookshop or a library, it is a bibliomystery, just as it is if a major character is a bookseller or librarian. A collector of rare books counts, and often a scholar or academic working with rare books, manuscripts, or archives may be included. Publishers? Yes, if their jobs are integral to the plot. Authors? Tricky. If they just happen to write books (and it is amazing to note the number of fictional mystery writers who stumble onto corpses) and get involved in a mystery, it is a borderline call. If the nature of their work brings them into a mystery, or their books are a vital clue in the solution, they probably make the cut.
Short tales about deadly books from C.J. Box, Anne Perry, Ken Bruen and Jeffery Deaver are now available from MysteriousPress.com, with new authors being released every month.
- Otto Penzler, publisher
Visit The Mysterious Bookshop, the oldest mystery bookstore in the country.