For the past couple of weeks, I've been reading a short story every night before falling asleep. They're mysteries, written between the 1930s and the 1970s by a variety of British authors and anthologized in "Murder by the Book," edited by Martin Edwards and published last month by Poison Pen Press.
The stories are delightful, if reading about murders can be called delightful — each little mystery has something to do with books, or libraries, or authors. In one, a mystery writer is murdered by someone who wants to see if he can outwit the author. In another, the will of a murdered man is found hidden in a Lewis Carroll book. (Why Lewis Carroll? There's a reason.)
They aren't hard to figure out, these little mysteries, each done and dusted in about 20 pages, but they are soothing to read. These are words I might not have written before I fell in love with mysteries during the pandemic.
Your response, when I wrote about this late-to-the-party development, was encouraging. Emails poured in from around the country, most with recommendations — Patricia Wentworth, Rex Stout, William Kent Krueger, Jacqueline Winspear, Louise Penny and the Bruno, Chief of Police novels by Martin Walker.
Many of you noted that your gateway mysteries dated to when you were children — Encyclopedia Brown, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.
One reader wrote to scold me: "I'm shocked and appalled that you would put into print that it took you until COVID to discover that 'there are all kinds of mysteries.' I would think it would embarrass you to show such ignorance, and yes, snobbery. Perhaps an apology would be better."
But most of you were supportive. Shoreview resident Steve Woods knows why he loves mysteries. "In a word, characters," he said. "The best characters are in the Louise Penny/Gamache series with a whole hamlet of Quebecers. Like a jazz band leader, she gives each of them solos with storylines that riff off the others and leave you wishing you could sit in with them."
Julie J. Wright of Mahtomedi writes: "The mysteries of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are mind-bending classics. In a society that values optimism and putting on a good face, mysteries acknowledge the shadow side of the human psyche."
Laura Zlogar of River Falls, Wis., loves the atmosphere of foreign-set mysteries. "I have consumed almost all of Donna Leon's Commissario Guido Brunetti novels set in Venice," she writes. "Though I have never been to that city, I might be able to find my way around it — and its food — following her exquisite descriptions."
"My reading tastes are eclectic and my appetite is voracious," writes Scott Nessa of St. Paul. "Mystery is my favorite genre. Why? I like a good story well told and I like a puzzle." Mysteries that go above and beyond that include "anything by Raymond Chandler, 'The Shadow of the Wind' by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, 'Mystic River' by Dennis Lehane, 'The House on Vesper Sands' by Paraic O'Donnell and anything by Jo Nesbo."
And, finally, Bob Junghans, who writes mysteries himself under the name Rob Jung, extends an invitation to a new monthly writers series. Minnesota Mystery Night will be held at Axel's Restaurant in Mendota on the third Monday of each month. The kickoff event, at 7 p.m. on Oct. 17, features William Kent Krueger in conversation with Carl Brookins. Future guests will include Allen Eskens and David Housewright. Space is limited and reservations are requested at 651-686-4840.
Laurie Hertzel is the senior editor for books at the Star Tribune. Twitter: @StribBooks.