Liz here, and today I’m excited to welcome a very special guest – Eileen Pearce, librarian at Windsor Locks Public Library here in Connecticut. I first met Eileen last year when she invited Edith and me to do an event at the library. You never know how library events are going to go, but we were thrilled – the crowd was plentiful, the interest and enthusiasm were high, and we had such fun! The library has an active mystery book club that really welcomes authors. This past summer, Barb joined me and Edith for a second event, and as long as Eileen will have us, we plan on returning as often as possible! I invited Eileen to tell us about the group, the Christie Capers Book Club. All yours, Eileen!
Many of you haven’t heard of the town that I have called home for 30 years. Windsor Locks, CT is 9.2 square miles and has a population of 12,500. We are the home of Bradley International Airport, which most people think is in Hartford. Our Little League team won the World Championship in 1965 and Ella Tambussi Grasso, governor of Connecticut from 1975-1980 (and the first woman in the United States elected governor in her own right) was born here in 1919. Oh, and our latest claim to fame is that one of the finalists on this year’s version of The Bachelorette is from Windsor Locks!
I like to think that the Windsor Locks Public Library’s Christie Capers Book Club is another distinctive selling point of our small town. My good friend Janet, a library volunteer, and I, the Adult Services Librarian, started the group in 2002. We appropriated the name, Christie Capers, from one of author Carolyn G. Hart’s Death on Demand mysteries, and she was gracious enough to offer a signed copy of one of her novels as a door prize for our first meeting in September 2002. Our first book was, appropriately, Agatha Christie’s The Body in the Library. Our plan was to read and discuss “traditional” mysteries, which feature a murder, the gathering of clues by a professional or amateur sleuth, and the solution to the crime. We were thrilled to have a dozen people attend that first meeting, but quickly lost some of our enthusiasm when only a few showed up for our second. Traditional mysteries, especially cozies, can be difficult to discuss since they all follow a basic formula and don’t usually have intense psychological plotlines or a lot of complex characters. A couple of our members kept pushing for thrillers over the first few years that we met, so we did read some Harlan Coben and Patricia Cornwell during those early years, but our hearts really weren’t in it. Now we read only traditional mysteries, some cozy and some more “noir,” choosing a different theme each year. Fortunately there are SO many great mysteries around that that we never want for ideas! We’ve read female sleuths, professional vs. amateur sleuths, mysteries set in different countries, mysteries featuring real people as detectives, and craft-based mysteries, to name a few of our themes. During this past year we’ve been reading novels featuring religious sleuths and our upcoming theme is mysteries featuring a strong sense of place, novels in which the setting is key to the series, like those of Colin Cotterrill, Louise Penny, and Charles Finch. I’m thinking that it is definitely getting to be time to focus on some culinary series soon!
We spent about a decade as a pretty small group, but over the past few years interest in discussing mysteries has apparently exploded here in north central Connecticut! We now have about 25 members, many from surrounding towns and several from Massachusetts. We have hosted many wonderful authors, enjoying fascinating discussions with three of the Wicked Cozies, Edith Maxwell, Liz Mugavero, and Barbara Ross. Laura Bradford (aka Elizabeth Lynn Casey), author of an Amish mystery series and the Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries, has visited 5 times and essentially become our library’s mystery mascot. Sandra Parshall, a wonderful writer based in the D.C. area, donated a whole box of Under the Dog Star, one of her Rachel Goddard mysteries, to our delighted group, all big fans of hers. Anne Canadeo, author of the Black Sheep Knitting Mysteries has stopped in to see us twice, and we were thrilled to be one of the first libraries to introduce Susannah Hardy, author of the Greek to Me Mysteries, to the world. We look forward to meeting Roberta Isleib (Lucy Burdette) in August.
Reading and discussing mysteries are always great pastimes and meeting our favorite (and future favorite) authors is a thrill, but the most wonderful things about a book club, even one as big as ours, are the friendship and the laughter. Every month different combinations of members meet. Diane is our chocolate martini expert, always a hit at our annual Christmas pot-luck meeting. Karen, originally from Fall River (or “Fall Rivah”, as she says), and Shirley, from England, add a bit of an exotic flair to our meetings with their accents. Geri is our deadpan comedienne (“they grilled him like a cheeseburger”) and Terry is an expert at faux-cluelessness. Janet’s explosive laughter, Mary P’s sweet girlish voice, Nancy’s travel anecdotes…all of these contribute to a wonderful sense of comraderie. We have sympathized with each other’s losses, worried about illnesses, and expressed joy at marriages, children’s graduations, and new jobs. There might be 12 of us or there might be 24 at a meeting. When someone doesn’t show up and we haven’t heard from them, we worry about them. When others, whose active lives, jobs, and varied interests sometimes prevent them from attending, DO show up, we let them know how much we missed them. Sometimes we love the book and clamor to read more of the series, while at other times Janet and I get the stink-eye for choosing a book that is not to everyone’s taste. But no matter how we feel about our book, the library’s community room is always filled happy voices and the frequent sound of laughter on the third Wednesday of every month. This is Christie Capers, still going strong after 13 years, 122 books, 15 author visits, and many, many holiday chocolate martinis.