Your Club in Lights: The “One More Page Mystery Book Club” in Arlington, VA

  • September 23, 2014

A look at an interesting book club and how it is they do what they do.

Your Club in Lights: The “One More Page Mystery Book Club” in Arlington, VA

Your club’s name: One More Page Mystery Book Club; when I email, I call our group “Mystery Loves Company,” and address them as “mysterians.”

Location: One More Page Books in Arlington, VA.

How long you’ve been around: The group started soon after the store’s founder, Eileen McGervey, opened One More Page Books in 2011.

How many members: Between 10-15, depending on the book we’re reading.

Book you’re currently reading: A Free Man of Color by Barbara Hambly.

Book you last read: Little Face by Sophie Hannah.

Book that’s up next: The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg.

Since your inception, the book that has generated the strongest (good, bad, or otherwise) reaction: We are divided in our tastes, as well as passionate, so many books have generated strong reactions. The last one, Little Face, reminded many of Gone Girl, in which there’s an unreliable narrator who leads the reader astray. Some members felt tricked by this. Others disliked the way in which one narrator was presented in first-person present tense, while the other narrator was in third-person past tense. Some said this was jarring at the start, but they got used to it as the story progressed. Most agreed that the author knew how to ratchet up the tension. We talked about “gaslighting,” which comes from the movie by the same name.

When we discussed Jacqueline Winspear’s much-loved Maisie Dobbs, we drew a record crowd, but one member objected to the way in which there were no real clues. Maisie had to rely on getting a confession out of the culprit — fat chance of that in the real world.

French writer Fred Vargas’ The Chalk Circle Man bugged many members because the main character, Adamsberg, doesn’t solve murders the way common detectives do — by using clues, witnesses, etc. He relies strictly on his intuition. Viva La France.

The secret to your club’s success: I’ve only been the leader for about six months, but I know why I’m there. I love hearing what this well-read, well-educated, savvy group of readers thinks about a book. I try to give everyone a chance to choose a book. If a book is suggested, any member can veto it. (They keep vetoing my favorite author, Denise Mina, because she’s too gory.)

We read only paperbacks. We tend to like mysteries set abroad, mysteries in translation, historical mysteries. A subset of the group likes speculative fiction. We need to read something we can discuss, so we don’t read mysteries with talking animals or ones that include recipes. As I mentioned before, too much gore, torture, etc., is not something we’ll choose. We like our mysteries well-written, peopled by memorable yet believable characters with a plausible, fascinating story. Do we ask too much? 

Also, I think people hunger for community today. Our book group provides us with that sense of connectedness through our reading, and for that, I’m grateful to One More Page.

[Responses provided by club leader Ellen Herbert.]

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