Mystillery Newsletter #9 - May 2021

From The Mystillery

Your host just finished The Case of the Ice Cold Hands by Erle Stanley Gardner. The title refers to a murderer who has ice-cold hands from packing dry ice around her victim ... in order to cool the body off faster, so the police will think the death occurred earlier .. when she has an alibi, ha ha. The title made me think of a possible companion story: The Case of the Ice Cold Feet, in which someone slips into bed to discover it is already occupied ... by a corpse. Cool idea or what?

Your host has found a fun new author! Nancy Barr Mavity (1890-1959). She only wrote seven mysteries - six of which feature crime reporter James Alyosius "Peter" Piper. Nancy was a crime reporter herself, which lends a lot of credibility to the stories. She led a Brenda Starr-like career, as described in this article by Randal S. Brandt:

In one case, Mavity used a ladder to climb through the window of a vacated jury deliberation room in order to gather up the contents of the wastebasket, writing a story for the next morning's edition on exactly how many ballots the jury had taken and what the votes were. In another, she risked facial burns by keeping her head next to a furnace pipe in order to eavesdrop on a jury, and for three days fed the newspaper direct quotes from the deliberations.
She describes the non-stop semi-controlled chaos of a daily newspaper - you can almost feel the building vibrate when the presses start rolling. And gloomy passages like this, as the townspeople arrive at a funeral parlor for the inquest!
The crowd had poured slowly, steadily into the dark interior of the undertaking parlors in a viscous, flowing mass. The porch still overflowed with those who had found no room inside, coagulating at the windows and doors, clotted on the steps.
Here is her mystery bibliography (she also wrote other non-fiction, and an autobiography). Thus far I have read #1 and #2. Her books are generally available on

TRACKER ICON! This tracker icon is a link to the challenger's tracking page for each challenge (if you use one). If the challenger does not have a specific tracker page set up and is using Goodreads or Blogger labels to track progress, this link will open Goodreads or the blog and run that sort for you. Are you on Goodreads but not a blogger? You can quickly create tracking on Goodreads by making a bookshelf (call it 2021 Medical Examiner, 2021 Six Shooter, 2021 Beachcomber, or Century Club). Then add your reads to that bookshelf. One book can be placed on multiple bookshelves. Then let me know, and I can place a tracker icon on your listing so you can quickly click back and forth.

The Blogger icon now indicates a blog on any host. Previously, Wordpress blogs had their own icon, but in the quest for simplicity this one icon now serves for a blog on any host.

Paperback Swap now has a real icon instead of my cheesy old homemade one. This takes to the challenger's bookshelf, which has paperbacks you can swap for free!

Here are a couple of interesting articles from the blog "crossexaminingcrime". For those of you into statistical analysis, the blog posts are titled Which Room is Agatha Christie Most Likely to Kill You In? and there are two separate articles, one tallying the 128 indoor scenes of crime (guess what particular room is used 46.4% of the time), and one tallying the outdoor scenes of crime! (Some of the article is written in ROT13, here is a link to a decoder.)

While you are scouring your books, you can help Bev Hankins out. She is seeking mentions of specific times in books for her Mysterious Time Quotes challenge, which apparently is something she made up. You can read her explanation on her blog posting on My Reader's Block. The goal is to complete her spreadsheet of every minute of the day (there are 1440). Contributors (that could be you) even get a name mention on the spreadsheet! (Hint: Any book which deals with railway timetables is very fertile territory).

In the Mystillery Lab

Light a candle, come down the basement stairs, and knock on the heavy steel door with the well-oiled hinges. We'll open it for you (there is no doorknob on the outside). You're in the Mystillery Lab!

Sorry, no lab projects this month.

Medical Examiner news

Search updated: The search engine had its monthly update this morning (May 1), so your submissions through April can now be found by it. This searches submissions to all Mystillery challenges. This is only available from the Medical Examiner challenge page. See "Who else examined my book?" at the top of the table.

Six Shooter news

New Notches during April! Alert challengers will notice the Reader Board is now split into two sections. The upper being those challengers who have achieved at least one notch - this section is sorted by overall score. I tend to think of this as the "whac-a-mole" section. Due to our quirky scoring system, many times one challenger's submission will rearrange everyone else's standings.* (Wikipedia says: The term "Whac-a-mole" is used colloquially to depict a situation characterized by a series of repetitious and futile tasks, where the successful completion of one just yields another popping up elsewhere.")

The lower section comprises those still shooting for notch #1, this section is sorted by shots taken. This makes the sorting easier, and allows green (high score) and yellow (2nd highest) highlights in each section.

Are you in the upper section? Your goal is to add more notches.

Are you in the lower section? Your goal is to move to the upper section! Keep loading and shooting!

* For example. you can rise in the standings by doing nothing, while other challengers take shots that do not complete targets, thus lowering their score.

Beachcomber news

Coming for 2022? The problem with the scavenger hunt format has been selecting items which are achievable yet not too common, and avoiding the bias of loading up the cards with Golden Age or Cozy items that are hard to find in other eras. This was addressed on the Detectives and Victims cards by just replacing the scavenger hunt items with letters of the alphabet. This has been very successful, and the other cards (Weapons and Crime Scenes) still languish behind for many. So the idea for 2022 will be to have all four cards use the letter of the alphabet system. For example, on the Weapons card, if your weapon is a KNIFE, you can use that for K, N, I, F, or E. Likewise, on Crime Scenes, a YACHT will get you Y, A, C, H, or T. This should get you more flexibility, too: instead of "gun" you can use other words the author uses to describe it, such as handgun, shotgun, rifle, pistol, bullet, automatic, revolver (that hard-to-find-V!). This also allows us to add a grid format sheet for tracking, rather than individual cards.

Century Club news

Things are, as usual, quiet and dignified in the Century Club with only three of us (Bev Hankins, Avid Series Reader, and your host) sitting around this magnificent 30-seat dining table drinking all the vintage wine. It is a challenge, as everytime we take a sip, one of the waiters comes right over and tops off the glass again.

On this challenge, past reading at any time counts, so if you read Rebecca (1938) back in eighth grade for a book report, you can count it for the 1930's decade! Please note if you have not made any submissions, your application may be expiring soon so check the challenge page. Many of you will suffer the same fate as Manderley in May.

Abra Cadavers news

The Abra Cadavers Baseball Game (not really a challenge) is open! Reading since January 1 all qualifies! Listen for the National Anthem and swing for the fences! We already have a number of players, three of whom (Bev "Slugger" Hankins, Tina Hilbert, and Jjean) have hit all the pitches to become All-stars!

Come October, when the Abra Cadavers team puts away the bats and balls for the season, The Mystillery plans to open a new off-season game to run alternately with Abra Cadavers, October to April. It is an indoor sport for those cold winter months. This means there will always be a game available year-round for all our challengers!

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