Bestselling author M.C. Beaton pens another clever mystery, “Death of a Chimney Sweep.” It’s the 26th installment in the Hamish Macbeth series; and the popularity of this crime spree is not lost on mystery buffs like mystery blogger, lecturer and media escort Molly Weston. When it comes to the enigma of a good mystery novel, it’s best to leave the sordid details to an expert.
Weston, a native of Apex, North Carolina, has been reviewing mysteries for more than 20 years. Her resume touts book venues like Wellington’s Books in Cary and Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh.
She elaborates on her popular “Meritorious Mysteries” blog; her interesting job as media escort; and her loyal book club fans:
Q: M.C. Beaton’s“Death of a Chimney Sweep” is highlighted on your “Meritorious Mysteries” blog. You describe this book as “one of the strongest of its series.” Why?
Weston: Most people who read series crime fiction give as a reason that they like the characters and are interested in them as people. In order for authors to tell more about the characters, sometimes they spend less time on the mystery itself “Chimney Sweep” is especially strong because Beaton has pulled back a bit from the details of village life in the Scottish Highlands and concentrates on the crimes, the people who perpetrate them, and the process of solving them. While many of the villagers we’ve come to know and love are important to the storyline, their actual involvement is less obvious. Angela Brody, the doctor’s wife and a good friend to Hamish Macbeth, does provide an interesting side story.
Q: Have you had the opportunity to meet M.C. Beaton?
Weston: I’ve never met her, but I did hear her on a panel at the Malice Domestic mystery conference in Washington DC several years ago. She was delightful!
Q: Describe your “Meritorious Mysteries” blog.
Weston: “Meritorious Mysteries” is first and foremost a forum where I (and a few others) review mysteries I like and think others may not find in stores or libraries without some hard looking. I like to call attention to “gems” that I’ve discovered, those that may not have lots of publicity dollars behind them. I also list award nominees and winners, author tours, etc. I did have weekly guest bloggers, mostly mystery authors, for several months, but I just have occasional visits now.
Q: Why crime fiction?
Weston: There are two primary reasons for me. Crime fiction is the ultimate example of good battling evil, with good triumphing in the end. At least most of it is. Some of the newer writers don’t hold to that principle, but I rarely review those books. The stories I like bring the promise of order from chaos. The second is that crime fiction always has a definite beginning, middle, and end. I’ve found that many non-mystery novels are more “slice of life” pictures in that they could start two weeks earlier or end a month later and the story wouldn’t be very different. In crime fiction, that’s just not going to happen!
Q: How long have you been a mystery blogger?
Weston: I began reviewing mysteries more than 20 years ago for Wellington’s Books in Cary and later Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh. They both published their newsletters quarterly. I wanted to write more reviews than that, so I began a monthly review newsletter and sent it to bookstores and libraries who agreed to furnish it to their patrons. I converted it to a website soon after the internet became common in homes and changed to the blog format several years ago.
Q: You are a blogger, a lecturer, and a media escort. What is a media escort?
Weston: We are fortunate to have a large number of visiting authors who give talks and signings at area bookstores and schools. Many of them make appearances on TV and radio shows. Publishers hire me to drive them and see that they arrive at each location on time. Usually the authors are here for only a day or two; several times, they’ve stayed two or three nights, sometimes traveling to Charlotte, Greensboro, or Southern Pines. If the author writes cookbooks, usually the publisher will ask me to prepare a recipe or two from the book for a tasting at the store. One author had signed so many books the night before she arrived in Raleigh, she’d developed tendonitis in her wrist. Having had the same symptoms myself, I helped her find an arm brace at a pharmacy. I’ve even done laundry for a couple of folks who’d had their trips extended beyond what they’d packed!
Q: You have a wonderful fan base. Why are you so successful in connecting with your fans?
Weston: It’s great to think someone thinks I’m successful! Thank you. I suspect that folks enjoy coming to my events because I give them what they want: An insight into new things to read — and I give them enough information that they’ll have a good idea whether or not a particular author is for them. I also bring authors from across the US to the Triangle and book them into bookstores, libraries, coffee shops—any place that will host a program. This gives readers an opportunity to meet the creators of the characters they love.
Q: What is your advice or recommendation to the mystery novel novice?
Weston: Great question! First advice (and this applies to all readers): If you’re not enjoying the book, put it down! There’s no way possible for anyone to read all the books available. Decide on how much time or how many pages you’ll give a book and if you’re not really into it by that time, get something else! Secondly, try to pick something that has a topic that appeals to you. If you don’t like a lot of violence, don’t try Stieg Larsson. If you don’t believe in vampires, stay away from Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse series. (Charlaine is a dear friend, but I don’t read that series. Fortunately, she has three others.) I never suggest the “hottest blockbuster” just because it’s hot. I ask a lot of questions about the reader and then make a few suggestions, again telling them a little about the series and why they might like it.
The Cary Public Library, along with Molly Weston, hosts book club meetings at 2 p.m. on the second Thursday of every month, from September through April or May.
“Meritorious Mysteries” can be found at mysteryheel.blogspot.com.
Molly Weston can be reached at [email protected]