Mystery Challenge: Queen of Mystery

~by Lori T.

If Sir Author Conan Doyle was the founder of the mystery genre, Dame Agatha Christie was the Queen.  Agatha Christie wrote 66 mysteries, 14 short stories, and the play The Mousetrap. She is the only mystery writer with two world famous detectives, Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple, to her credit. She changed the mystery genre by gathering the suspects together at the end of the story and having her detective go through the clues to present the killer to the reader.

Introducing Hercule Poirot

Click here to find The Mysterious Affair at Styles in the SPL catalogIn 1920, after six letters of rejection, Agatha Christie’s first mystery, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, was published; and the world was introduced to Ms. Christie’s most famous detective, a Belgian immigrant named Hercule Poirot. Poirot, with his many idiosyncrasies, his ‘little grey cells’ and keen observation, collected morsels of important information given by many people without them realizing it was vital to the investigation.

Many Hercule Poirot mysteries are well known: Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile, and The Clocks; but have you read Dumb Witness, Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, or Taken at the Flood?

Introducing Miss Jane Marple

Click here to find Murder at the Vicarage in the SPL catalogMiss Jane Marple, the quiet, observant and shrewd grandmotherly type, blending in the background with her knitting,  is Agatha Christie’s other famous detective. Can you figure out who did it in the first Jane Marple mystery, Murder at the Vicarage?

Miss Marple is featured in 12 mysteries and 4 short stories; A Pocket Full of Rye and Sleeping Murder are perhaps her most famous.  Christie also wrote two Jane Marple mysteries that link together with a secondary character, A Caribbean Mystery, and Nemesis. Each of these mysteries stand alone or can be read consecutively.

Other Detectives:

Meet Tommy Beresford and Tuppence Cowley, the only Christie detectives to age with each mystery, in The Secret Adversary. Follow the adventures of Tommy and Tuppence through marriage, the Second World War and retirement in the collection of short stories compiled in Partners in Crime.

Agatha Christie’s favorite detective, if you must call him that, was the mysterious, evasive, Harley Quin.  You can acquaint yourself with Mr. Quin with the collection of short stories found in The Mysterious Mr. Quin.

Parker Pyne is a retired civil servant that resolves unhappiness for people.  He advertises in the personal ads of the newspaper to attract the unhappy. Meet the unusual Mr. Pyne in the collection of short stories Parker Pyne Investigates.

Although Ariadne Oliver is never featured as the central detective of a mystery; she paired up with Poirot in six mysteries.  The first meeting between Poirot and the apple eating mystery writer is my favorite mystery, Cards on the Table.

Click here to find Partners in Crime in the SPL catalogClick here to find The Mysterious Mr. Quin in the SPL catalogClick here to find Parker Pyne Investigates in the SPL catalogClick here to find Cards on the Table in the SPL catalog

New Mystery:

Click here to find The Monogram Murders in the SPL catalogIn the thirty eight years since her death, the estate of Agatha Christie has not granted the use of the characters by other writers…until now.

Hercule Poirot makes his return in The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah.  How will Poirot solve the murder of three people and prevent the murder of the fourth? It’s a mystery worthy of Christie.


Download and print out the checklist here and read along with our winter mystery series.

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Movie Mondays: Halloweird

I’m not a huge fan of scary movies for one very legitimate reason. They scare me. That can be difficult this time of year as Halloween draws ever closer and seemingly everyone I know is watching the creepiest, ickiest films imaginable. That’s not to say that I’m completely unable to get into the undead spirit of the season. For example, I love horror films that use the genre’s conventions for laughs as much as scares, from films like Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn to Shaun of the Dead and The Cabin in the Woods. But I really enjoy horror films that aren’t scary as much as just plain weird.

Sleepaway Camp may sound like your average Friday the 13th rip-off with its homicidal maniac running rampant at a summer camp but whoa Nelly, is this thing bananas. From the glacially paced prologue depicting a motor boat heading towards a family of victims to the most shocking final shot in cinema history, Sleepaway Camp astounds in its lurid absurdity. Director Robert Hiltzik didn’t make another film until a belated sequel decades later. I like to think that’s because he crammed all of his ideas and obsessions into this one exceptionally odd artistic statement. Bless him.

Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff are most famous for their iconic roles in Dracula and Frankenstein respectively but a few years later the two teamed up for a film that might be better than either horror classic. The Black Cat throws anything it can think of onscreen including Satanists, modernist architecture rigged with explosives, and yes, a black cat. The film claims to be based on the fiction of Edgar Allan Poe but any trace of the Bard of Baltimore’s work has been scuttled for ever-increasing insanity.

Now, there is weird and then there is House. Japanese director Nobuhiko Obayashi’s take on the haunted house film is certifiably, undeniably bonkers. The main character’s name is Gorgeous. There are violent mattresses and homicidal pianos. There is a floating head that chases people around and bites them on the butt. It’s chaos from the very first frame and each scene is more psychedelically psychotic than the last.

These films are so much fun it’s scary.

~posted by Mike

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Sharing Our Stories: Family History Storytelling at Northeast Library

by Tom M.

Gomez 1915Every family has interesting stories. In my own family, both my wife and my sister have started to think about how to present all that they have discovered about their own families.

The library can help everyone learn how to tell these family history stories, starting with an innovative workshop on the subject presented by genealogy librarian Mahina Oshie at the Northeast Library on Wednesday, October 22, from 6-7:45 p.m.

Come to learn about library, community and Internet resources for uncovering, recording, writing and publishing your own family history stories, as part of the library’s Sharing Our Stories storytelling program series. Continue reading

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Science Friday: An astronaut answers Seattle librarians’ question from the International Space Station

by Linda J.

We made a little video and sent it into outer space, asking astronaut Reid Wiseman, currently living and working on the International Space Station, to talk about a book that changed his view of the world. His thoughtful answer shows the power of imagination and what reading means in his life. Take a look! Continue reading

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Sharing Our Stories: Seattle Public Library Celebrates the Art of Storytelling


“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” – Joan Didion

One evening a friend took me to Roy Street Coffee and Tea in Capitol Hill to a standing room only event. It was a Thursday night and I was at Fresh Ground Stories, a first-person storytelling open mic inspired by The Moth Radio Hour. The room was warm with so many bodies, stuffed chairs, and steaming lattes, but ordinary coffee shop din was virtually absent as the crowd’s attention was honed on the teller at the microphone. I was floored by the jaw dropping honesty, beauty, courage, hilarity, and universality of each story I encountered. Hearing strangers tell these true personal stories in front of a live audience left me changed: grinning foolishly, laughing loudly, and, more often than I’d like to admit, reaching for a scrunched up Kleenex. Continue reading

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On Myth and Monsters

By Anne C.

As the shadows lengthen and the autumn winds begin to wuther, you might find your fancy turning to the darker corners of the world and the things that creep and lurk there. Things that growl. Things that hunt.  Magical things. Terrifying things. Monsters.

But, what is a monster? Where does the idea of monstrousness come from, and why are we so fascinated with it? For insight, you need look no further than the library’s nonfiction collection.

On Monsters: An Unnatural History of our Worst FearsClick here to find On Monsters in the SPL catalog, by Stephen T. Asma. Explore an array of “monsters,” from biblical figures to folktale characters and frightening creatures of flesh and blood, both animal and human.

Click here to find Killing Monsters in the SPL catalogKilling Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes, and Make-believe Violence, by Gerard Jones. Should we be alarmed by the childhood fascination with conquering “bad guys”? Maybe not.

Click here to find The Lucifer Effect in the SPL catalogThe Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, by Philip G. Zimbardo. The author of the Stanford Prison Experiments examines many specific examples of human “evil” Continue reading

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As the Lava Flows

By Diane C.
Image of an Icelandic eruption and the northern lightsVolcanoes are spectacularly in the news now.  We’ve recently learned of a dramatic, unexpected eruption in Japan, and of ongoing lava flows in Peru, Iceland, and East Java Indonesia.  The one that most concerns me is the creeping leg of an offshoot originating from Kilauea Crater on the Big Island of Hawaii, where I grew up.  The slow movement of Pahoehoe (smooth) lava towards the small town of Pahoa evoked memories of the eruption that destroyed the town of Kapoho in 1960.  I was there then to see the fiery fountain and feel the intense 1000 degree heat. I had the most powerful front seat view of our dynamic earth.  The lava moving towards Pahoa is cutting through a wide swath of uninhabited forest lands at present.  Overland flights have captured the blackened forest trail through which the lava has meandered like some giant road project.  In the distance in some of the shots, the town of Pahoa seems to be right in its sights as it makes its way down to the ocean.  My friend, Wayne, said to me recently, “With the Hurricane, it was over in a day and we could start cleaning up.  With the volcano, we wait and wait and wait some more.”  There are no prognosticators in this process as the lava will move with the terrain and disappear into underground tubes, only to re-emerge in another breakout, sometimes fast and sometimes extremely slowly.  The progress is agony to thousands of residents.

Most volcanoes don’t offer the kind of viewing platforms that Hawaii’s volcanoes do.  Most films like Dante’s Peak or Volcano have its characters scrambling from utter destruction and mayhem.  Even most books for children like Eruption by Roland Smith or Jules Verne’s classic, Journey to the Center of the Earth, are essentially heart pounding adventure Continue reading

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