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Community Read features mystery

'A Fatal Grace' is this year's selection

August 10, 2012
By DIANE SPEER - News Lifestyles Editor , The Alpena News

Alpena County Library wants everyone to get on the same page.

Just as in years past, the library is sponsoring a Community Read whereby area residents read the same book and then participate in a variety of activities planned around it. The pick for 2012 is "A Fatal Grace," a mystery novel written by Canadian author Louise Penny.

"In the past we have tackled some serious topics and gotten a lot out of them," said Library Director Eric Magness-Eubank. "This year's book is meant to show reading can be fun and enjoyable."

Article Photos

Louise Penny

Penny has won just about every major award there is for mystery fiction. She is also the first author ever to win the Agatha Award for Best Novel four times. Her "A Fatal Grace" takes place in a snowy Canadian village with similarities to Alpena.

"We selected this book because it is beautifully written and a real page turner," said Karen Magness-Eubank, chair of the Community Read. "Three Pines, the Canadian village in which Penny's works are set, has a lot in common with Alpena snowy winter days, a strong sense of community and a warmth that permeates everything. It is, however, different enough to feel a bit exotic."

According to Karen Magness-Eubank, the purpose of a Community Read is to create civic unity through reading, to foster a love of reading and to build a stronger sense of community by giving people something simple they can do together. A unique aspect of the library's efforts is that Penny will be coming to Alpena in October as part of the annual Authors in the Fall series.

Fact Box

Alpena County Library Authors in the Fall

and Community Read Activities

  • Mystery films scheduled for Sept. 9 and Sept. 30
  • Clue board game tournament, followed by showing of the movie, "Clue," Sept. 16
  • Presentation on history of mystery fiction by Library Director Eric Magness-Eubank, Sept. 25
  • Association of Lifelong Learners mystery party, Oct. 1
  • Friends of the Library open book discussion on "A Fatal Grace," Oct. 2
  • Authors in the Fall talk by Community Read author Louise Penny, Oct. 4
  • Authors in the Fall talk by youth mystery writer Jonathan Rand, Oct. 10
  • Authors in the Fall talk by Alpena native and mystery writer Doug Allyn, Oct. 14
  • Authors in the Fall mystery writers' workshop with Onaway resident and mystery writer Peg Herring, Oct. 18
  • Get a Clue promotional activity with participating downtown Alpena businesses
  • Murder mystery dinner party kits available at library for patrons to check out

"The big pay off with our read is that we actually have the author coming here to talk about her work and her life," she said. "A lot of communities worldwide have Community Reads, but not many have the actual authors visit."

An added bonus of Penny for the library and its READ literacy program, is that she is a literacy advocate and has written a third-grade reading level mystery for adults. This novella, "The Hangman," features the same detective that stars in her other works, but is more accessible to new adult readers.

In keeping with Penny's mystery genre, all of the authors scheduled to participate in the 2012 Authors in the Fall series are mystery writers. This was done intentionally.

"Instead of a series of individual writers, we decided to go for an over-arching theme of mystery," said Eric Magness-Eubank. "Instead of something serious we've gone with something more on the fun side."

Besides Penny's Oct. 4 visit, Jonathan Rand, who writes mysteries and "chillers" for young people, will speak Oct. 10. Alpena native Doug Allyn, author of "Motown Underground," "The Cheerio Killings" and Icewater Mansions," will be at the library Oct. 14. Peg Herring of Onaway, author of the "Simon and Elizabeth" and "Dead Detective" mystery series, will teach a mystery writers' workshop on Oct. 18.

A number of unique activities have been planned around "A Fatal Grace" and mysteries in general. These activities include a Clue board game tournament, materials for hosting murder mystery parties and a "Get a Clue" promotion involving selected downtown Alpena businesses.

The Clue tournament is slated for Sept. 16 at the library and will be followed by a showing of the movie, "Clue."

"This is one of the classic fun games out there," Eric Magness-Eubank said. "Who hasn't played the game? We're going to find out who is the best Clue player in Alpena."

Depending on how many participants sign up for the tournament, it will be run with either single or double elimination.

"There are many things people like about mysteries," Eric Magness-Eubank said. "Part of the challenge is figuring out who did it, and the game of Clue gets into that."

Through the help of the Friends of the Library, the library recently purchased a number of murder mystery kits that people can check out and use at home to throw murder mystery parties for their friends and family. Library patrons can choose between kits that range from mysteries set in an English country manor and on the Orient Express to ones that center on the 1950s rock 'n' roll era or a winery. One kit, "Hot Times at Hollywood High," was even purchased with teens in mind.

The "Get a Clue" promotion will involve participants picking up a game board at the library and then visiting eight to 12 different businesses in the downtown, where they will collect "clues." Each of the clues will feature historic photos of the businesses and some interesting historical information. Participants who collect all of the clues then become eligible for drawings of prizes donated by the various businesses.

Besides these activities, also planned are film screenings, an open discussion of "A Fatal Grace" and a presentation on the history of mystery fiction. Other related events are still in the planning stages and will be announced soon.

Those interested in participating in the Community Read can purchase "A Fatal Grace" through Blue Phoenix Books in downtown Alpena. Tickets to Penny's presentation in October are $10 and currently available at the library. For more information, call the library at 356-6188.



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