Mystery Scene Magazine

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"The greatest crimes are caused by excess and not by necessity.”

—Politics, Book II, Chapter 7 by Aristotle circa 300 B.C.; English translation, Aristotle’s Politics, 1885, by Benjamin Jowett

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PDF Print E-mail Written by Oline Cogdill

It’s always sad when a bookstore closes its doors.

Bookstores aren’t just brick and mortar buildings, they are readers’ living rooms. A place to meet like minded people, a place to discuss favorite books and discover new novels, a place to meet your favorite author.

So the news that Book'em Mysteries in South Pasadena, California, will close on April 30 is a time to mourn its passing but also to praise its 24 years of being in business. That’s 24 years of introducing a couple of generations of readers to books and authors.

Book'em Mysteries’ owners Mary Riley, 82, and Barry Martin,75, have been quoted in a couple of newspaper articles as saying it is time to close.

You reach a point in your life when you feel you’ve accomplished something,” Martin, a retired TV producer, told the Pasadena Star-News.

And they certainly have accomplished a lot.

Just last month the bookstore was named No. 6 in LA Weekly’s list of “10 Best Independent Bookstores in L.A.”

Book’em Mysteries almost didn’t make it to its first year. The store opened in October, 1990, a block and a half from its present location in South Pasadena. In the pre-dawn hours of Aug. 9, 1991, just 10 months later, an arsonist destroyed the building where the first bookstore was located.

Riley and Martin lost everything and had to start over. And they did. Just 10 days short of three months later, Book’em Mysteries reopened in its current 1,500-square foot location. The arsonist has never been caught.

Count me as one of the fans of Book’em Mysteries. Any time I am in a city in which there is a mystery bookstore, I make a point of visiting. I usually don’t say anything to the staff, just wander the aisles. And I try to always buy something, even it is just a cup of coffee or a canvas bag or a hat.

When Riley and Martin opened Book’em in 1990, there were no mystery bookstores on the east side of greater Los Angeles. They had met several years earlier through their children—his two were in the high school band, her daughter participated in tall flags. They were both widowed.  After 20 years as partners, they married at Book’em.

Until the couple shuts the doors for the final time, they will be heavily discounting the books they have in stock and offering for sale the furniture and fixtures. Meanwhile, they have been greeting and reminiscing with long-time customers and authors.

In an interview with the Pasadena Star-News, Martin perfectly summed up most people’s feelings on what an independent bookstore offers its customers: “A sense of community; a place where you can go and not be judged; a place where you can go and have a conversation outside of politics or whatever is going on. A place where people can come and talk about books. Our emphasis has always been books and people,” he told the newspaper.

And he’s exactly right.

Mystery Scene wishes Martin and Riley the best of luck, and thanks for the memories.

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