Between the Lines: Four mystery writers converge Thursday for Bee Book Club

The Sacramento Bee Book Club has been around the literary block and back. Since 1997, its agenda has been to bring A-list authors to Sacramento and invite the public to attend their presentations and book signings.

Now the Bee Book Club is going to expand that template. In a special edition on Thursday, four Northern California mystery writers will appear onstage in conversation with one another. It will be a “panel discussion,” of sorts, in which the authors will collectively answer questions about how they do what they do, talk about their main characters and explain why the mystery-thriller genres are so enduringly popular.

The novelists and longtime friends are Cara Black, Rhys Bowen, Catriona McPherson and Terry Shames. The authors write ongoing series. The quartet will share the stage at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria, 828 I St., Sacramento (doors open at 5:15 p.m.). It’s a free event in partnership with the Sacramento Public Library, but tickets are required. They are available at (click on “Bee Events”). Information: (916) 321-1128.

Now let’s check in with the authors, listed alphabetically:

Cara Black of San Francisco

Series: The 14-title “Aimee Leduc” series

Setting: Early to mid-1990s Paris

What it’s about: Aimee is a tall, spiky-haired P.I. who sports a Tahitian-style lizard tattoo and favors high heels, knock-off couture and Chanel No. 5. She and her business partner, Rene, run a computer security business, but Aimee regularly finds herself in the midst of much bloodier concerns.

Latest title: “Murder in Pigalle”: Aimee is five months pregnant and has resolved to stay out of harm’s way, at least until the baby is born. Meanwhile, a serial rapist is on the loose, targeting teen girls. When the daughter of friends goes missing, Aimee agrees to investigate. The story is based on the real case of a serial killer who operated in Paris in 1998.

The backstory: “Aimee came from me standing at a bus stop in Paris, looking across the street and seeing a big green neon sign, ‘Duluc Detective,’ which was shown in the movie ‘Midnight In Paris.’ I walked into the agency and introduced myself to Madam Martine Duluc Baret, who had inherited the agency from her father and grandfather. I told her I had an idea for a book about a female private detective and asked her what it’s like. I sort of borrowed her family history and gave it to Aimee.”

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Feisty Irish immigrant

Rhys Bowen of San Rafael

Series: “Molly Murphy” (13 titles), “Royal Spyness” (eight titles), “Constable Evan Evans” (10 titles; inactive since 2006)

Set in: “Molly Murphy” takes place in New York City in the early 1900s. “Royal Spyness” is set in 1930s London.

What it’s about: Molly Murphy is a feisty immigrant who flees Ireland because she accidentally kills a would-be rapist. She solves her first murder case shortly after landing on Ellis Island. Later, she assumes ownership of a detective agency. She continues sleuthing even after marrying a police captain – much to his annoyance. In “Royal Spyness,” the young Lady Georgiana, 35th in line for the British throne, is a “penniless heiress” who makes her way by sleuthing – sometimes for Scotland Yard, sometimes for the queen herself.

Latest title: “City of Darkness and Light”: For her own safety, Murphy’s husband sends her to Paris after a vengeful gang threatens their safety. When she arrives, the friends who were to meet her “are nowhere to be found.”

The backstory: “I’d been writing a series about a Welsh policeman (Evan Evans), but I wanted to write about someone who wasn’t so wise and polite, someone who doesn’t know when to back off or to shut up. I was trying to think of where to set her, when I happened to visit Ellis Island. I was completely unprepared for the emotional overload I felt there, and thought, ‘I want to write a book involving this place.’ I started writing Molly in the first person and her voice immediately took over.”

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Upper-class sleuth

Catriona McPherson of Winters

Series: “Dandy Gilver (eight titles)

Set in: 1920s and 1930s Scotland

What it’s about: Witty upper-class housewife Dandy Gilver, who is British but lives in Scotland, falls into detective work partly out of boredom but mostly from helping a friend solve a mystery. As long as she’s discreet, her “stuffed shirt of a husband” doesn’t mind her sideline, as it brings an income to help support their ailing estate.

Latest title: “Dandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses”: To help a girlhood friend, Dandy poses as a teacher at a “college for young ladies” to find out why its teachers keep quitting, getting fired or mysteriously disappearing. Then her friend vanishes at the same time a body washes up on a nearby shore.

The backstory: “I had written a literary novel that I couldn’t give away. My husband’s advice was for me to write something for fun about something I love. Dandy came from my reading the writers from the Golden Age of detective fiction (1920s and ’30s), people like Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers. The reason I made her as posh as she is is because the middle-class morality (during those decades) was a straitjacket, but the upper classes were up to all kinds of shenanigans.”

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A small-town Texan

Terry Shames of Berkeley

Series: “Jarrett Creek” (two titles, with a third coming in October)

Set in: Contemporary Texas, in the small town of Jarrett Creek

What it’s about: Samuel Craddock is the town’s former police chief who “feels like his life is over after his wife dies.” His attitude changes as he successfully investigates and solves a murder case and becomes “a private investigator by circumstance.”

Latest title: “The Last Death of Jack Harbin”: Jack Harbin returned home from the Gulf War, physically and psychologically damaged. Twenty years later, when he is about to reconcile a lingering grudge with a childhood friend, he’s stabbed to death. Craddock must sift through the past to find the killer.

The backstory: “In a writing class I once took, a published writer gave us some advice: ‘If you’re going to be successful, dig deep inside yourself and get something from your heart.’ My books are set in a fictitious Texas town modeled after Somerville, the Texas town where my grandparents lived when I was a child. I have an abiding affection for it, and Samuel Craddock is largely based on my grandfather.”

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