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Books Hold The Key To 'The Postscript Murders'

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Ready for a good mystery to distract you from the news cycle? Us too!

Enter The Postscript Murders, which opens with a 90-year-old woman — with a heart condition — found dead.

Sad for her friends and loved ones, but hardly newsworthy. Except that it turns out her bookshelves were stuffed with a remarkable number of crime novels, each of which includes a postscript, "PS: For PS." (The dead woman's name was Peggy.)

Then, the authors of those novels start dying too. And author Elly Griffiths says the mysterious postscripts point Peggy's connection to those authors: They hired her to think up murders. "I slightly got the inspiration from my own aunt," Griffiths says. "She would ring me up and say, 'Oh Ello, love, I've thought of another good murder for you,' and I started to think, what if there was such a thing as a murder consultant?"

Interview Highlights

On her aunt's best murder

In this book, the answer to the puzzle lies in books, it lies in golden age mysteries, it lies in readers and in writers.

She came up with a very good plot twist for one of my Dr. Ruth Galloway books that involved a stair-lift. And I do remember the book was reviewed in the Financial Times in a really nice review, but they also said "it contains one of the nastiest uses of a stair-lift that I've ever heard of." And I cut that little article aunt for my aunt, and she was so happy that she framed it, she was so proud of her stair-lift murder.

On the appeal of a murder mystery

It is a strange thing, isn't it? It is a strange thing that lots of people — and me absolutely included — do find reading about these murders quite comforting, really. And of course, there's absolutely nothing cozy about murder, but I think we do like that sort of puzzle, and unlocking the puzzle. And in this book, the answer to the puzzle lies in books, it lies in golden age mysteries, it lies in readers and in writers. So I hope that will make it, sort of, I don't know, a comforting and intriguing book to read.

On our detectives — official and unofficial — taking a road trip to Aberdeen, and whether there's something about Scotland's climate and scenery that lends itself to crime fiction

I think there might well be — you think of those wonderful Scottish crime writers like Ian Rankin and Val McDermid and Denise Mina — and also, you know, Scandinavian noir. So I think there might be something about the cold, about the light. But Aberdeen is a wonderful city, actually, because it's known as the Granite City, but it's also called the Silver City, and you can see both sides of it. You know, it's granite, it's hard, it's tough, it's uncompromising, but in a certain light it's silvery and beautiful and the coast is just lovely. And the characters do find themselves in a very unsafe safe house on the coast there.

On how her aunt feels about having inspired a character who gets murdered

I think she's okay about it. And I think she likes the whole idea of a murder consultant ... Peggy might have been dispatched in the early stages, but she does kind of loom over all the book, and they talk about her a lot. And I think I did draw upon not only my Aunt Marge, but also my mum as well, those characters that seem to know everything. People in the book ask themselves, "How did Peggy know that, how could she have known that, she didn't travel to those places," but she knew it all through reading. Both of them were great readers and seemed to acquire all this knowledge through reading, so I think it's also a book about reading, really, and the power it gives you.

This story was edited for radio by Justine Kenin, produced by Mia Venkat and adapted for the Web by Petra Mayer.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mary Louise Kelly
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.