Another mystery bookstore gets snuffed in Village

BY GARY SHAPIRO  |  Nearly two decades of poisoning, shooting and other assorted mayhem in New York are coming to an end. After 18 years of life, a West Village bookshop chock-full of mysteries and crime novels will be interred next month.

Partners & Crime Mystery Booksellers, located since 1994 on Greenwich Ave. at Charles St., is shuttering its doors. Sleuthing out the reasons for its demise does not require the skills of Sherlock Holmes or Miss Marple.

“It’s been hard times for independent bookstores,” said Maggie Topkis, a co-owner.

Its demise adds to the heap of defunct mystery bookstores in the city that have closed in the past decade, including Murder Ink, on Broadway in the W. 90s, and Black Orchid Bookshop, on E. 81st St., whose parties sometimes extended into the street. The three owners of Partners & Crime got to know each at Foul Play, on Hudson St., another mystery bookstore that was rubbed out.

Otto Penzler, founder of the Mysterious Bookshop, on Warren St., said mysteries sell well, but that mystery bookstores, like all independent bookstores, have struggled. He said one of the specialties that keep his bookstore going is the number of signed copies it sells.

“It’s a terrible blow to the city in terms of both independent bookstores and mystery readers,” said Ian Kern, manager at the Mysterious Bookshop. His store has adapted from its former Midtown location to an area that tends to be a little more family oriented. “We now have a children’s section,” he noted.

Steven Viola, daytime manager at Partners & Crime, said the authors who came to read there were a highlight of working there. He mentioned P.D. James, Colin Dexter, Lee Child and Michael Connelly as some authors who were particularly pleasant.

“The world of mysteries is much broader than those who are not devoted fans might imagine,” said Topkis. The store’s online recommendations describe subgenres such as humorous, historical mysteries, tough girls, exotic locales, serial killers/thrillers, espionage (non-007) and Scandinavian crime novels.

Scandinavian? Topkis said these Northern European countries have blossomed with mystery writing, including the bestselling books of Stieg Larsson.

Topkis, who is publisher of Felony & Mayhem Press, said Partners & Crime’s strengths tended to skew toward British mysteries and hardboiled. Asked to describe “hardboiled” more fully, Topkis said, “Tough guys, mean streets.”

The store is not going out quietly. It will still host its final “Old-Time Mystery Radio” performances. These feature “someone performing sound effects (coconut shells to mimic the sounds of horses’ hooves, etc.), and they also have a keyboard player. Additionally, many of the commercials involve singing jingles, and they do those live as well, Topkis said.

The store has an enormous number of its books at sale prices and is planning a closing party open to the public.

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