The Mystery Section:
An Open letter to Barnes and Noble, with painstakingly constructed visual aids
Dear Barnes and Noble,
I love mysteries. Therefore, when I found myself in a Barnes & Noble the other day, I naturally drifted over to the Mystery section.
I had forgotten how useless this would be.
Here is a sort of summary of what I saw before my boyfriend took me by the hand and gently led me away:
The hot pink cover is, admittedly, like soooo 5 or 10 years ago. However, the rest of this horror is, I fear, all too accurate.
I have no problem with books like this existing. However, when I see a mystery section that seems to consist almost entirely of books like this, I do see red. Or, rather, hot pink.
And when I see a field of cats and cooking and cute little shops and knitting and sewing and titles with bad puns stretching before me, a brightly-colored desert where there was once a Mystery section, I get mad enough to blog about it.
We can do better than this, ladies. Think of Christie, of Sayers, of Allingham. Did any of them depend on, for example, “knitting interest” to sell their books? No. I admit that Miss Marple did knit; I do not think, however, that this helped Dame Christie to sell millions of books and become the Queen of Crime. Was Hercule Poirot ever marketed as a man who really loved chocolate? Was Lord Peter Wimsey (Sayers) “branded” as a book-collector? Why does this seem like a good idea today? It seems like a lousy idea to me. I should state that I am 32 years of age. Not young and hip; not, I hope, quite an old curmudgeon, yet. But as a consumer, I feel only rage when I am presented with this kind of marketing.
Also, Barnes and Noble, stop slacking! You used to have a decent selection, back in the day, when you were competing with Borders. I remember a time when I could actually find some of the mysteries I like reading within your mystery section. I have a dim memory of purchasing Felony and Mayhem books from you, once upon a time. This may, of course, be a mere Fevered Imagining of mine, but… stay, the memory grows clearer! I bought a whole stack of Margery Allingham novels from you once. It was glorious. I had Albert Campion as my near-constant companion for weeks afterwards. In fact, I remember that I used to be able to buy high-quality, hilarious, intelligent mystery novels from you regularly.
I hear your business is in trouble; I wonder if it could be because you have had a sort of long-lasting identity crisis or amnesiac episode, wherein you believed yourself to be an airport bookstore writ large? I know that the Internet is enough to depress any bricks-and-mortar store, but come on!
It almost looks as if you guys aren’t even trying.