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Mystery buffs find shelves of evidence at Aunt Agatha's bookstore



For detective buffs, the mystery of where to find their favorite books has been solved.

A new bookstore at 213 S. Fourth Ave. focuses solely on mysteries, detective tales and factual "true crime" stories. Called Aunt Agatha's after the famous author Agatha Christie, the store has attracted enthusiastic readers for a week now.

"We really are getting the fanatics," says Robin Agnew, a watercolor artist who runs the store with her husband, Jamie, and with help from their almost-2-year-old daughter, Margaret.

Fanatics? They define "fanatic" as a reader, for example, who is loyal to their favorite writer and owns every book by, say, Tony Hillerman. Robin herself is a fanatic about mysteries.

"You get hooked, I mean, I read them all the time," she says.

Meanwhile, Jamie is a fanatic about true crime books and about skulls. (His skull collections is sprinkled around the store's shelves.) As for customers who are overzealous, they mention one who asked about setting up a murder mystery as entertainment for her wedding. Others say they read four or five mysteries a week.

"We aim to have the best mystery section in town," says Jamie, who has four years of experience as a clerk in Borders Book Shop's fiction section. He also has a master's degree in English language and literature. 

Aunt Agatha's current collection includes 4,000 used and 1,000 new novels, mostly paperback.

While book superstores continue to spread themselves thinner, new niche bookstores are taking hold, the Agnews explain. Locally, they mention Falling Water Book & Collectibles and it's focus on “healing" books, Dawn Treader Book Shop's classic science fiction collection and Common Language's key stronghold in lesbian and feminist books.

In addition to books, Agatha's sells jigsaw puzzles that gradually reveal clues to solve a mystery as the players fit the pieces together ($16.95 and $17.95). Other mystery-related items include an umbrella with Sherlock Holmes' head carved out of the handle and imported from England ($55).

Even Aunt Agatha's decor - mostly blue-and-purple - is mysterious. After a recommendation of an interior designer friend, the Agnews changed plans to paint the inside trim white, opting to paint it with "eggplant" to contrast with the light purple walls.

"These colors say 'mystery'," Robin explains.

The store's house are still subject to change, but for now they are: Tuesday-Thursday 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sunday noon-5 p.m. It's closed on Mondays.


Jamie, right, and Robin Agnew (shown with their daughter, Margaret) have opened a bookstore called Aunt Agatha, which handles exclusively mystery novels and crime stories.