Mysterious California

A film-and-book discussion program featuring a new documentary film from the creators of “Women of Mystery” Pamela Beere Briggs and William McDonald

Book Discussion in a Box

Mysterious California organizers will receive:

  • a discussion guide for librarians, designed to stimulate lively and engaging discussion and contextualize the material for readers;
  • publicity materials such as posters, flyers and bookmarks;
  • evaluation materials;
  • 15 copies of each of the four books in the program;
  • a forty-minute DVD, “Mysterious California: Four Authors”

Along the lines of our popular Women of Mystery program, this new program includes a screening component. In addition to the books you will receive a forty-minute DVD, “Mysterious California: Four Authors,” which invites readers on a rich visual journey through the distinctive California landscapes of four crime novels and on an intimate exploration of universal themes: the love of land, the importance of knowing personal and social history, the desire for truth and justice, and the power of place to inspire story.

The four mysteries chosen for this program represent a cross-section of crime fiction spawned by California’s locales. The writers and novels in the new program cover a large terrain geographically, historically, and culturally:

  • Southland by Nina Revoyr
  • The Art of Detection by Laurie R. King
  • Shell Games by Kirk Russell
  • Sharpshooter by Nadia Gordon

In Southland, Nina Revoyr brings us a compelling story of race, love, murder, and history against the backdrop of Los Angeles. A young Japanese-American law student, Jackie Ishida, discovers that four black teenagers were killed in her grandfather’s store during the Watts Riots of 1965, and that the murders were never solved or reported. In the process of piecing together the story of the boys’ deaths, Jackie unearths secrets of her family’s history. In the process of learning the truth about the crime, readers experience the satisfaction, and shock, of learning unknown stories about California’s past and the invisible influence the past plays on the present.

In Laurie R. King’s The Art of Detection, San Francisco homicide detective Kate Martinelli is drawn into the surreal world of Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts, when one is murdered and it appears that an unpublished Holmes manuscript may be at the root of the crime. The novel’s perspective shifts back and forth between Kate investigating the present-day crime and the unnamed narrator of the manuscript relating a tale of forbidden love and violent death. The novel beautifully evokes San Francisco in the early 20th century and in the modern day, in all its unpredictable, colorful variety.

Shell Games, the first of Kirk Russell’s John Marquez novels, takes place along the northern California coast and features a unique sleuth: an ex-DEA agent who now heads a special investigative unit of the California Department of Fish and Game. As Marquez stalks the culprits in a multimillion-dollar abalone poaching ring, he runs up against an old nemesis from his DEA days.

Nadia Gordon takes us into the heart of food and wine culture in her Sunny McCoskey Napa Valley Mysteries. When the heir apparent to a major vineyard is shot dead inSharpshooter, Sunny’s eccentric wine maker friend Wade is arrested for the murder. Sunny sets out to prove his innocence. Her investigation takes her into the tangled politics and personalities of the wine industry, and to the threat posed to the valley by an insect, the glassy-winged sharpshooter.

This “book club in a box” is free of charge to California libraries.

Out-of-state libraries, Professors, Teachers can request program support materials, including discussion questions by emailing the Center at to purchase the DVD “Mysterious California: Four Authors,” phone toll free: 800-343-5540, or visit