Murder Most Fun 

Local lit conference celebrates the art of the mystery novel

Even amateurs know that it was Mrs. Plum in the ballroom with the revolver. Local writers have the chance to get beyond "Clue" and dig a deeper into the world of mystery and the authors who write it with this weekend's Murder in the Grove conference ($120, Boise Center on the Grove, more information at www.partnersincrimeboise.com).

The two-day event begins June 2 and will include author panels, writing workshops, manuscript evaluations and a book party. Murder in the Grove isn't just drawing local authors, either--Anne Perry, a world-renowned mystery novelist, will travel from Scotland to be this year's guest of honor. Perry, who has sold over 20 million books, says, "If I did not have confidence that it would be a terrific conference, I would not come all the way from the north end of Scotland to Idaho for a couple of days. It will be excellent."

The conference first began when a group of local writers came together in 1996 to form Partners in Crime, the Boise chapter of the national organization Sisters in Crime, and they decided to hold a local mystery writers' conference. That event grew into what is now Murder in the Grove. According to Joanne Pence, local novelist, Partners in Crime member and Murder in the Grove organizer, the event became so popular that they had to create a non-profit organization to run it. "Most of our attendees are from out of town," Pence says. Organizers advertise the conference in national mystery magazines, sparking the interest of people who might not have otherwise thought to come to Boise.

"It's different, but that's actually part of the appeal," Pence adds. Murder in the Grove is unique because "it's a place that readers can attend to actually meet the authors." It's a chance for mystery enthusiasts and would-be authors to learn from the pros about crafting a story. "They can't just take any novel and throw in a dead body and make it a mystery," Pence says.

For new writers, as many of conference attendees will be, Perry suggests, "Read as many mysteries as you can. In the ones you like, see if you can analyze what it is you enjoy, and possibly even more instructive, see what you do not like and why."

Not only does the conference bring writers to Boise, but agents and editors as well. For them, Pence says, the conference helps them "get a sense of what we're all about." While New York publishers may not be as keen on the idea of rural mysteries, Pence said, "There is an interest in the country"--something that has been proven by authors like C.J. Box, a featured speaker at this year's conference, whose award-winning mysteries are set in rural Wyoming.

Plots may vary from romantic suspense to historical intrigue, but the mysteries they create draws all of these authors this event. Says Perry, "I got into mystery writing because I wanted to explore the reactions of people under the pressure of being investigated, learning far more about those they care for than they thought they knew."

As for Murder in the Grove, Perry says, "I expect to see a lot of people having a thoroughly good time when so many mystery writers are gathered together. I expect to meet old friends and make new ones, to leave with some new ideas, and just generally invigorated."

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