The Mysterious Bookshop

The exterior of the Mysterious Bookshop
photo: Tyler McElroy

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bustling center of business and culture, New York City is host to one of the most vibrant literary scenes in America. Manhattan and its surrounding boroughs are often featured in classic novels, and Brooklyn is known worldwide as a place for thriving young artists to gather. It can be easy, however, for avid readers and writers in the city to miss some of its more avant-garde spaces amid the many sprawling bookstores and comfortable coffee shops. Located on a quaint side street in Tribeca, lower Manhattan, the Mysterious Bookshop is one such space.

Opening its doors in 1979, the Mysterious Bookshop is the oldest and largest mystery-focused bookstore in the country. It stocks choices from among the newest selections of current authors, including a large collection of imported mysteries by British writers. In addition, the shop features classics of the genre, a large collection of Sherlock Holmes literature, and many difficult-to-find books such as first editions, rare hardcovers, and signed copies. 

The exterior features light gray paneling and red brick columns with large windows that allow natural light to filter in, giving passing pedestrians an enticing view. Once inside, the floor-to-ceiling polished wood bookshelves work together with soft indie and folk music to create a peaceful, library-like atmosphere. The carpet is a dark shade of green, and a poster on the wall is reminiscent of a 1940s pulp murder mystery. To reach the books occupying the tallest ledges of the shelves, it is necessary to grab one of the sliding rail-mounted ladders and climb. Near the back of the store, several rows of hardcover novels are arranged in glass display cases by the reading area. Taped to a small door on the right side is a large section of yellow police tape and a sign that reads, “Nobody shoplifts from a store that knows 3,214 ways to murder someone.”

This charming little bookstore is, however, more than just a place to find a good mystery. It often hosts authors who are traveling to promote their new books, with events including readings and signings that sometimes happen multiple times per week. Joyce Carol Oates, John Hart, and Charles Salzberg are among the writers who have recently presented. In addition, the shop works with well-known writers to publish and distribute short mystery novels directly from the store. Known as Bibliomysteries, these novellas feature plots involving books and those who collect them (see WLT, Sept. 2008, 9–11).

The Mysterious Bookshop offers a wonderful opportunity to spend an afternoon browsing new and old thrillers alike, seated comfortably on the maroon couch near the vintage paperback collection. Whether you love mysteries or prefer a different genre, this shop is worth the time for any reader who appreciates the tranquil atmosphere and remarkable personality that can only be found in small, independent bookstores.

Tyler McElroy is a WLT intern majoring in English writing at the University of Oklahoma. He enjoys reading, writing, and traveling in his spare time. He intends to become an author and plans to see as much of the world as possible after graduating.

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