A woman walking alone on a deserted Manhattan street…
But it’s a Saturday in Tribeca, and the bright afternoon sunlight eases my fiction-writing mind. I have a few hours to kill before meeting a long-lost-but-Facebook-found friend. Time enough to knock-off one of my must-dos of this trip.
When I arrive, my curiosity is peaked. This is not a retail or commercial street. Or if it is, every shop is mysteriously low-key and nondescript. Don’t storeowners want to be found? Or, is it part of the allure now to keep a low profile so only those-in-the-know know. Entering, I feel as if I’m an accomplice in an unwitting crime: The Case of The Mysterious Bookshop.
Even the Atmosphere is Mysterious
lean on each wall, attached to tracks for ease of sliding across the stacks.The bookshelves bear the weight of pages upon pages of mysteries, whodunnits, thrillers, and true-crime. Tables and short bookcases create islands of more books. If the owners could display books on the ceiling, I think they might have.
Confession: I Don't Typically Read Thrillers and Mysteries (but I want to write one)
twelve, his childhood softness yet to developing angular height and breadth, peruses the young adult book table while eyeing the employee. At the front desk, an employee with closely-trimmed greying hair checks out a customer.
I turn to the books. I don’t recognize any authors or titles. Wait! Here’s one: Dennis Lehane. Oooh, it’s a signed copy.
The boy asks a question; he’s looking for a specific book. The employee doesn’t think they have it in the store since it sounds more fantasy than mystery. The boy counters, pointing to some of the YA titles displayed, more mystery than thriller. The employee graciously accepts the kid’s point. Having tested his waters, the child pontificates in a precocious manner about other authors and titles. Kudos to the employee who continues to be warm and open to the curious child. And why not? While the boy may not purchase anything today, he is a reader and future customer.
Eavesdropping on their conversation, I continue to scan for a book that will help my thriller investigation. My finger bumps also the spines housed in the floor-to-ceiling bookcases; perhaps I’ll find a hinge. Perhaps, one panel opens to a secret room beyond these walls. There’s no hint of a trap door in the floor, but I listen for any hollowness beneath my feet.
I’m lost in the potential mystery of the shop itself. I’m adrift in giddiness, flipping through pages, thousands of worlds waiting to be unbound by an unsuspecting, or maybe suspect, reader.
Finally, I ask for help. I share the premise of the novel playing over and over in my head. Within minutes, the two employees have handed me books: In a Lonely Place, Eeny Meeny, I’m Traveling Alone, and a few others.
“Let us know when you’re ready,” the more senior says. He leaves me scanning pages and back covers.
I don’t want to leave. This is a bookshop. No disrespect to the large Box Shops, where I admit to buying books with discounts and coupons, but the world has fallen victim to the convenience of click-click-checkout. No wandering through pages unknown. No ringing of a bell on the door. No eavesdropping or spying on others to make up little stories about them. Where’s the ambience in Search-Click-Checkout?
The Mysterious Bookshop, however, invites you in. Its books intend to scare and startle, but the space and the people are warm, welcoming, and worldly. It’s a place I am willing to lose myself, my sense of time, and the scary world outside.
Woman last seen in Tribeca bookstore…
I'm a Chicago-born baby raised in Connecticut with a two-year diversion in Beirut, Lebanon. As an adult, I'm a nomad having lived in New York; Connecticut; London, England; (back to) Connecticut; Ohio; and now Florida. I have traveled by foot, by bike, by air, by car, by motorcycle, by boat, and by train. I remain constantly curious about the world.