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Our State Magazine: Man of Mystery
October 20, 2023
pete mock, man of mystery

It’s not the whodunit revelation of a mystery novel that impresses lead book buyer and mystery aficionado Pete Mock of McIntyre’s Books. Instead, he looks for a strong ending. “So many books, especially mysteries, just drop you off a cliff,” Mock says, “and you’re left wondering, ‘Where did that come from?’ That’s why I read — to find those kinds of books [with good end- ings] to share with people.”

When Mock joined the staff at McIntyre’s Books in Fearrington Village in 1995, only two bays were set aside for mysteries. Now, McIntyre’s boasts an entire room dedicated to the genre and offers one of the largest selections of mysteries of any bookstore in the South.

Growing up in West Lebanon, New Hampshire, Mock was introduced to mysteries through books that his father borrowed from the local library, works by writers like Thomas Harris and Ken Follett. Mock was drawn to the vicarious thrill that these novels provided, and he’s since become an avid reader, devouring about 200 titles across genres each year.

In 2018, Mock established the Beltie Mystery Prize, a local counterpart to national honors like the Edgar Awards, to recognize what he considers to be the best mystery novels of the year. The finalists — typically eight books — are announced about two months before the winner is revealed. Joey Hartstone’s The Local, a legal thriller set in small- town Texas, was selected as the 2023 winner.

“A well-written mystery can take you in and show you a slice of life, society, and history that other books just can’t,” he explains. “Mysteries as a genre are much more open and willing to speak the truth.”

For mystery fans new and old, Mock can always offer recommendations tailored to their preferences. And after years of enjoying mysteries himself, he still finds it hard to put one down. “If I’m really sucked into a book,” he says, “I’ll stay up until 5 in the morning.”

-Elizabeth Riddick

Read the full article here.

CAN’T-MISS MYSTERIES

Check out these four books — written by North Carolina authors and selected by mystery aficionado Pete Mock — for a month of nonstop thrills.

Hashtag by Eryk Pruitt

This fast-paced crime novel follows the intertwined stories of three principal characters, with events set off by the kidnapping of a pizza restaurant employee. “Eryk is just a great writer of Southern noir,” Mock says. “You’ve got characters who are antiheroes, and while we may not agree with them, in the hands of Eryk, we have empathy for them despite what they have done.”

What Lies Beneath by JG Hetherton

Investigative reporter Laura Chambers is tasked with identifying the female victim of a hit-and-run accident in Hillsborough. She doesn’t recognize the woman but learns that the victim’s last phone call was to her. Soon, Laura begins questioning the events surrounding the murder of her best friend’s parents two decades earlier and begins to see a link between the two mysteries.

The Enigma Affair by Charlie Lovett

Patton Harcourt, a librarian in a small North Carolina town, teams up with a professional assassin in this novel by Winston-Salem author Charlie Lovett. Harcourt and the assassin soon become entangled in a plot to decipher an unsolved Nazi code from an Enigma machine, and the two embark on a journey across Europe to survive and outlast their enemies. “[This book is] like early Ken Follett,” Mock says. “Lovett writes these great historical bibliophile mysteries.”

The Secret, Book & Scone Society by Ellery Adams

When a visiting businessman is found dead in the fictional mountain town of Miracle Springs, bookstore owner Nora Pennington and a close-knit group of women take on the crime, working to unravel the secrets that this small town holds as they simultaneously learn more about one another. This book is in a subgenre of mystery called “cozies,” which are, as Mock describes, “often very localized in terms of setting.”

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