Murder at the Rummage Sale

By Elizabeth Cunningham


You Can Go Home Again

novelist Elizabeth Cunningham returns to the scene of the crime

Descended from nine generations of Episcopal priests, Elizabeth Cunningham comes by her theological obsessions honestly. Her earliest memory, age three, is of her plot to kill God and Jesus. “I planned to stand on a cliff and roll a boulder on them as they floated by below,” says Cunningham. “Clearly I had been influenced by watching Road Runner cartoons, which should have warned me that they would only pop up again.” And they did, in novel after novel, most notably The Maeve Chronicles, a series of award-winning novels featuring a feisty Celtic Magdalen who is no one’s disciple.

Although the themes of her novels reflect her upbringing in the church, until now Cunningham has avoided using direct biographical material. “When I finished writing The Maeve Chronicles—twenty years of research and writing—I thought I would try my hand at memoir. As I wrote about what it was like to grow up in a church yard, I discovered that what I really wanted was to return to Murder at the Rummage Sale, a novel I had set aside thirty years earlier. The rummage sales of my youth were epic events, involving almost everyone in the whole village—the perfect setting for a mystery novel. With the distance of fifty years between me and that era, I finally felt ready to recreate the world of my childhood. I had great fun writing from the point of view of characters inspired by my late parents and a host of eccentric parishioners. I also recaptured the imagination of that little girl who wanted to kill God, who dared to trespass in the enchanted woods next door.”

The result is a vivid portrait of a time and place, combined with humor, suspense—and yes, theological depth and range. Lucy Way, an older unmarried lady, is a quiet mystic, while The Reverend Gerald Bradley is a loud proponent of the Social Gospel that came to prominence in the Civil Rights Era. The minister’s wife, Anne, is a secret atheist. And seven-year-old Katherine, the not-quite-penitent deicide, just wishes God would stop seeing and knowing everything and leave her alone. The entirely fictional murder of the over-bearing, light-fingered, queen of the rummage sale, Charlotte Crowley, frees Cunningham to add the potent component of memory to her highly-developed imagination. As for the memoir, “I’ve forgotten all about it,” says Cunningham. “I’m having too much fun writing the sequel, All the Perils of this Night, which takes the characters eight years forward into the perils of the late 1960s.”

About Elizabeth Cunningham

The author of nine novels and four collections of poems, Elizabeth Cunningham enjoys the borderlands between genres: history with elements of fantasy, fairytale with psychological realism, mystery and thriller that include humor as well as suspense. She has recorded music inspired by her best known work, The Maeve Chronicles. She is also the author of a graphic novel. Cunningham lives in New York State in the valley of the Mahicantuck, the river that flows both ways. She loves to hike, garden, nap with her cat, and practice Tai Chi Chuan. She is passionate about the preservation and restoration of her region and the planet. In addition to writing, she is a counselor in private practice. The mother of grown children, she lives with her husband, Douglas Smyth, and her cat, Brigette. for more: elizabethcunninghamwrites.com

Product Details

Aug 29, 2016 | 428 pages | 6 x 9

Hardcover | $27.00 | ISBN 9781944190002

Paperback | $16.99 | ISBN 9781944190019

Ebook | $9.99 | ISBN 9781944190026

Praise for Murder at the Rummage Sale

“Cunningham deftly weaves in aspects of postwar life, theological stances…and lush descriptions of food and nature.”

Publisher’s Weekly

“Cunningham has written a paean to the vanished world of [the] 1950s and early 1960s.”

Library Journal

Murder at the Rummage Sale delivers all the pleasures of a good village murder mystery and considerably more. The author knows her setting intimately, cares about her sharply drawn characters, keeps up the suspense patiently, and divides the innocent from the guilty artfully. As with all Ms. Cunningham’s novels, Murder at the Rummage Sale is well told, thoughtfully written, cleverly and propulsively plotted, and features her signature concerns with religion, magic, childhood, humor, good will, humane openness, and moral seriousness. Readers are in for plenty of fun, vicarious guessing, and delight on the way to the book’s satisfying resolution.

Robert Wexelblatt, author of Zublinka Among Women & Heiberg’s Twitch

With her characteristic wisdom, whimsy, and extraordinary attention to quirky detail, Elizabeth Cunningham transports readers to the 1960s. Think: “Mad Men” Meets Church. Murder at the Rummage Sale features the mainline church of rummage sales, privilege and ironic despair, as well as glimmers of light. Murder at the Rummage Sale is a whodunit in the grand tradition of rollicking mysteries with memorable characters who keep readers turning pages and wondering about the ending long after the mystery is solved. Love this book, more please!

Meredith Gould, author of Desperately Seeking Spirituality: A Field Guide to Practice

As Lucy Way, the moral heart of Elizabeth Cunningham’s delightful new novel observes, we read murder mysteries not for the solution but for “their miniature portrait of a world, their cast of eccentric characters.” Murder at the Rummage Sale offers both of these as well as a thoughtful inquiry into the nature of evil and the essential virtues of trust and forgiveness. This is a rich, lively, amusing and rewarding novel. Don’t miss it!

Valerie Martin, author of The Ghost of the Mary Celeste