by Kay Kendall
The business cards of Acia Morley and Cheri LeBlond describe them as co-owners and local “escapologists” at Mysteryscape, a store specializing in “fiction, gifts and intrigue.” Their cards might well add a few other adjectives–like intrepid and brave.
Together these two women, whose passion for books and reading is unrivaled anywhere, opened the store they named Mysteryscape on May 11, 2012. They located it in historic Downtown Overland Park, a suburb of Kansas City, situated on the famous Santa Fe Trail. Flying in the face of a tricky business climate for bricks-and-mortar bookstores, Acia and Cheri began selling new and used crime fiction books in a warm and friendly atmosphere. The citizens of this comfortably upper-middle class neighborhood have responded with enthusiasm. Spend some time at Mysteryscape and you will see customers arrive and be treated like long-time friends.
Despite its relative newness, mystery fans in the far northeast corner of Kansas have already taken the bookstore/coffee shop to their hearts. Mysteryscape fits effortlessly into the commercial area that seems a throwback to a calmer era. Characters from Mayberry RFD would have fit right in, as though Aunt Bee would sip a latte as she ambles down streets lined with small, owner-operated shops.
Cheri says, “We hope our comfortable chairs, locally roasted coffee and delicious pastries provide a good escape from the everyday world outside.” She laughs. “If there’s a good guy and a bad guy in the book, it’s usually to be found on our shelves. Our titles are split into subgenres that include international, British, thrillers, historical, supernatural, culinary, detective and even crafting mysteries. “Originally the store only offered a young adult section, but quickly added middle-grade and picture books because of customer requests.”
Many local mystery authors and other writers–both published and aspiring–use the café area beside the barista counter as a place where they can happily sit and craft their next projects. Inducements include free Wi-Fi, a working fireplace and plenty of red-velvet ambience to go with the overall friendly atmosphere.
The local chapter of Sisters in Crime brings fascinating speakers to Mysteryscape for its monthly meetings held on first Saturdays. This worldwide organization offers networking, advice and support to mystery authors. Members and nonmembers alike are welcome to hear experts discuss such topics as law enforcement, forensic pathology, the criminal justice system, publishing, writing, marketing and bookselling.
Chapter president Linda Rodriguez explains the store’s appeal. “Mysteryscape is a dynamic addition to Kansas City’s literary landscape. The owners have worked hard to build community with events, groups and book clubs every week. Their support for authors is heartening and they serve some of the best coffee around. For me as a reader, it’s always an exciting place to visit.” Linda is a poet and mystery author whose first mystery, Every Last Secret, won the Malice Domestic Award; her second mystery, Every Broken Trust, just debuted.
Chapter vice president, Warren Bull, is enthusiastic about the store, adding “Mysteryscape has all the things that make independent bookstores magical–a knowledgeable staff, a comfy, welcoming atmosphere, tons of books and book clubs of every flavor.” He is an award-winning author of more than twenty published short stories as well as memoirs, essays and a novel, Abraham Lincoln for the Defense.
Another distinctive offering is produced by the Mysteryscape Chamber Theater. It adapts short stories into short plays performed with minimal costumes and props, but plenty of intrigue. The cast usually comes from the store’s customer base and includes both professionals and amateurs. The next performance was held at the bookstore on October 17 and the play is Counsel for the Defense.
Other happenings at the store are game nights, spooky story time for kids, open-mic night, and six books clubs that focus on different themes. The owners say they like to think outside the box when it comes to events and clearly, they have succeeded.
Acia and Cheri, two dauntless “local escapologists,” have nestled well into the creative, relaxing environment of historic Downtown Overland Park. Cheri sums up the secret to their success this way: “We love helping customers find their next best escape. Our favorite customers are those who love losing themselves in good books just as much as we do.”
Check out past mystery bookstore profiles, and watch for more over the next several months. Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.