Murder Ink was the mystery readers' group which met regularly at the Palmdale Barnes & Noble for over ten years.

Now we hold our meetings at Camille's Cafe in Lancaster, and are a Meetup group. But the format remains pretty much the same.

Each month Kevin Burton Smith, critic and columnist for Mystery Scene Magazine and founder/editor of The Thrilling Detective Web Site (that's me) and a slew of local crime fiction fans discuss a mystery or crime novel. They discuss classic and not-so-classics; both old and new. They pull no punches and play no favorites, covering everything from the genre's early years to this season's hot new author. Not convinced? Read some more about us, or check out some of our previous reads.

As I said, we did this for over ten years at Barnes and Noble, but that all came crashing to a halt in November 2015, when, in their infinite corporate wisdom (at least as it was explained to me), they decided they would no longer be hosting book groups. Not just ours -- all of them! They apparently need more room for toys and games and flashlights and batteries and Lego and pencils and R2D2 texting gloves.

I can't begin to convey to you guys how sad and frustrated this made me and the other members of the group feel.

One of the truly great things about working for Barnes & Noble (and doing the book group) over the last ten years had been the sense that, whatever else was going on in the store, was that I was in a place that valued literacy and reading, and helped to foster a community of readers and book lovers.

And I was part of it. That felt pretty good.

MURDER INK has had some good times over the years, and I've come to regard many in the group as friends, and I hope we can continue and maybe even thrive in our new location.

I've set up a meetup.com thingie which you're invited to join. Head on over there and sign up, if you haven't received an invitation yet.

Our next meeting will be

August 24, 7:00 PM
Camille's Sidewalk Cafe
44140 20th Street West
Lancaster, California

And we'll be discussing

The Man Who Died Laughing by Tarquin Hall

-- Kevin