There was a murder in Maryville Tuesday night. But the suspect was promptly arrested, and the corpse got up laughing.
So it was a happy ending all the way around for the first-ever adult winter reading program — Murder, Mystery & Magic — at the Maryville Public Library.
Director Stephanie Patterson said the library regularly serves hundreds of children during its summer reading program, but an emphasis designed to convince more grownups to settle in with a good book (or electronic reading device) is something new.
Presented by a pair of Kansas City actors who are part of The Murder Mystery Co., this week's event attracted about 50 people — several of them in costume — who spent the evening trying to solve a whodunnit while enjoying an evening of conversation and hors d'oeuvres.
As things turned out, the secretary did it.
Patterson said she chose a murder mystery night to kick-off the reading emphasis, which continues through March 6, because most books checked out from the library's adult section are thrillers, suspense novels or works of detective fiction.
To satisfy that demand, the library's printed book collection contains more than 3,000 traditional mysteries and crime novels and an equal number of books classified as thrillers or tales of suspense.
History buffs — who make up another large slice of the local reader demographic — will get their chance next month, when the library hosts "Tall Tales and Truths of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War," a presentation by Northwest Missouri State University history professors Michael Steiner and Joel Benson. "Tall Tales" is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 12.
Around 70 people have signed up for the adult reading program. Participants can either set specific goals or just keep reading at their regular pace. After completing a book, readers fill out tickets that can be cashed in for more more than $1,000 in gift certificates and other prizes donated by nearly 30 local businesses. The more books you read, the more prizes you acquire.
Tickets can be submitted for library books, e-books or books that are privately owned.
Library patrons not currently signed up for the program can do so anytime before the promotion draws to a close in March, when there will be a book swap. Readers will be able to bring in either paperbound and hardbound books and trade them in for up to five volumes from a selection of titles that have been donated to the library.
Patterson said the adult reading emphasis has served to highlight the growing popularity of electronic books, which can now be checked out from the library through a cooperative arrangement with molib2go.org. A valid library card is required to sign into the service.
The current e-book collection available to Maryville Public Library cardholders contains more than 9,000 titles and 1,828 downloadable audiobooks. That number is equal to about 20 percent of the library's print collection, which embraces approximately 50,000 titles.