Traditional mysteries, long a staple in the mainstream, have faced challenges finding a place in Christian publishing circles. Now, the eBook format is bridging the gap between authors and readers.

By definition, traditional mysteries are devoid of explicit violence, sex and profanity—one would think they’d be an ideal fit for the Christian fiction market. Surprisingly, they haven’t found nearly the same popularity they do in the general market, where the category has been a staple going all the way back to Agatha Christie.

This has long puzzled novelists and industry professionals alike, including author Debbie Viguie. “I think in many ways it’s because mysteries aren’t a genre you normally associate with Christian fiction,” she says. “I think they are underrepresented and therefore under-appreciated.”

That’s all changing with the blooming eBook market. Traditional mystery authors now have the chance to share their stories in a much bigger way, and many have embraced the technology—re-releasing out-of-print novels in eBook form, and even publishing new novels as eBook exclusives.

Take, for example, Lorena McCourtney: Her Andi McConnell series, about a spunky 60-year-old who inherits a limousine, was cancelled by the publisher after the release of book one, Your Chariot Awaits. Normally, this would have been devastating news. However, McCourtney saw the promise of releasing book two, Here Comes the Ride, as an eBook. She has since published several of her backlist titles in the form as well. “Here are books that I thought were long dead,” she says. “And now readers are enjoying them again!”

Debbie Viguie’s next Psalm 23 Mystery, Beside Still Waters, will be an eBook exclusive too. “My mysteries are doing very well as eBooks,” Debbie says. “I believe one of the key reasons is that people who are predisposed to enjoy mysteries are finally able to find books because they show up as ‘mysteries’ and not just as ‘religious fiction.’ The books seem to be selling far better in electronic form than in print.”

Industry veterans Ron and Janet Benrey birthed Greenbrier Book Company to give quality out-of-print books a new life and a chance to find a larger audience. “We studied the changing paradigm in book publishing,” Ron says. “We were confident in the unstoppable transition to eBook and POD publishing.”

He says their best-selling eBooks are cozy mysteries: the Lord Danvers Mysteries by Donna Fletcher Crow; the Ivy Towers Mysteries by Nancy Mehl; the Healing Touch medical mystery series by Hanna Alexander; and the two cozy mystery series written by Janet and Ron—the Royal Tunbridge Wells Mysteries and The Pippa Hunnechurch Mysteries. Greenbrier currently publishes more than 50 eBook titles, about a quarter of which are also published in paper versions.

Meanwhile, MacGregor Literary Agency has partnered with several authors to launch Spyglass Lane Mysteries. The imprint is breathing new life into cozy mysteries from the likes of Susan Sleeman, Anita Higman, Cynthia Hickey and even FamilyFiction’s editor, Chris Well.

“A bunch of our authors found themselves with the rights to some cozy mysteries they had written for a publisher a while back,” agent Amanda Luedeke explains. “Instead of letting them sit and collect dust, they wanted to do something with them. As their agents, we decided the best route would be to publish the books online as a collection. We’ve helped them through the entire process.”

Asked “Why eBooks?” Amanda quickly answers, “Why not eBooks? It’s the fastest growing publishing division, and it works really well for the category genres. People love whodunits.”

Still not sure you want to take the plunge and buy an e-reader? Author Christy Barritt, who self-published her third Squeaky Clean Mystery, Organized Grime, in electronic and print form, was on the fence herself at first. “Then my husband surprised me with a Kindle two Christmases ago,” she says. “I pretended to be happy about it. Just so he wouldn’t feel bad, I began playing around on it. And you know what? I discovered I loved it! I’ve actually bought more books now that I have my Kindle than I did before.”

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About The Author

C. J.'s love of reading began when she was a kid dragging home bags of books from the library. When she was twelve she started dreaming about becoming a published author. That dream came true when her first novel Thicker than Blood won a national writing contest. It became the first book in the Thicker than Blood series, which also includes Bound by Guilt, Ties that Bind, and Running on Empty. She has also written Jupiter Winds and Jupiter Storm the first and second books in the Jupiter Winds series. Her children's fantasy Alison Henry and the Creatures of Torone has also been well received. C. J. lives in Pennsylvania with her whippets, two tabby cats, and a Paint mare named Sky.