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Featuring Cynthia Riggs and Her Mysteries

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A Special Microscope

boy and microscopeOn March 24, 2017, the Attebery family presented the late Howie Attebery's trinocular microscope to the Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School's new Vernon Jordan Science Center. Said son Mark Attebery of his father at the dedication ceremony, “All of his life he’d take on a subject and become immersed in it, and then go on to something else. He had a perpetual curiosity about the world, which he kept well into his 90s.”

A dentist, teacher, photographer, bacteriologist, and entomologist, among other things, Howie after moving to Martha's Vineyard took up a study of Vineyard ponds. His data were also donated to the school, and the plan is for students to continue his research.

See "The Gift of Curiosity" in the Martha's Vineyard Times for the whole story.

Right: Student Marshall Davidson takes a look at the microscopic world. Photo by Lynn Christoffers.

Below: At the dedication of the microscope, from left, Paul Karasik, Marshall Davidson, science teacher Jane Paquet, Howie's son Mark Attebery, Cynthia Riggs Attebery, Lucy Thompson, Howie's grandson Luke Attebery, Paige Blinn, Mark's wife Jennifer Attebery, and Howie's granddaughter Sophia Attebery (seated). Photo by Lynn Christoffers, courtesy of the Martha's Vineyard Times.

microscope dedication


Plot Twists Happen in Real Life as Well as in Fiction!

One of them happened to Cynthia in 2012: a man she’d worked and become friends with as a college intern in 1950 got back in touch.

One thing led to another, and after several months of exchanging letters, emails, and photos, Cynthia went west to San Diego to visit her long-ago colleague, Howard Attebery.

In 1950 Cynthia was 18. Howie was 28.

In 2012 — well, you do the math.

To make a long and wonderful story short, they became engaged.

The following March, Howie and his son, Mark, made the cross-country trek from San Diego to Martha’s Vineyard. Until then, Howie had never been east of Chicago.

In March they were joined in a Buddhist ceremony, and in May they wed in the West Tisbury Congregational Church with family and close friends present. In July they had an outdoor reception to which the entire Island was invited so all their many friends could celebrate with them.

Their story captured the imagination of tens of thousands across the country and around the world. It’s been told in many places, including the Boston Globe, the Vineyard Gazette, and the Martha’s Vineyard Times.

Cynthia told it herself on The Moth Radio Hour in “The Case of the Curious Codes.”

Cynthia and Howie's lavishly illustrated book, Howard and Cynthia: A Love Story, based on their correspondence and their life together, is now available exclusively from The Moth. You can order it by dropping them an email.

News Highlights from the Recent Past

• Blogger Marshall Zeringue invited Cynthia to apply "The Page 69 Test" to her Martha's Vineyard Mystery Trumpet of Death, and in June 2017 he published the result in his blog. Zeringue advises readers not to judge a book by its front or back cover; turning to and reading page 69 will give you a better idea if the book is for you. The test sure works for Trumpet of Death!

Murder on C-Dock cover• For 12 years, Cynthia lived on a houseboat on the Washington, D.C., waterfront — and she's put her nautical experience to nefarious use in Murder on C-Dock, the first in her new D.C. Waterfront Whodunit series. When Commodore Dunn is murdered, there's no shortage of suspects: everyone on C-Dock had reason to wish him dead. Persie Lee Butler's sleuthing soon turns up a web of secrets that goes back 30 years — and puts her own life in danger. Murder on C-Dock features a stunning cover by Martha's Vineyard artist Elizabeth R. Whelan, a sailor herself who knows her boats.

award acceptance speech• In August 2015 Cynthia was awarded the Martha's Vineyard Medal, given by the Martha's Vineyard Museum to honor "leaders in the community who have had an outstanding commitment to preserve the history, arts, and culture of the Island."

In her acceptance speech, Cynthia noted her family's long association with the museum and its predecessor, the Dukes County Historical Society. Her father, Dr. Sidney Riggs, founded The Dukes County Intelligencer, a twice-yearly journal featuring articles and images about Vineyard history.

She also praised the creativity and vitality of Island people and was pleased to accept the award on their behalf.

Read the whole speech on Cynthia's Martha's Vineyard Mysteries blog.

Right: Cynthia accepts the Martha's Vineyard Medal on the museum's Vineyard Haven campus. Photo by Lynn Christoffers. Courtesy of the Martha's Vineyard Times.

• In July 2012, along with sister mystery writers Sheila Connolly, Susan Cory, Leslie Meier, and Susan Santangelo, Cynthia was a panelist at Sisters in Crime New England's conference in Osterville, Mass.

The Friends of the Vineyard Haven Library named Cynthia its Celebrated Vineyard Author for 2012. Cynthia joins a long line of distinguished writers including Lillian Hellman, William Styron, Geraldine Brooks, David McCullough, Stephen Carter, Jules Feiffer, Art Buchwald and Phil Craig.

Cynthia's books are being used in a GED preparation class taught on the Vineyard to encourage students to read. The class is offered by ACE, Adult and Community Education of Martha’s Vineyard.Cynthia, Lynn Christoffers and Stephen Wesley at the Artisans' Fair  

In December 2011, Cynthia was interviewed about Victoria Trumbull's Martha's Vineyard on Mindy Todd's show, The Point, on National Public Radio's Cape and Islands station, WCAI.

• Over Memorial Day weekend in 2011, Cynthia, working with agent Christine Witthohn and Bunch of Grapes Bookstore in Vineyard Haven, organized an unusual event at which aspiring Island writers not only learned about publishing but had the opportunity to pitch their works to an agent. This excerpt from describes how it worked:

"Thorpe was one of 18 Island authors to sit for 10 or so minutes over the weekend, face-to-face with Christine Witthohn, owner of Book Cents, a Charleston, West Virginia literary agency. Most were hoping their book idea would strike Ms.Witthohn's fancy . . . Some, like Ms. Thorpe, were also looking for feedback and a look inside the process of getting to print.

Ms. Riggs, whose 10th sleuth novel Bee Balm Murders has been in bookstores since April, also masterminded a remarkable marketing idea that had 60 or so wannabee writers hanging from the rafters at Bunch of Grapes on Friday night, May 27. The village drums say the event will happen again soon.

On Saturday and Sunday, May 28 and 29, Ms. Riggs made the Cleaveland House, her West Tisbury home and B&B, available for the book pitches to agent Witthohn for authors in the audience. The only qualifier was that authors purchase a book from Bunch of Grapes on Friday.

"Cynthia's our bread and butter author. We love Cynthia," said Dawn Braasch, Bunch of Grapes owner, in her welcoming remarks at the Vineyard Haven bookstore.

Ms. Riggs made more fans last weekend. But to her thinking, she was just doing for others what had been done for her - a helping hand extended by a famous author to a neophyte.

"Years ago, I had just published my first book and I was at an author signing, seated with Phil Craig, who had about a dozen books on the table. He was so generous, recommending my book to his fans," she told The Times. Mr. Craig, who died in 2007, penned a very successful series of mystery novels set on the Island.

Ms. Riggs introduced Ms. Witthohn for a how-to discussion on book publishing. A show of hands indicated that 50 or so in the audience had a book — or sort of a book. Four or five have been published, only two by traditional publishers."

In November 2010 Cynthia and her daughter were scheduled to sail on the Carnival Splendor on November 14th for a week-long cruise, Mystery on the High Seas, where Cynthia was to be a panelist. Unfortunately, the cruise was cancelled after the ship was disabled due to an engine room fire. Mystery on the High Seas was rescheduled for the following November.

Your Name in Print, sold at the Windemere auctionHow Six Fans Got Their Names in Cynthia's Mysteries

  • Mindy LePere bid on a weekend at Cynthia's B&B and name-in-the-book, and ended up being a nurse ministering to two murder suspects in Death and Honesty.
  • Touch-Me-Not has five winning names — Lucinda Chandler won at an auction for Windemere, the nursing home associated with the MV Hospital
  • Whit and Diana Manter had the winning bid at a second Windemere auction
  • Jim Weiss bid at the Edgartown School's fundraiser for a trip to Washington
  • Casper Martin bid on the Vermont College auction
  • Jeannie McIntosh won at the Sail MV auction for her new grandson, Hugo A. Blinckmann.

• Nancy Love, the agent who sold Cynthia's first nine books, died in July 2010. Said Cynthia, "I mourn the loss of Nancy Love who became a close personal friend as well as an effective professional ally. I now have a new agent, Christine Witthohn, who remarked that she has large shoes to fill. Nancy Love was tiny. Her shoe size was probably a 3 or 4. But very large indeed." (Cynthia is now represented by Paula Munier of Talcott Notch Literary Services.) 

 Cynthia at the West Tisbury LibraryCynthia's course "Writing and Selling Your Book" wins acclaim whenever she offers it through the Martha's Vineyard's Adult and Community Education (ACE) program. It's a ten-hour course designed for those who have always wanted to write a book, but don't know how to start. It is also for those who've stashed a manuscript in a bottom drawer and feel it's time to look it over. One past participant, C. Messmer, said the course was "beyond expectations. Cynthia Riggs is an island treasure! Her class was informative and encouraging. Her enthusiasm and inspiration colored a well-outlined syllabus."

On July 20, 2008, more than a hundred people attended a Memorial Tribute to Phil Craig, who died in 2007. Phil, a prolific writer of mysteries set on Martha's Vineyard, was a strong early supporter of Cynthia's Martha's Vineyard Mystery Series when it started to appear. The tribute was sponsored by the Vineyard Haven Library. Cynthia was MC and Lynn Christoffers took the pictures. The speakers were Phil's widow Shirley Prada Craig; their son Jaime Craig; Phil's friend, collaborator, and fellow writer Bill Tapply; the manager of Edgartown Books, Susan Mercier; and the publishers of Phil and Shirley's cookbook, Delish, John Walter and Jan Pogue.

Cynthia was recognized as one of the authors of "geezer lit" in the AARP Bulletin for May 2008. "The graying of America is spreading fast to mystery bookshelves," says contributor Pat Remick. "A genre some have dubbed "geezer lit," featuring crime-solving protagonists age 70-plus, ... could be the next big frontier in crime fiction."


©2018 by Cynthia Riggs