October 21, 2020

In Remembrance: Kate Mattes’69, Purveyor of Mysteries

She created a community around mystery readers and writers.
  • Kate Mattes’69

Kate Mattes’69, owner of Kate’s Mystery Books in Cambridge, Mass., for 25 years, was so much more than an avid mystery reader and bookseller.

She created a legendary community in her store around a shared love of mysteries, with book signings and events, and a welcoming spirit that encouraged fledgling writers and celebrated accomplished authors. Her store became a destination for mystery readers everywhere, and the décor was in keeping with the inventory and the clientele, with its secret doors, black cat tchotchkes, and front lawn tombstones.

Kate died on March 26, 2020, in Bennington, Vt. She retired from the bookstore in 2009.

A religious studies major at Beloit, she pursued a thesis on the fictional spy James Bond and his connection to the seven deadly sins. She trained as a social worker at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.

But from the time she read her first mystery book, she wanted to open her own shop. She told the Boston Globe her love of mysteries began with Agatha Christie. “Isn’t that how most people get started?” she asked. On an auspicious Friday the 13th in December 1983, she opened Kate’s Mystery Books in Cambridge after apprenticing at the iconic Mysterious Bookshop in New York City.

In 2015, Kate received the Robert B. Parker Award, named for the best-selling writer of mysteries and crime novels. The Parker Award is given to those who best represent the mystery tradition in New England.

Her survivors include a sister and a niece.

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