mystery books are in their blood

Christine Burke, left, owner of Clues Unlimited bookstore, Fred Runk, Mary Stevens and Michael Ames joined in 2013 for a discussion of "Silence of the Grave" by Arnaldur Indridason, a police procedural set in Reykjavik, Iceland. Mystery readers are often drawn to the cultural setting of various plots.

After 24 years as the owner of Clues Unlimited, Christine Burke is closing her mystery bookstore. 

The bookstore is yet another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"It's been really horrible," Burke says of the pandemic's effect on her business. "Bookstores have success based on browsing." 

Dec. 26 will be the shop's last day open and then it's on to a new chapter for Burke. 

"The model for a bookstore doesn't work if you have to restrict access as much as you have to in a pandemic," she says. 

Since re-opening in the spring, Burke has continued supplying customers with books through curbside pickup and by-appointment browsing hours, trying to juggle the needs of her business with precautions for her own health at the age of 72. 

"It's one of those things, even if I just throw money at it and keep it afloat for the next year, which might be what it will take, I'm going to be that much older and I can't keep doing it," she says. 

Burke has owned Clues Unlimited for 24 years. When she purchased the mystery-centric book shop, it had already been in existence for 10 years as Footprints of a Gigantic Hound, she says. Over the years, the shop has hosted mystery writers for events and signings.

Now it's a one-person, one-dog show, she says. Her terrier mix Cappy has often accompanied her to work. 

"It's a sad thing..." Burke says. "That's a good chunk of time that Tucson has had a mystery store and now it won't anymore." 

In retirement, she says she plans to ride horses, travel when it becomes possible again and avoid catching coronavirus. 

In the meantime, mystery lovers can make an appointment at Clues Unlimited to shop specials throughout the store on both new and used books. 

New releases will be 20 percent off and all used mass market paperbacks will be $2, with used trade paperbacks and hardcovers selling for $5, according to the shop's Facebook post about its closure

"Support the bookstores that remain," Burke says. "Because a bookstore is really a part of the community in a way that a lot of businesses aren't, and it's really important." 

To make an appointment to shop during the store's hours, call 520-326-8533


Join #ThisisTucson today. Members get access to our super secret Facebook group and discounts on merch.