In this issue of the Blood-Letter: a preview of our March guest Dr. Karen Gunson, awards news, a change in how we deliver the Blood-Letter, and more!

March 2016

Bloody Thursday, March 24, 2016 Welcomes Dr. Karen Gunson

“A Taste of Forensic Pathology”

Dr. Karen Gunson

Twenty-six years ago, Dr. Karen Gunson first spoke to a Bloody Thursday audience. She so impressed our members with her talk and visuals that for many years after she was the most requested repeat speaker. We are delighted that this year we are able to satisfy those requests.

At that time, Dr. Gunson was Oregon Deputy State Medical Examiner. Since 1999 she has been the state’s Chief Medical Examiner. She “manages all aspects of the state medical examiner program and has responsibility for technical supervision of county offices in each of the 36 counties of Oregon…The main activity of the division is to certify the cause and manner of a death requiring investigation.”

Although she claims that “It’s always a good thing for the medical examiner to keep a low profile. Usually, if we are in the news, it’s bad news,” when Dr. Gunson is in the news, it’s almost always positive, with her quoted words showing expertise with medicine, crime, and the English language.

When two-year-old Isabella Smith died of asphyxiation by drowning in a Cannon Beach hotel room in 2014, Dr. Gunson told The Oregonian: “There were ‘intoxicating levels of the drug chlorpheniramine found in the girl’s bloodstream.’ She concluded that ‘asphyxiation by drowning was the main cause of the toddler’s death and that the drug was a contributing cause…It’s a sedative, makes you sleep, and that would make it easier to drown somebody. Chlorpheniramine is commonly found in cough syrups and cold remedies.’ Gunson also said drowning is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning she ‘had to eliminate other potential causes of death before determining the girl died of asphyxiation by drowning. [She] had to rule out any trauma, infectious disease, a congenital abnormality or any kind of overdose. There were no obvious signs of trauma on Isabella when she was found.’” The child’s mother was arrested soon after, and her murder trial is scheduled for this summer.

Dr. Gunson is a lifelong Oregonian. She tells Friends of Mystery: “I graduated from Whitman College in 1976 with a BA in Biology. I have a BS in Zoology from OSU (1977). Then I went to OHSU from 1977 to 1981 when I received my M.D. I did a four year residency in Anatomic and Clinical Pathology at OHSU, and then went to the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office in 1985 and have stayed ever since. Pretty much a straight line. I grew up in Bend and never saw any reason to leave Oregon. I hope I have contributed something to the state while living here.”

She is also “an avid reader of murder mysteries (the gentle ones not the hardboiled detective ones.” ) When Dr. Gunson last spoke to us, she had two cows named Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie. I look forward to hearing the names of her current favorite authors and animals.

Jay Margulies

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A Note on Distribution of The Blood-Letter

We are changing the way we distribute our newsletter:

If we have your email address, you most likely have received this newsletter by email. We are using a service that allows you to opt out if you prefer not to receive any emails.

If you are a member of FOM, we will continue to send The Blood-Letter via US mail if we don’t have your email address, or if you prefer to receive the printed version. Just notify us by mail, email, or telephone.

Our new policy will mean that everyone who signs up can receive the electronic version of The Blood-Letter and other mailing free of charge.

In the past we sent announcements to the local newspapers and were frequently rewarded with good mentions in The Oregonian and elsewhere. In this electronic age, those options are much more limited. Postings on Facebook and other social media outlets have great potential.

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We request your help, Part 1

As you know, FOM has started to meet at The Old Church at SW 14th & Clay in downtown Portland. This is a large, beautiful space, and we hope to increase our attendance and our membership. But, we need your help in getting word out about our Bloody Thursday events.

Please tell your friends. Send them an email. Post an announcement on your Facebook page. Send a tweet. Ask us for copies of our flyer that you can put in your local library, bookstore, or other appropriate locations.

Here is some text for our March 24 event that you can use. Please feel free to use as-is, or revise to best fit the space or medium you use.

Dr. Karen Gunson, the Oregon State Medical Examiner, will be the guest speaker at the next Friends of Mystery event on Thursday, March 24, 7:30 pm, at The Old Church in downtown Portland (1422 SW 11th Avenue). This event is free and open to the public. A reception (with cash wine bar) begins at 7 pm.

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We request your help, Part 2

We need membership help. In particular we need a person or persons to be in charge of publicity, and to write and distribute information about our events.

We also need members willing to work with our committee to identify and communicate with potential speakers for our Bloody Thursday events, especially for the 2016-2017 season, which will begin next September. Surely there are some folks you would love to hear speak. Here’s your chance.

If you can help, please contact us at the addresses and telephone below:

Jay Margulies
Friends of Mystery
PO Box 8251
Portland, Oregon 97207

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Left Coast Crime Winners

Left Coast Crime 2016 just concluded in Phoenix, Arizona, February 25-28, and the winners were:

  • Donna Andrews for Lord of the Wings (Best Humorous Mystery Novel)
  • Rhys Bowen for Malice at the Palace (Best Historical Mystery Novel)
  • Gigi Pandian for The Accidental Alchemist (Best LCC Regional Mystery Novel)
  • Louise Penny for The Nature of the Beast (Best World Mystery Novel)

Next year Left Coast Crime will be held in Hawaii.

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Edgar Award Nominations


Best Novel

  • The Strangler Vine, by M.J. Carter
  • The Lady From Zagreb, by Philip Kerr
  • Life or Death, by Michael Robotham
  • Let Me Die in His Footsteps, by Lori Roy
  • Canary, by Duane Swierczynski
  • Night Life, by David C. Taylor

Best First Novel

  • Past Crimes, by Glen Erik Hamilton
  • Where All Light Tends to Go, by David Joy
  • Luckiest Girl Alive, by Jessica Knoll
  • The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen
  • Unbecoming, by Rebecca Scherm

Best Fact Crime

  • Operation Nemesis: The Assassination Plot that Avenged the Armenian Genocide, by Eric Bogosian
  • Where The Bodies Were Buried: Whitey Bulger and the World That Made Him, by T.J. English
  • Whipping Boy: The Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year-Old Bully, by Allen Kurzweil
  • Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA and More Tell Us About Crime, by Val McDermid
  • American Pain: How a Young Felon and his Ring of Doctors Unleashed America’s Deadliest Drug Epidemic, by John Temple

Best Critical/Biographical

  • The Golden Age of Murder, by Martin Edwards
  • The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue, by Frederick Forsyth
  • Meanwhile There Are Letters: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and Ross Macdonald, by Suzanne Marrs and Tom Nolan
  • Goldeneye: Where Bond Was Born: Ian Fleming’s Jamaica, by Matthew Parker
  • The Lost Detective: Becoming Dashiell Hammett, by Nathan Ward

The Edgar Awards will be announced on April 28, 2016, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City.

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New Meeting Location: The Old Church

Old Church “The Old Church is a nonprofit, non-religious, concert and event venue with a rich history and a dynamic 21st century identity. Built in 1882, the structure served as a church until 1967 when the congregation had dwindled and the building faced destruction. A band of dedicated citizens got together, saved the building, and helped form a 501(c)3 nonprofit. Our mission is to preserve and celebrate The Old Church as a historic and vital architectural structure, and, to best utilize its inherent qualities as a performance space by creating, fostering and promoting programs that reflect and enhance the artistic and cultural life of the community. Today the Old Church is a contemporary, comfortable space that is wheel chair accessible and air conditioned.” (Used with permission from The Old Church website.)

The Old Church is located at: 1422 S.W. 11th Avenue Portland, Oregon 97201

Directions on how to find the church are available at:

The Old Church doesn’t own a parking lot, but there is parking available in the neighborhood. There is a City Center Parking lot next to The Old Church on Clay at 10th, and metered street parking in the area.

We are excited about our new location, and hope that you will join us for our inaugural meeting in our new space.

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Member News

Friends of Mystery is happy to publish news and press releases from our members in our Member News section, with the following considerations:

  • The news must be related to mystery or true crime writing, films, and television, as well as non-fiction examinations of the mystery genre.
  • Friends of Mystery will not be able to edit announcements, and will publish them as provided.
  • Friends of Mystery will include one image with each announcement, if provided.
  • Friends of Mystery is not responsible for the content of news announcements, and we reserve the right to not publish any announcements which we feel will reflect poorly on the organization and do not advance the organization’s mission.

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Submissions Needed

Members and readers are encouraged to submit book or film reviews, comments on authors, and recommendations for books to read or questions about mysteries, crime fiction and fact. If you have suggestions of mysteries worth sharing, please contact the editor at: