Q&A: Delray’s Joanne Sinchuk Keeps the Mystery Alive

Joanne Sinchuk
Joanne Sinchuk

This week, Delray literary linchpin Murder on the Beach announced its latest accolade: an inclusion in Atlas Obscura’s list of the World’s Best Independent Bookstores. Readers of the travel site, which promotes “curious and wondrous travel destinations,” selected Murder on the Beach as one of its top 62 indie bookstores.

Susan Cox, a local mystery author with a national publisher, sung the praises of Murder on the Beach in the accompanying blurb for the store. In addition to noting the shop’s book signings and community involvement, she wrote, “the store has a playful sense of humor—a skeleton reads a novel on top of one bookcase, the Christmas tree uses yellow police tape as garland, and the annual Halloween party for authors and readers sees Poirot, Miss Marple and Sherlock Holmes enjoying eyeball cupcakes and finger sandwiches while a dozen local authors read from their latest mysteries.”

On the occasion of this honor, which owner Joanne Sinchuk describes as “thrilling,” we thought it would be an ideal time to revisit with Sinchuk and remind our readers that Delray Beach’s only bookstore remains an essential haunt for gumshoe devotees.

Has the mission of Murder on the Beach changed at all since you founded the store in 1996?

I don’t think so. We’re doing everything that we used to do—literary luncheons, writers’ workshops, author signings. Our workshops are taught by published local authors, and they help them develop their presence in the literary community, above and beyond routine book signings.

We had a good season this past year. They say independent bookstores are picking up, and we could feel that. We had a lot of big-name authors: Jeffery Deaver, Stuart Woods, Lisa Gardner. I think that’s reflective of the publishers doing more for independent bookstores.

What’s your secret for survival when so many bookstores have fallen to the mighty Amazon?

Hard work. And also, some bookstores don’t want to do events outside the store. We sell books for the Palm Beach County public library system, whenever they have an author event, and at the Delray Beach and Fort Lauderdale libraries.

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Are there titles that people might only find at your store?

Yes, because we don’t have the breadth of inventory, but we have depth of inventory. If somebody has a blockbuster book, like by Jeffery Deaver, that they pick up at a big-box store, they won’t find all of his older titles at the big-box store. Also, we pride ourselves on our recommendations, so if you like an author, we can recommend another author who writes in a similar style.

Have you ever been tempted to experiment beyond thrillers, and bring in best-sellers, romances, and things outside the niche?

Yes. We carry a small selection of the big blockbuster books. For instance, we have James Comey’s book.

Why do readers enjoy the dark side of fiction?

Typically, a mystery is made up of three elements: the crime—which doesn’t have to be a murder—the detection, and the resolution. Mystery readers like it because the detection appeals to the intellect; it’s a puzzle that needs to be solved based on clues laid out by the author. Readers have a great moral sense of right and wrong, and the villain suffers in the end.

Do new people still discover the store?

At least once a week someone will say, “I didn’t realize there was a bookstore here.”

Pineapple Grove must have changed tremendously since you moved here in 2002.

Yes. When we first moved in here, we couldn’t get a cup of coffee.

Murder on the Beach is at 273 N.E. Second Ave., Delray Beach. Call 561/279-7790 or visit murderonthebeach.com.