Frances McNamara
Frances McNamara grew up in Boston where her father served as Police Commissioner for ten years. She has degrees from Mount Holyoke and Simmons Colleges, and was a librarian at the University of Chicago. She is getting ready to launch the sixth Emily Cabot Mystery, Death at the Paris Exposition. When not writing she can be found sailing on Boston’s Charles River or beaching it on Cape Cod.


I was born in Boston, Massachusetts. My father was an FBI agent and later the Police Commissioner of the city of Boston. Whether it was the influence of a professional detective in the family or near sightedness, I started reading mysteries with Nancy Drew stories and soon graduated to Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers and Ngaio Marsh. I graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a major in English. Although I had never worked in a library, I signed up for a masters in library science program at Simmons College part time while working at the Wellesley College Library. In order to keep busy, I also signed up for a masters in English degree at Simmons and studied Chinese language at Wellesley, and Middlebury College.

Frances McNamara
At the library

I worked with computers in libraries moving on to a position at the Massachusetts State Library and at a NELINET, a job which took me to libraries all over New England to help start them up on automated systems. A move to Columbus Ohio for another library automation job led to a collaboration with some amateur actors who produced a number of mystery night to help raise money for local libraries. I wrote the plots and peripheral materials for stories ranging from a contemporary reunion, a golf course mystery and a couple set in 1930’s England.

Woman at University of Chicago in the 1890'2
A woman student at University of Chicago in the early days

Another job move took me to Chicago where access to local mystery writing groups and activities allowed me to share my writing with critique groups, and to participate in a long running local group of mystery writers. Participation in various conference critiques provided encouragement from some professional editors. It was the job at the University of Chicago Library that led to creation of Emily Cabot, as a graduate student from Wellesley College who comes to the university the first year that it opens. Between the flavor of 1890’s in the architecture on campus, and the access to historical research materials at the library, it was a great opportunity to translate the feel of the city to stories about Chicago at the turn of the century. Allium Press of Chicago published Death at the Fair, a story featuring Ida B. Wells and the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. In Death at Hull House Emily becomes a resident at the famous settlement house on the West side of Chicago the winter after the Columbian Exposition when a smallpox epidemic ravaged the immigrant communities. In Death at Pullman the famous company town south of the city suffers a strike that spreads to the rest of the city and the country. In each story fictional characters mix with some real people from the time, demonstrating the rich history and culture of the thriving young American metropolis that Chicago was. In Death at the Paris Exposition (Sept. 2016) Emily gets to visit Paris with her family thanks to the patronage of Bertha Palmer. I’d like to continue to follow the stories and Emily and her family into the new century. I’m thinking of covering literary Chicago, the film industry in Chicago, WWI, the flu epidemic, prohibition and the Depression. It would be nice for the series to end with the Century of Progress world’s fair in Chicago in 1934.

At the boat club
At CCYC Montrose Harbor Chicago

When not writing, I found a love a sailing on the Charles River in downtown Boston, followed by learning to race small sailboats in Columbus, Ohio. I’ve sailed a Comet and owned and raced a Rhodes 19 sailboat on Lake Michigan. Having moved back to Boston, I’m back to sailing at Community Boating on the Charles River. In addition to sailing, I have studied Chinese language.

While living right in the heart of the city of Boston, I’m also a part time resident of Sandwich, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod. I’ve been working on the first story of a new series that will feature a retired Boston Policewoman. The short story “Wicked Writers” in the Malice Domestic Murder Most Conventional anthology introduces Lucy O’Donnell, reluctantly retired police captain. A novel based on the new character is in progress. Malice 11 front cover proof 2 - FINAL

Allium Press of Chicago
Alllium Press of Chicago