Frances McNamara

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 moved on to Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers and Ngaio Marsh. I graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a major in English, then studied for a masters in library science 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.

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 OCLC in 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.

Another job move took me to Chicago where the job at the University of Chicago Library 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. Death at Chinatown allowed me to use some of my Chinese language and culture studies. In Death at the Paris Exposition 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. Death at the Selig Studios set in 1909 takes place in a silent film studio in northwest Chicago.

When not writing, I found a love a sailing on the Charles River, and later learned 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 have sailed at Community Boating on the Charles River and at Courageous Sailing in Charlestown.

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  introduces Lucy O’Donnell, reluctantly retired police captain. A novel based on the new character is in progress. I'm also doing research for another historical series that would begin in 1919 in Boston. It starts with the Molasses Flood in January of that year.

Upcoming Appearances

Date Venue Address
Date: February 22, 2022
7:00pm - 8:30pm
Venue: Mystery Making at the Westwood Public Library Address: 660 High Street
Westwood, MA 02090
Notes: Sharon Healy-Yang, Kate Flora, Lorraine Nelson, and Frances McNamara will present a fun night of audience participation to create a mystery.

Recent Appearances

Date Venue Address
Date: November 13, 2021
9:00am - 10:30am
Venue: New England Crime Bake Address: Boston/Dedham Hilton
Dedham, MA
Notes: 9:00-10:15 Historical: When Home Already Happened Our panel of historical mystery writers discuss the ins and outs of creating worlds set in the past, including how to bring a fresh perspective to the world today through the darlings of yesterday. Moderator: Frances McNamara Panelists: Matthew Cost, Sarah Smith, Mary Lawrence, Gabriel Valjan, Carolyn Wilkins
Date: September 11, 2021
10:00am -
Venue: Printers Row LitFest in Chicago Address:
Notes: 36th Annual Chicago Printers Row LitFest Sept. 11-12, will be at the Society of Midland Authors booth.
Date: August 27, 2021
11:00am - 12:00pm
Venue: CANCELLED Blood on the Bayou Bouchercon 2021 Address:
Notes: Hooking Readers: Great First Lines: What Makes a Page Turner - Galerie 6 - 2nd Floor Moderator: Stacy Allen Panelists: Fleur Bradley, Mary Ellis, Amy Gentry, Jennifer Kincheloe, Frances McNamara
Date: August 27, 2021
3:30pm - 4:30pm
Venue: CANCELLED Blood on the Bayou Bouchercon 2021 Address:
Notes: In the Beginning: Research to Give Your Work Authenticity - Mardi Gras Ballroom ABC - Moderator: Frances McNamara Panelists: Brian Cliff, James L'Etoile, Allie Marie, Thomas Perry, Travis Richardson
Date: August 26, 2021
10:00am -
Venue: CANCELLED Blood on the Bayou Bouchercon 2021 Address:
Notes: Attending the annual Bouchercon in New Orleans Aug. 25-29
Date: July 27, 2021
7:00pm - 8:00pm
Venue: Mystery Making at Freethinkers Corner Address: Zoom session
Notes: In this fun, fast-paced virtual improv game that held on the Zoom account of A Freethinkers Corner (link to come), authors, Jolene Grace, S.Lee Manning, Frances McNamara, and Sharon Healy-Yang,will brainstorm to create a brand-new mystery, using suggestions from the audience, provided on the chat function. ​
Date: July 14, 2021
1:00pm -
Venue: More Than Malice Address:
Notes: Attending the Malice virtual conference July 14-17.
Date: April 22, 2021
7:00pm - 8:30pm
Venue: Franklin, MA Bookclub Address:
Notes: Discussion of Death on the Homefront
Date: April 7, 2021
1:00pm -
Venue: Cosy Corner Podcast with Alexia Gordon Address:
Date: March 27, 2021
11:00am - 12:00pm
Venue: Cliff Dwellers Book Club Address:
Notes: Zoom discussion with Cliff Dwellers Book Club in Chicago.
Date: December 17, 2020
9:00am -
Venue: Writing Crime Sisters in Crime New England Blog Address:
Notes: Q&A on Death On the Homefront will be features in the Sisters in Crime New England blog.
Date: November 14, 2020
1:00pm - 2:00pm
Venue: Massachusetts Book Bites Address:
Notes: On November 14–15, the Boston Book Festival is teaming up with Massachusetts Center for the Book for a bonanza weekend of local literature, featuring authors from across the Commonwealth, in all genres, introducing readers to their latest books in a fast-paced series of bite-sized videos. You can find a short trailer video here.
Date: November 9, 2019
3:00pm - 4:00pm
Venue: New England Crime Bake Address:
Notes: A DIG OF RESEARCHERS: Facts, Figures, and Fiction What do historical mysteries based on old movies, missing artwork worth over $500 million, a social activist in Chicago in the late 19th and early 20th century, apple orchards, County Cork pubs, and a Philadelphia museum have in common? Lots of research! You’ll learn the tricks and techniques these authors use to write stories set anywhere, any time, about any and all things. Moderator: Marian Stanley Panelists: Shelia Connolly, B. A. Shapiro, Lisa Lieberman, Frances McNamara
Date: October 19, 2019
1:30pm - 3:00pm
Venue: Boston Book Festival Address:
Boston MA
Notes: Four mystery authors—Brendan DuBois, Elisabeth Elo, Chris Knopf, and Frances McNamara—explore the emotional and professional turmoil that results when family members, friends, and loved ones are threatened with harm, enmeshed in murder, or targeted by impersonal and amoral forces. Forced into action to save those close to them, the central characters of their novels must also confront difficult truths about trust, loyalty, and the sacrifices they are willing to make. Mo Walsh, president of the New England chapter of Mystery Writers of America, will host this fascinating discussion. Sponsored by Mystery Writers of America–New England.
Date: June 13, 2019
6:30pm - 8:00pm
Venue: Making a Mystery event at Assembly Square Address: Pop Up Space 431 Artisan Way
Somerville, MA 02145
Notes: In this fun, fast-paced improv game, mystery authors, Elisabeth Elo, Frances McNamara, Dale Phillips, and Clea Simon will brainstorm on their feet to create a brand new mystery, using suggestions from the audience.
Date: June 8, 2019
11:00am - 5:00pm
Venue: Allium Press booth Printers Row LitFest Address: Printers Row
Notes: Saturday and Sunday June 8-9 at the Allium Press booth in the Chicago Printers Row LitFest
Date: May 4, 2019
3:00pm - 4:00pm
Venue: Malice Domestic "Murder in the Performing Arts" Address:
Notes: Murder in the Performing Arts panel will be moderated by James Lincoln Warren, fellow authors will be Marni Graff, J. R. Ripley, Gabriel Valjan. Death at the Selig Studios is about early silent films studios in Chicago in 1909
Date: May 3, 2019
10:00am - 12:00pm
Venue: Malice Domestic 2019 Malice Go Round Address: Bethesda North Marriott Hotel
Bethesda, MD
Notes: Malice Go Round is a way to speed date authors at the conference. I'll be there with information on the Emily Cabot Mysteries and Death at the Selig Studios in particular. Hope to see you.
Date: April 5, 2019
12:00pm - 3:00pm
Venue: Muse and the Marketplace Address:
Notes: Come say hello at MWA table at Muse and the Marketplace
Date: June 21, 2018
6:00pm - 8:00pm
Venue: New England Mobile Book Fair Address: 241 Needham St.
Newton Upper Falls
Notes: Launch Celebration! Frances McNamara in conversation w fellow mystery author Leslie Wheeler
Date: June 9, 2018
10:00am - 6:00pm
Venue: Printers Row Lit Fest Address: Printers Row
Chicago, IL
Notes: Saturday and Sunday June 9-10 I'll be at the booth for Allium Press of Chicago at Windy City Historians tent with my new book DEATH AT SELIG STUDIOS. Come visit with us!
Date: June 8, 2018
6:00pm - 8:00pm
Venue: 57th Street Books Address: 1301 E 57th St
Chicago, IL 60637
Notes: Frances McNamara and fellow mystery author Victoria Thompson in conversation Launch Celebration for DEATH AT SELIG STUDIOS and MURDER IN UNION SQUARE Join us for talk and celebration Hosted by Allium Press of Chicago
Date: June 7, 2018
7:00pm - 9:00pm
Venue: Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore Address: 7419 Madison Street
Forest Park, IL 60130
Notes: Frances McNamara and fellow mystery author Victoria Thompson in conversation Launch Celebration for DEATH AT SELIG STUDIOS and MURDER IN UNION SQUARE Join us for talk and celebration Hosted by Allium Press of Chicago and Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore
Date: April 29, 2018
9:00am - 10:00am
Venue: Malice Domestic 30 "Historical Mysteries: Back in the USA" Address: Bethesda North Hotel and Conference Center
Bethesda, MD
Notes: Sunday 9 AM “Historical Mysteries: Back in the USA” Jeffrey Marks – Moderator L.A. Chandler, C.M. Gleason, Alyssa Maxwell, Frances McNamara, Ann Parker. I’ll also be hosting a table at the Saturday banquet. Looking forward to seeing you!
Date: April 18, 2018
6:30pm - 8:00pm
Venue: Atria Bay Spring Village RI Address: 147 Bay Village Ave
Barrington, RI
Notes: “Stealing from the Dead: Ideas and How We Get Them” Panel with Steve Liskow and Sharon Healy-Yang, and Frances McNamara. Sisters in Crime New England Speakers Bureau event