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. The two most recent books in the series, Death on the Homefront and Death in a Time of Spanish Flu take place in 1917 and 1918.

A new series Nutshell Murder Mysteries features Frances Glessner Lee who is famous for her miniature crime scenes named Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death. She worked with Dr. George Magrath Medical Examiner in Boston and is known as Mother of Forensic Science. Book 1 of the series Molasses Murder in a Nutshell involves a fictional murder that takes place during the 1919 Molasses flood in the North End of Boston. The books will be loosely based on the 20 nutshell studies, miniature crime scenes, created by Frances Glessner Lee in the 1940's and used to train police investigators.

Book 2 of the series Three-Decker Murder in a Nutshell is set in East Boston November 1919. Some of the characters are loosely based on my maternal and paternal grandparents who all lived in East Boston at that time but did not know each other as my mother's parents were wealthy owners of a dock building company while my father's parents were living on the salary of a Boston Fireman. It was fun to consult some of my cousins who had done some research in the family history. My parents weren't born till 1920 and 1921.

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.

Recent Appearances/Events

Date Venue Address
Date: November 11, 2023
9:00am -
Venue: New England Crime Bake Address: Boston/Dedham Hilton
Notes: Will attend and moderate a panel at New England Crime Bake 2023 in Dedham, MA
Date: September 1, 2023
10:30am - 11:30am
Venue: Bouchercon 2023 Address: Marriott Marquis San Diego
Notes: Panel on Historical Heroines. Moderator Kelli Stanley, Panelists: Frances McNamara, Susanna Calkins, Richard Koreto, Vanessa Riley, A.E. Wasserman.
Date: August 3, 2023
5:30pm - 6:30pm
Venue: Brewster Ladies' Library Address: 1822 Main Street
Brewster, MA
Notes: Mystery Making Workshop with Sisters in Crime, New England THURSDAY, AUGUST 3 5:30—6:30 PM Auditorium Brewster Ladies' Library1822 Main Street, Brewster, MA, 02631 Mystery Making In this interactive workshop, four mystery authors representing different sub-genres, including cozy/traditional and thriller/suspense, will brainstorm on their feet to create a brand new mystery using suggestions provided by the audience. Fun, fast-paced, and fascinating, this improv game offers important insights into mystery writers’ minds and the conventions of the genre. Frances McNamara, Leslie Meier, Lorraine Sharma Nelson, Susan Santangelo Registration for this event opens Saturday, July 1 at 9:00 AM.
Date: July 28, 2023
1:30pm - 3:30pm
Venue: Friends of Dennis Public Library's AUTHORS FRIDAY SPECIAL Address: The Sea View, 76 Chase Avenue
Dennis Port, MA
Notes: Friends of Dennis Public Library's AUTHORS FRIDAY SPECIAL. Our event will be held on Friday, July 28 at The Sea View, 76 Chase Avenue, Dennis Port. Doors open at 1 PM for everyone to enjoy light refreshments and a cash bar. The program will begin at 1:45. Book signing will follow the program.
Date: May 11, 2023
6:30pm - 8:00pm
Venue: West End Library Address:
Date: May 11, 2023
6:30pm - 7:30pm
Venue: West End Library: Frances McNamara: Molasses Murder in a Nutshell Address: 151 Cambridge St
Boston MA 02114
Notes: Frances McNamara will speak on her mystery Molasses Murder in a Nutshell. In January 1919 tank bursts in Boston's North End, flooding the neighborhood with molasses. When a woman is found murdered in the wreckage, Frances Glessner Lee asks her old friend, medical examiner Dr. George Magrath to help exonerate a young serviceman. He's a resident at the home for returning soldiers on Beacon Hill that Fanny has come from Chicago to manage. Frustrated by her lack of education and skills, she wants to clear the young man's name and find the killer. Will creation of a miniature crime scene lead to the truth? It's the best she can do. Sponsored by the Friends of the West End Library.
Date: May 6, 2023
1:00pm - 3:00pm
Venue: John Curtis Library Hanover MA Address: 534 Hanover Street,
Hanover, MA 02339
Notes: Friends of the Library Interactive Mystery Program The Friends of the John Curtis Library are excited to invite everyone to a fun interactive workshop called Mystery in the Making presented by Sisters in Crime NE. Four mystery authors representing four sub genres, including cozy/traditional and thriller/suspense, will brainstorm on their feet to create a brand new mystery using suggestions provided by the audience. Authors who will be participating are Louisa Clerici, Capers, Crooks and Kitchens, A Feast of Mystery and Magic, Leslie Meier, Lucy Stone Mysteries, Sharon Ward, In Deep, and Frances McNamara, historical mysteries in Chicago and Boston.
Date: April 29, 2023
9:00am -
Venue: Malice Domestic Address: Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center
Notes: Will attend and present at Malice Domestic in Bethesda April 28-30
Date: April 20, 2023
6:30pm - 7:30pm
Venue: The West End Museum Address: The HUB50 Community Room 52 Causeway Street (along the side, across from the Tip O'Neill Building)
Boston MA 02114
Notes: MURDER MYSTERY SET IN THE MOLASSES FLOOD Author Frances McNamara will join us to discuss her newest historical novel, Molasses Murder in a Nutshell, which describes a fictional murder that takes place during the Molasses flood of 1919. The book introduces historical characters including Frances Glessner Lee, famous for the miniature crime scenes she created to train investigators, and Dr. George Magrath, Suffolk County Medical Examiner from 1907 to 1932. Scenes are set in Boston locations. The author will talk about using real historical events and people in a fictional mystery. Books will be available for purchase and signing.
Date: April 4, 2023
6:30pm - 8:00pm
Venue: Nichols House Museum Author talk and book signing: Molasses Murder in a Nutshell Address: 55 Mount Vernon Street,
Boston MA 02108
Notes: Admission: $10 general, $7 members. Option to purchase the book with ticket. Space is limited.
Date: March 25, 2023
6:00pm - 8:00pm
Venue: Glessner House Chicago Address: Prairie Avenue
Notes: In honor of Women’s History Month and the 145th birthday of Frances Glessner Lee, we are pleased to present our annual exploration of her fascinating Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death. Lee achieved national and international recognition for her pioneering work in forensic science, creating the Nutshell Studies to train police and medical examiners how to investigate a scene of unexplained death. This year’s event is very special. The talented team in the theater department at the University of Wisconsin - Parkside has recreated one of Lee’s Nutshell Studies at full scale. “Dark Bathroom” depicts the demise of Maggie Wilson in the bathroom of the boarding house in which she resided. Was her death somehow connected to her gentlemen callers she had the night before she was found, or was it a tragic accident after too much drinking? Walk through the scene yourself, looking for clues, and then compare notes with your fellow “detectives” to try and determine - was it an accident, natural causes, suicide . . . or murder?? We will also have the scale model reproduction of Lee’s “Unpapered Bedroom” on display, created for us in 2022 by Drew Munao. Author Frances McNamara will join us to discuss her newest historical novel, Molasses Murder in a Nutshell, in which Frances Glessner Lee is a central character. Books will be available for purchase and signing. Birthday cake and Prosecco will be served.
Date: March 25, 2023
12:00pm - 2:00pm
Venue: Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore Address: 7419 Madison Street
Forest Park, IL
Notes: What's real? Imagining History. Frances McNamara will be interviewed by Emily Victorson about her two historical mystery series, the Emily Cabot Mysteries set in Chicago and the Nutshell Murder Mystery series set in Boston. Celebration release of Death in a Time of Spanish Flu, book 9 in the Emily Cabot series and Molasses Murder in a Nutshell book 1 of the nutshell series will include a Prosecco toast! Join us!
Date: November 15, 2022
1:00pm - 2:30pm
Venue: CCOA Women's Club Address: Canton Senior Center 500 Pleasant St.
Canton MA
Notes: "We're Not Making This Up" SinCNE authors Frances McNamara, Kate Flora, John Nardizzi, Joanna Schauffhausen panel on writing mysteries When: Tuesday, November 15 @ 1:00PM Where: Canton Senior Center, 500 Pleasant St. Whom: All senior women are welcome $3 Donation for Non-Members Light refreshments will be served For more information call the Senior Center at 781-828-1323 or contact us at
Date: November 12, 2022
2:00pm - 3:30pm
Venue: New England Crime Bake Address: Hilton Boston/Dedham 25 Allied Drive
Dedham, Massachusetts 02026-6147 USA
Notes: Writing About Family. Storytelling requires upping the stakes for the protagonist. When family is involved the stakes skyrocket for most people. A group of authors who write about very different families will discuss the pros and cons of family in mystery stories. Frances McNamara Moderator
Date: October 29, 2022
10:00am - 5:00pm
Venue: Boston Book Festival 2022 Address: Copley Square
Boston MA
Notes: I'll be at the Sisters in Crime New England table 10-11 and at the Mystery Writers of America New England Chapter table 11-2. Both are on Dartmouth opposite the Boston Public Library. Hope to see you there!
Date: September 10, 2022
10:00am - 11:00am
Venue: Bouchercon 2022 Address: HILTON MINNEAPOLIS 1001 MARQUETTE AVE S
Minneapolis, MN
Notes: The Room Where It Happens: Wartime Settings - Minneapolis Grand Ballroom EFG - 3rd Floor Moderator, Mally Becker John Copenhaver, Jessica Ellicott, Mariah Fredericks, Susan Elia MacNeal, Frances McNamara
Date: September 10, 2022
7:00am - 9:00am
Venue: Bouchercon 2022 Speed Dating Address:
Notes: Speed Dating Breakfast - Conrad B - 2rd Floor
Date: April 22, 2022
10:00am - 11:00am
Venue: Malice Domestic Address: Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center
Bethesda Maryland
Notes: Malice Go Round: It’s Like Speed Dating, But With Authors Jack Cater — Moderator
Date: April 22, 2022
2:00pm - 3:00pm
Venue: Malice Domestic Address: Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center
Bethesda Maryland
Notes: Historical Mysteries: The Rapture of Research Moderator: Eleanor Kuhns Julie Bates Richard Koreto Frances McNamara Joyce Tremel/Joyce St. Anthony Marlie Wasserman
Date: April 22, 2022
4:00pm - 4:30pm
Venue: Malice Domestic Address: Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center
Bethesda Maryland
Notes: Author Signing for Death on the Homefront
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.
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