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Carlson, P.M. 1940-

Carlson, P.M. 1940-

(Patricia M. Carlson, Patricia McElroy Carlson)

PERSONAL: Born February 3, 1940, in Guatemala City, Guatemala; American citizen; daughter of James Benjamin (an engineer) and Alene (a teacher) McElroy; married M.A. Carlson (a professor), August 20, 1960; children: Geoffrey, Richard. Education: Cornell University, B.A., 1961, M.A., 1966, Ph.D., 1974.

ADDRESSES: Home—Brooklyn, NY. Agent—Vicky Bi-jur Literary Agency, 333 West End Ave., New York, NY 10023. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, instructor and lecturer in psychology, human development, and statistics, 1973-78; editor of Mystery Writers Annual, 1993-95. Chairperson of Ithaca’s Environmental Commission, 1975-78; member of board of directors of Bloomington Restorations, Inc., 1982-84, and Historic Ithaca.

MEMBER: Mystery Writers of America (member of board of directors, 1990—), Sisters in Crime (president, 1992-93).

AWARDS, HONORS: Anthony Award finalist for best paperback original, 1986, for Murder Is Academic; Macavity Award finalist for best mystery, and Anthony Award finalist for best paperback original, both 1988, both for Murder Unrenovated; Agatha Award finalist for best short story, 1988, for “Father of the Bride,”and 1992, for “The Jersey Lily”; Edgar Allan Poe Award finalist for best paperback original, Mystery Writers of America, 1991, for Murder in the Dog Days.



Audition for Murder, Avon (New York, NY), 1985.

Murder Is Academic, Avon (New York, NY), 1985.

Murder Is Pathological, Avon (New York, NY), 1986.

Murder Unrenovated, Bantam (New York, NY), 1988.

Rehearsal for Murder, Bantam (New York, NY), 1988.

Murder Misread, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1990.

Murder in the Dog Days, Bantam (New York, NY), 1991.

Bad Blood, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1991.


Gravestone, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1993.

Bloodstream, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1995.

Deathwind, Severn House (Sutton, England), 2004.

Crossfire, Severn House (Sutton, England), 2005.


(As Patricia M. Carlson; with Marion Potts, Rodney Cocking, and Carol Copple) Structure and Development in Child Language: The Preschool Years, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1979.

(As Patricia M. Carlson; with Richard Darlington) Behavioral Statistics: Logic and Methods, Free Press (New York, NY), 1987.

Renowned Be Thy Grave: The Murderous Miss Mooney (stories), Crippen & Landru (Norfolk, VA), 1998.

Contributor to books, including (under name Patricia M. Carlson) Child Development: A Study of Growth Processes, edited by Stewart Cohen, F.E. Peacock, 1971; (under name P.M. Carlson) Mr. President: Private Eye, edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Francis M. Nevins, Jr., Ballantine (New York, NY), 1988; and (under name P.M. Carlson) Sisters in Crime 2, edited by Marilyn Wallace, Berkley (New York, NY), 1990.

SIDELIGHTS: Psychology professor P.M. Carlson has used her insights into human nature in several ways: She has conducted and published the results of her psychological research and pens two popular mystery series featuring female sleuths Maggie Ryan and Marty Hopkins. While Ryan is a New York statistician married to an actor and Hopkins a sheriff living in rural Indiana, the two sleuths have important similarities. According to an essayist in the St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers, Ryan and Hopkins “are both good detectives because they are intelligent, resourceful, courageous, and physically fit. They serve as believable, proactive role models for contemporary women, challenging the traditional image of women as the weaker sex and encouraging an active response rather than passivity in threatening situations.”

The first three installments of Carlson’s “Maggie Ryan” series take place during the sleuth’s college years in the 1970s and present a view of that tumultuous era. Drood Review critic Jim Huang, considering the first three “Maggie Ryan” novels, asserted that “the series works so well for three reasons: Carlson’s characters are firmly rooted in their historical context; she portrays her characters with unusual warmth and empathy; and the social issues she covers are skillfully linked to the mystery plot and are highly personalized, so that her books are never didactic.” Throughout the series Carlson continued to develop her protagonist, and by the final installment, 1991’s Bad Blood, had created a “more honest” Ryan who figures in a “genuinely moving” tale, according to a Kirkus Reviews writer. Sybil Steinberg, writing in Publishers Weekly, also noted Carlson’s emphasis on human relations, concluding that Bad Blood “succeeds more for its insights into family dynamics than for its plot.”

In the mid-1990s Carlson published her “Marty Hopkins” novels: Gravestone and Bloodstream. Set in Nichols County, Indiana, south of Bloomington, the first revolves around Hopkins’s efforts to solve the murder of a white man married to an African American, as well as the murder of a young woman who disappeared many years earlier. As the title might suggest, the story involves stone—the stone of the limestone caves and quarries in that area—gravestones, and literal and metaphorical fossils. In the view of a Publishers Weekly commentator, readers will “enjoy the company of intelligent, down-to-earth Marty.” In Bloodstream Hopkins investigates the disappearance of a young man, this 1995 novel earning praise as a “powerful mystery” from another Publishers Weekly reviewer.

In Deathwind, published nine years after Bloodstream, Hopkins looks into the mysterious death of a young bank teller whose body is found in the lobby of her building. The sheriff suspects the woman’s abusive ex-husband has committed murder, but her investigation stalls when a deadly tornado hits Nichols County, leaving one victim—the lead singer of a rock band—in its wake. Hopkins soon realizes, however, that the storm didn’t cause the singer’s fatal injuries, and she comes to believe that the two unusual deaths are linked. Though Booklist critic Emily Melton observed that Deathwing begins at a slow pace, she added that the tempo picks up quickly, leading to a genuinely shocking climax,” and a critic in Kirkus Reviews noted that the author ties the “outbreak of mayhem into a satisfyingly neat package.” In Crossfire, Hopkins is called to the scene of a cabin fire, only to discover the body of a local resident who has been killed with a machete. Hopkins is later contacted by a New York attorney whose father died under the same bizarre circumstances. The case grows even more complicated for Hopkins when her boss assigns another sheriff to head the investigation. According to Library Journal contributor Jo Ann Vicarel, in Crossfire Hopkins “demonstrates her penchant for good plotting.”

Carlson branched out into another literary genre in the late 1990s by publishing a collection of short historical mysteries titled Renowned Be Thy Grave: The Murderous Miss Mooney. Bridget Mooney is a late nineteenth-century actress-turned-detective who solves “ten high-spirited cases,” to quote a Kirkus Reviews critic, Mooney’s cases involving such historical figures as Sarah Bernhardt, Ulysses S. Grant, Thomas Alva Edison, Jesse James, Lillie Langtry, Ida B. Wells, and Mack Sennett. A Drood Review contributor called the volume “lively and full of verve,” and two of the stories in the collection were additionally honored as finalists for the prestigious Agatha award.

Reflecting on her enthusiasm for writing mysteries, Carlson once told CA: “The same interest in people that drew me into psychology persists in my mystery writing. Mysteries are enduringly popular because they deal with humanity’s big problems—death and evil—and with our moral and psychological responses to those problems. Mysteries range from simple fables of just revenge to deeply ambiguous tales of conflicting needs and loyalties. My own books tend toward conflict. My detectives are parents, and I find that this changes the moral resonances of the stories. Parents are not primarily interested in proving their manhood, nor even in eye-for-an-eye justice; they strive to enhance the future, to protect the innocent from further harm, to grope for responsible answers in an unjust society.”



St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.


Armchair Detective, fall, 1993, review of Gravestone, p. 119.

Booklist, January 1, 2005, Emily Melton, review of Deathwind, p. 825; October 15, 2006, Emily Melton, review of Crossfire, p. 30.

Drood Review, November, 1987, Jim Huang, review of Audition for Murder, Murder Is Academic, and Murder Is Pathological; November-December, 1998, review of Renowned Be Thy Grave: The Murderous Miss Mooney.

Entertainment Weekly, December 21, 1990, Margot Mifflin, review of Murder Misread.

Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 1991, review of Bad Blood, p. 1312; April 1, 1993, review of Gravestone, p. 410; May 15, 1995, review of Bloodstream, p. 675; May 15, 1998, review of Renowned Be Thy Grave, p. 699; January 15, 2005, review of Deathwind, p. 84.

Library Journal, January 1, 2007, Jo Ann Vicarel, review of Crossfire, p. 74.

New York Times Book Review, July 4, 1993, Marilyn Stasio, review of Gravestone, p. 19.

Publishers Weekly, November 8, 1991, Sybil Steinberg, review of Bad Blood, p. 51; April 19, 1993, review of Gravestone, p. 53; April 10, 1995, review of Bloodstream, p. 56.


P.M. Carlson Home Page, (September 25, 2007).*

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