Frommer, Sara Hoskinson 1938-

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Frommer, Sara Hoskinson 1938-


Born on June 6, 1938, in Chicago, IL; daughter of Charles C. and Isabel Hoskinson; married Gabriel Paul Frommer, June 14, 1958; children: Charles Joseph. Education: Oberlin College, B.A., 1958; Brown University, M.A., 1961. Religion: United Church of Christ. Hobbies and other interests: Viola, quilting.


Agent—Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency, 381 Park Ave. S., Ste. 819, New York, NY 10016. E-mail—[email protected]


Agency for Instructional Technology, Bloomington, IN, senior editor, 1978-89; freelance writer, 1989—. Bloomington Symphony Orchestra, violist.


Mystery Writers of America (past member of board of directors), Sisters in Crime.



Murder in C Major, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1986.

Kaleidoscope (short stories), Sets A and B, New Readers Press (Syracuse, NY), 1991.

Buried in Quilts, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1994.

Murder & Sullivan, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1997.

The Vanishing Violinist, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1999.

Witness in Bishop Hill, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2002.

Death Climbs a Tree, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2005.

Work represented in anthologies, including The Best of Blue Murder, Volume 1. Contributor of short stories to periodicals, including Red Herring Mystery,, and Blue Murder,


Sara Hoskinson Frommer's mysteries draw from the author's personal experience as a quilter and a violist. They feature Joan Spencer, who is first introduced in Murder in C Major. Spencer, a fortyish widow, moves to Oliver, Indiana, with her teenaged son. She plays the viola for the city's symphony orchestra, and during her second rehearsal, the oboist falls dead as he is about to play the solo in the second movement of Schubert's Symphony in C Major. Later in the story, a flute player also dies. Spencer, along with Detective Fred Lundquist, solves the murders. A reviewer for the Washington Post Book Review noted: "Murder in C Major is an American version of the cozy English village mystery. Sara Hoskinson Frommer writes of small-town Hoosierland with unsentimental affection and an observant eye for evocative detail." For example, Joan Spencer finds dampened cotton shirts waiting to be ironed in the deceased flute player's house—she does the ironing while waiting for the flutist's children to return from school. The first sentence in Murder in C Major reads: "Ironing for a corpse wasn't Joan Spencer's idea of fun." A Washington Post Book World contributor described Murder in C Major as a "virtuoso debut by a new writer." Kathleen Maio, writing in the Wilson Library Bulletin, also described Frommer as a "notable newcomer" and characterized Frommer's first book as "a thoroughly nice mystery with an amiable pair of detectives." Fanciers of violist/sleuth Joan Spencer will find that her relationship with detective Lundquist is a dynamic one, reaching a new level of involvement with each book.

An accomplished quilter herself, Frommer enhances her second mystery, Buried in Quilts, with references to the art of quilting and its history. Once again, violist Joan Spencer (who has also become the manager of the symphony orchestra) aids detective Lundquist to solve the murder of a prominent but controlling woman whose corpse is found under a pile of quilts that were on display at a quilt show where Spencer's orchestral group was performing. Critic Gail Pool stated in the Wilson Library Bulletin that "Frommer creates a persuasive Midwest ambience in this quiet book with its mix of nostalgia and murder." Pool also compared several of Frommer's characters to the "excellent women" of English novelist Barbara Pym.

Frommer's third mystery, Murder & Sullivan, focuses on a murder during a performance of Gilbert and Sullivan's Ruddigore. Readers learn that Joan Spencer, ever the good woman, saves the daughter of judge David Putnam in a tornado. However, Putnam, who has a role in the Gilbert and Sullivan production, in which Spencer plays her viola, is murdered. Although a critic in Kirkus Reviews found the characters "dull" and the details of the investigation somewhat "repetitive," a reviewer for Booklist reported that a "bit of melodrama at the denouement doesn't mask the basic intelligence and warm charm of" the novel.

In Frommer's fourth mystery, The Vanishing Violinist, Spencer plans to wed her sleuthing partner, detective Lundquist. This book also features Spencer's daughter, who is also about to be married—to a violinist. Spencer's future son-in-law, Bruce, comes to Indiana to compete in the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis. Bruce becomes a suspect when the disappearance of a Brazilian violinist's Stradivarius is followed by her own disappearance. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly described The Vanishing Violinist as "a well plotted tale" and praised Frommer for the "exceptional descriptions of the musical performances."

Frommer told CA: " Witness in Bishop Hill is set in a real village a few miles from the town in which I grew up and focuses on the illness that claimed my own mother. Joan Spencer has mixed feelings when her new husband, Detective Lieutenant Fred Lundquist, agrees to spend some time helping his parents in Bishop Hill, Illinois, where he grew up. Bishop Hill is celebrating Lucia Day, with its own delightful variations on Swedish traditions, and Joan is glad she'll finally get to see this tiny, historic, Swedish-American community where Fred grew up, but she's a bit nervous about meeting her in-laws for the first time. It's quickly clear that Fred's mother suffers from Alzheimer's, but before they can even begin to deal with that problem, Helga Lundquist witnesses a brutal murder. While she floats in and out of clarity, Joan and Fred are hard put to keep her safe from a killer who may think she's a reliable witness." In her review of Witness in Bishop Hill for Booklist, GraceAnne A. DeCandido commented: "Frommer is a brisk and clean writer, and she handles the rueful ambivalence of middle age very well indeed." In similar fashion a Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that "the prize here is the gently effective interpretation of the Alzheimer's scourge."

In addition to her mystery novels, Frommer has written a series of short, simplified stories for adults who are new readers. As she explained, Kaleidoscope, published in two sets, A and B, was written with the assumption that "many new readers have developed very sophisticated compensating life skills and are good thinkers. I would never talk down to a new reader." In the Kaleidoscope series, Frommer writes about adults with adult problems. "I assume that my readers have lived, but not that they have read." Frommer told a Library Journal contributor: "I kind of stumbled into this kind of writing. One day the fellow who cuts my hair said he and his customers were always planning how to rob the bank across the street. I looked out his shop window. He could see the tops of people's heads. I could see a story. Then I saw that I could tell it in easy words." From this scenario, Frommer wrote "Stop That Woman", a story that features a hairdresser who recognizes a thief by her haircut from the vantage point of his shop window.



Frommer, Sara Hoskinson, Murder in C Major, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1986.

Heising, Willetta L. Detecting Women Two, Purple Moon Press (Dearborn, MI), 1996.


Booklist, April 15, 1997, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Murder & Sullivan, p. 1403; August, 1999, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of The Vanishing Violinist, p. 2033; November 1, 2002, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Witness in Bishop Hill, p. 477.

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 1994, review of Buried in Quilts, p. 1025; April 1, 1997, review of Murder & Sullivan, p. 505; September 15, 2002, review of Witness in Bishop Hill, p. 1354.

Library Journal, February 1, 1991, Nancy Harvey Davis and Pam Fitzgerald, review of Kaleidoscope, p. 45; September 1, 1999, Rex E. Klett, review of The Vanishing Violinist, p. 237.

New York Times Book Review, October 5, 1986, Newgate Callendar, review of Murder in C Major, p. 28.

Publishers Weekly, August 15, 1994, review of Buried in Quilts, p. 90; March 10, 1997, review of Murder & Sullivan, p. 53; July 19, 1999, review of The Vanishing Violinist, p. 187.

Washington Post Book World, August 17, 1986, review of Murder in C Major, p. 8, 14.

Wilson Library Bulletin, November, 1986, Kathleen Maio, review of Murder in C Major, p. 52; December, 1994, Gail Pool, review of Buried in Quilts, p. 76.


Sara Hoskinson Frommer Home Page, (October 7, 2006).