Karen Spengler: Mystery Bookseller, Cancer Survivor

The Kansas City Star ran a thoughtful piece on Karen Spengler, the 55-year-old proprietor of I Love a Mystery in Mission, Kansas. Diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer in 1996, she was given about three years to live. But she’s managed to outpace predictions:

A skeleton

hovers in the air, not far from Karen Spengler’s head. Skulls grin from

shelves. Tombstones loom. A door that leads from the bookstore into the

staff kitchen reads, “Samuel Spade, Private Investigator.”

“We call it ‘Victorian library with a twist,’ ” Spengler says.


55, owns I Love a Mystery, 6114 Johnson Drive in Mission. On the awning

are the words “Books to Die For.” It’s one of the few independent

booksellers left in the area. I Love a Mystery sells only suspense —

thrillers — or at least that’s the focus. It has some true crime, some

kids’ books — Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys. Spengler’s presence in the

store today is an event; her cancer doesn’t allow her to be here much.

Today, though, the sharp aromas of coffee and tea scent the air, and

she sits at a table where browsers are encouraged to relax and read.


customers sometimes bring her “ghoulish things” that fit the macabre

decor. And mystery books, by definition, must have a dead body. This

could weigh on a person who battles a disease that almost surely will

kill her. Spengler smiles. “I never thought about the connection till you brought it up.”

And that, say those who know her, is Karen Spengler.

Read more of this incredible story here.