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:
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.