January 22, 2005 by

Charlotte MacLeod


Categories: Writers/Editors

cmacleod.jpgCharlotte Matilda Hughes MacLeod, a popular and prolific mystery novelist, died on Jan. 14. Cause of death was not released. She was 82.
A native of New Brunswick, Canada, MacLeod always wanted to be a writer. But she didn’t sell her first book until she was in her 40s. Up until then, she lived and worked in Boston as a copywriter and ad executive. Years of writing on deadline helped MacLeod acquire the discipline she needed to become a best-selling novelist.
Each day at 6 a.m., MacLeod would putter over to her electric typewriter and begin the creative process. She wrote all morning and spent afternoons rewriting her recently completed chapters. MacLeod liked to work in her bathrobe and fuzzy slippers; she said it kept her from running out of the house to do errands. She penned more than 30 novels this way and developed a devoted fan base all over the world.
Known as the “queen of the screwball mystery,” MacLeod specialized in writing cozies — soft-boiled mysteries featuring amateur sleuths. Although her books rarely featured sex or vulgar language, MacLeod reveled in killing off characters in unique and intriguing ways. She off’d one character by goring him with an ancient spear. Another met his demise by swallowing a cyanide capsule (then falling face first into his chicken pot pie).
MacLeod’s Peter Shandy series described the sleuthing adventures of a botany professor at a fictitious agricultural college. Her Sarah Kelling and Max Bittersohn series featured the humorous exploits of a Boston landlady and a local P.I. Under the penname Alisa Craig, MacLeod wrote the Canada-based Grub-and-Stakers series and the Madoc/Rhys mysteries. She also penned a biography of mystery writer Mary Roberts Rinehart and edited the bestselling anthologies “Mistletoe Mysteries” and “Christmas Stalkings.”
The past president of the American Crime Writers League, MacLeod was nominated for an Edgar Award in 1988 and an Agatha Award in 1991. In 1997, the Maine resident received a lifetime achievement award from Malice Domestic, an annual convention that salutes mysteries in the classic tradition.

31 Responses to Charlotte MacLeod

  1. Emma Roosow

    I have read and reread these books for years. I own all of the four series and I am so glad she was well enough to write “The Balloon Man” which tied up some loose ends on the Max and Sarah stories. I have been waiting for another book, and I will continue to miss her. Even the Alisa Craig books are worthwhile.

  2. Judith Keene

    Sadly I now know the reason for no new Charlotte McLeod novel on my library shelves. Her gift for writing exciting and intriguing mysteries has given me very great pleasure for many years. Her command of the English language and her sly wit -who can forget Helen Shandy’s claim of having half a cat to support – have beguiled many a rainy afternoon ( and night and morning ). It is too late to thank her personally but I trust her books remain in print for many , many years.

  3. Christine Howlett

    Oh, I was afraid of this! I have every book she ever wrote, including a biography “If Only She Had Known” that must not have sold very well. I have read and re-read all of them, and I relished her humor and her invention. I am very grateful for what she gave us – only I would have liked just ONE more….
    Christine Howlett

  4. Nicola Slade

    So sad to hear of that brilliant zany mind lost to Alzheimers, I hope she was able to retreat into her own world at the end. Her work has been an inspiration to me and my own ‘screwball’ comedy SCUBA DANCING which comes out April 2005 (www.transita.co.uk) owes much to reading her wonderful books. I particularly love the Grub & Stakers books, like Anne of Green Gables on something illegal! I’m so happy that she was appreciated and that she knew it.

  5. Leigh Williams

    What a loss I’m feeling! Her charm, wit, and good will shown so clearly in all her books. She, Elizabeth Peters, Dorothy Sayers, and Ellis Peters reside in my house very near to my heart in their books. I had just finished rereading “Exit the Milkman” yet again and had a sudden urge to see how closely Ms. Macleod’s life might parallel Catriona McBogle’s — only to discover this sad news. I’m glad to think that her legion of fans let her know that she was and is held in the greatest affection.

  6. Gail Dilbeck

    I always look to see if there is a new Charlotte
    Macleod book .She was a grand lady just like Sarah’s cousins. I will miss her!

  7. Donna Richardson

    I am sitting here at my computer crying as if I had lost my aunt. I loved her and all of her books. I also read them over and over and her mysteries are just as fresh and funny on the 10th reading as if it were the first. She made me laugh, cry, and gave me many hours of pleasure. She was really someone that was very special. I
    always feel as if I know the characters. I think
    Peter Shandy was my favorite. Wouldn’t it be great
    if life was like a Charlotte and Alisa world. I
    know I will be seeing her sooner than most and I
    look forward to lying on a cloud with her and talking about her books. I have incurable cancer
    and her books make me laugh. I know she has many fans and that she will live on in her books. donnar@aeneas.net

  8. StriderGirl

    I am a voracious bookworm who goes through books quickly and only once. I can give Charlotte MacLeod no greater compliment than to mention that I have read all her books at least 6 times each, they’re that good. I read them to visit with my old friends Sarah and Max and Peter and Helen and Dittany and Osbert and Madoc and Janet, long after I’ve memorized every thread of the plot and can quote large chunks of dialogue. I live in Toronto and I consider Ms. MacLeod to have been one of our greatest exports. I will miss her deeply.

  9. Malinda

    Oh this is such sad news!
    I’m currently rereading ‘Wrack and Rune’ and thought I check online to see if she had anything new coming out. I’m so sorry to read of her passing.
    I’ve gotten so many hours of enjoyment from her books. I’ve read all her mysteries several times, though I’m especially fond of her Peter Shandy series.
    I know that I, along with many others, will continue to reread and enjoy her books for many years.

  10. Valerie Zalewski

    I wish to join all the fans above in saying how very sad I am to hear of Charlotte McLeod’s death.
    My favourite series is the Sarah Kelling and Max Bittersohn one and,as in almost all the previous tributes, I have to say that I have read and re-read these books many times. They never fail to give me great pleasure.

  11. Nicola Slade

    I’ve just re-read all the Peter Shandy books and wondered if anyone knew if Charlotte ever had a Peter or a Max of her own? There’s no mention of a partner in the obituaries.
    There’s been an added poignancy to this re-reading, sadness amid the laughter, to know there’ll be no more.

  12. Elizabeth Jane

    It does seem as if I’ve just learned of the death of a family member. My favorite series is whichever one I’m currently reading. When life is stressful retreating for awhile in a Charlotte MacLeod book is a blessing. Thank you Ms. MacLeod. Thank you.

  13. Debra Carson

    To this I add, because of her love of writing, I regained my love reading her many books. I will love Sarah Kelling, Peter Shandy. I am trying to write my own mystery book,and I hope she is watching down on all her friends and fans who loved her books.

  14. Dorothy Masarik

    I am just learning to use the computer. I am 63 and having been introduced to her writings in the 1980’s I have loved reading about Sarah Kelling,and Peter Shandy and of course all her writings as Alicia Craig. Such a talented lady.
    I just now learned of Ms. McLeod’s death and am truly saddened. My sympathies to her family.

  15. Carl Wichman

    When I first read “Luck Runs Out” it reminded me of our local college (originally an Agricultural College, too) and our area is strongly Scandinavian. It was like reading about our area!
    It’s years later and I now work for that college. I constantly think of Charlotte and her Peter Shandy series of books….WONDERFUL!
    She will be missed by her faithful readers. As a bookseller I will still recommend her stories even as they will surely get harder to find.
    I just found out about her death a year and a half later!

  16. Carol David

    I don’t know why I never thought to check online for what happened to Charlotte MacLeod… I just knew that nothing new had come out for some years. When I read her obituary I was devestated, even though I never met her, never exchanged mail with her I felt like she was a friend, probably because she wrote exactly the sort of story that I like to read. The world is a poorer place now.

  17. Marjorie Spencer

    It’s been over a year since my last on-line check about Charlotte MacLeod so I have just learned of her death. I read many books one time only but hers seem to suit the “need of the moment”. I can’t decide which is my favorite series – probably the one I’m reading at the moment. Ms Macleod had such a great command of language and writing humor. Let’s hope her books continue to be read by a wide audience.
    Having read the many tributes, all these people sound like they would make good friends.

  18. Theodora Jankowski

    I am truly sad to hear of Ms. Macleod’s passing. Like many others, I felt as if I knew her. I read her my first Macleod when my mother gave it to me assuring me that this wacky book (“The Silver Ghost”)was made for me. It was. I discovered all the Sarah and Max books were, as were the Peter Shandy books. I’n glad I have tyhem all, even though they are slowly disintegrating as I read them. Be well, O great and wacky mystery writer!

  19. Trudy Terherst

    I have been wondering for quite a while why there has been no new Charlotte MacLeod mysteries. I am sorry to say that I never once thought of checking out the internet. Now that I have, the news of her death is a blow. I have read and reread her books and continue to enjoy them as if I have read them for the first time. They were always like getting a letter from an old friend.
    She will be missed.

  20. Barbara Evans

    I am a big fan of Charlotte MacLeod and am especially fond of her Peter Shandy msyteries. I am currently rereading “The Curse of the Giant Hogweed” which is my favorite although “Wrack and Rune” runs it a close second. I was very sad when I heard she had died.

  21. Valerie Boyle

    I just discovered Charlotte MacLeod’s “A Family Vault” a few weeks ago. I was totally smitten. After reading it, I wanted to run out and buy the whole series – unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. I’m now perusing used bookstores and looking to purchase on line.
    What a loss to find in my online research that the writer I’ve so recently become such a huge fan of, has passed – but what a legacy she leaves behind.

  22. Sluggo Gal

    Totally unique & gifted author with more masses of marvelous alliterations per page than most writers can cram into a whole novel. Her characters had depth, and intriqing idiosyncrasies; they were more than 2-dimensional, and we wanted to get to know them better. Now we can’t.
    I would like to know more about her. I thought I had read that her husband was the author Aaron Elkins, and that they had collaborated on some books, but possibly that is a different Charlotte. Does anyone know?
    Ms. MacLeod will definitely be missed.

  23. Michael A. Brown

    Here goes another of my favorite people down the path of slow forgetfulness. Why is it that so many creative people lose their awareness of life as the years come to an end? So many never finish their art, their literature or have the chance to say goodbye to their friends and fans. Too soon. Too soon.

  24. Sherry Phelps

    I am so sad to hear of the death of Charlotte McLeod. I have enjoyed her books for many years. And too, I never got to ask her if the Balaclava Blacks were really Friesians. Rest in peace Charlotte and thank you.

  25. carol money

    I am so sad to hear of Charlotte’s passing. I kept waiting for her next book to come out and finally thought to look on the internet. No more Shandys or Bittersohns. How truly sad. Charlotte made so many people happy with her wit. She must have been a happy, zany Lady. God Bless Her. She must be making the Angels happy now.She will always be in my prayers.

  26. Elizabeth Roby

    I have been trying to find all of Charlotte’s books since I enjoyed her sense of humor so much, and for some reason, had not known of her death until now. I just know it has been hard to find her books in the bookstores. She is missed. I have liked all the ones I have found, and cannot say which I liked the best.

  27. Loyce McKenzie

    I, too, have every one of the MacLeod books, all four series; and they’re disintegrating from the re-reading.
    Once, in the early 1990s, she came to the nearby capitol city, Jackson, to do a booksigning. I talked a friend into teaching my two classes around lunchtime so that I could go meet her and get an autographed book. She was delightful, and wore a zany hat.
    I think it rather outrageous that the most creative minds seem to most often fall prey to Altzheimers.
    Loyce McKenzie

  28. Reta Nooskey

    I have just been re-reading my books by Charlotte MacLeod/Alisa Craig and wondering if another was going to come out and how I could get the early ones I was missing. I suspected she was gone, but it is a blow to know that there will be no more of the special people that I grew to love and get so involved with.

  29. Rich Hartford

    I only had the pleasure of reading a few of Charlotte’s books, which were given to me by her. As a building contractor,around 1990 I had the opportunity to spend a few months working in her home in Durham, Maine. While there, I can attest that she would wright EVERY day. Usually if not always in her robe and slippers.
    I, having grown up in the same area of Boston that she worked in would spend a lot of time having her converse and pick my brain, always looking to pick-up on one some of my Boston vernacular
    She was truly a lovely lady and a pleasure to be around. She will always be fondly remembered in my thoughts.

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