The Mystery Bookstore, long a favorite of Los Angeles readers of whodunits and crime novels, will close on January 31, according to a statement released yesterday by owners Kirk Pasich and Pamela Woods. The store opened in 1987 as the west coast branch of Otto Penzler’s Mysterious Bookshop and remained at its West Hollywood location for 13 years. Penzler sold the store to a consortium of investors in 2000, who moved the store to Westwood near the campus of UCLA and concurrently changed its name to the Mystery Bookstore. In addition to stocking new titles, the store had a wide selection of used and out of print books, signed first editions, British imports, and mysteries for children.

“I owe my career to specialty bookstores such as the Mystery Bookstore,” says bestselling author Laura Lippman, “places where a new author could find an audience because an enthusiastic, knowledgeable staff hand-sold the hell out of our books. It was a great store, staffed with great people, and I am heartbroken.”

The Mystery Bookstore was known for its author events, sometimes hosting up to three a day on the weekends, and showed consistent support for first-time crime novelists. Stephen Jay Schwartz, author of Boulevard and Beat, laments the closing of the store. “This is terrible – it’s the end of an era,” he says. “My career began at the Mystery Bookstore and I count the owners and booksellers as personal friends. There is a loyal community of authors and readers who will simply not recover from the loss of this iconic bookstore.”

Pasich and Woods cite Amazon and “big discounters” as the primary reasons for closing the store. “Unfortunately, we, too, are going the way of too many independent bookstores,” they say. “We simply cannot compete with the Amazons of the world and the impact of the economy.” They purchased the Mystery Bookstore in October 2008; neither of them has a background in books and the couple has relied primarily on the talents and knowledge of long-time staffers Linda Brown and Bobby McCue to maintain the day-to-day business of running the store and scheduling book signings. McCue might go to work for Mysterious Galaxy when it opens a second location in Redondo Beach this spring; Brown’s future is less certain.

Edgar-winning author T. Jefferson Parker is grateful to the Mystery Bookstore for being supportive of his work. “I always had the greatest reception to my books and they had the best parties at that store,” he notes. “The staff there is fun-loving, rebellious, and at the same time completely serious about the importance of the mystery genre. This really hits close to home. I feel like it’s my brothers and sisters who are being laid off, and it’s a bad feeling. There’s no silver lining in this.”

The Mystery Bookstore will have a closing night party during which the entire inventory will be on sale at deep discounts.