Art Mystery Author Discusses Writing and Research in Southeast Asia – OHIO University Libraries

Art Mystery Author Discusses Writing and Research in Southeast Asia

On April 4, 2019, University Libraries, in association with the Ohio University Press and the Center for International Studies, will host the Authors @Alden series with Nancy Tingley, author of the Jenna Murphy Mysteries. The format of the talk is a dialogue between Dr. Marion Lee, associate professor of art history, and Tingley—followed by a conversation with the audience.

The live-streamed event will be held on Alden Library’s fourth floor from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

The Jenna Murphy Mysteries, an art mystery series published by Ohio University Press’ Swallow Press, include: “A Head in Cambodia” (2017) and “A Death in Bali” (2018).

“A Head in Cambodia,” a 2018 Left Coast Crime for Best Debut Mystery Novel.

In Tingley’s first novel, “A Head in Cambodia,” a 2018 Left Coast Crime for Best Debut Mystery Novel, Jenna Murphy, a young purple-haired, mini-skirted California museum curator of Asian art, is drawn into a murder case while investigating an 11th century Cambodian art forgery.

Catherine Lantz, reviewer for the Library Journal, wrote: “In a crowded field of art history whodunits, this first novel stands out for its focus on Cambodian sculpture, history and mythology. Jenna, an unabashed sleuth both on and off the job, is a fresh new voice.”

The second Jenna Murphy novel, “A Death in Bali,” lands Murphy in Ubud, a small tourist town in Bali, to research Balinese paintings from the 20th century. Immediately upon her arrival, she encounters a gruesome murder. She’s soon working with an old friend, now a detective for the Ubud police force, to find the killer.

One of the insights shared by Tingley’s mystery series is an inside view of the secret world of art.

“This person, [Jenna Murphy] who’s the main character, knows the back rooms of the museum world and the art world, and how it all works—and she’s able to see some of the deception that goes on,” said Jeff Kallet, sales manager of the Ohio University Press.

According to Kallet, these books are “founded on the notion of authenticity.” Is the artwork real—or is it fake? This question, voiced by many whose occupations are based on certain assumptions, is a basic foundation of academia and museums.

“A Death in Bali,” lands Murphy in Ubud, a small tourist town in Bali, to research Balinese paintings from the 20th century.

“My interest in Southeast Asia has permeated my life and writing. Research that helped me to mount [museum] exhibitions, write gallery labels or catalogs or articles, [and] pass my Ph.D. exams, has found its way into my fiction writing,” wrote Tingley.

A self-proclaimed “closet” literary fiction writer, Tingley had been writing for over 40 years before settling on a series that gave her an opportunity to create fiction that is set in Southeast Asia.

“A few years back I was traveling to Bali, and was looking for fiction to read when I was there. There is surprisingly little fiction set in Bali, given that two and half million tourists visit the island each year. I decided I’d write something. I settled on a mystery series allowing me to set my books in different locales throughout Southeast Asia and beyond.”

Tingley began her career as a curator at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, California before working independently as a curator, art historian and consultant. She has curated numerous exhibits before becoming the author of the Jenna Murphy Mystery Series.

The impetus behind inviting Tingley to speak at Ohio University came from Pittaya Paladroi-Shane, world languages coordinator and Thai lecturer of the Center for International Studies.

“Her visit will not only allow her [Tingley] to talk about her books, but to share insights of her lived experiences when traveling in Southeast,” said Paladroi-Shane. “I hope [her discussion] can reenergize the study of Southeast Asia on [the Athens] campus again.”

Light refreshments will be served, and a book signing will follow the Authors @Alden event. To request accessibility accommodations for this event, please contact Jennifer Harvey.