Scooby Doo, Revere native and mystery author Camille Minichino
knows how to solve a caper. Yet, instead of using Scooby snacks,
she uses scientific sleuthing.
Fresh off the publication of her sixth murder mystery novel,
“The Carbon Murder,” Minichino is attacking life
in retirement and invoking the name of Revere, her hometown,
wherever she can in her books.
“You can always tell if a writer has just passed through
a place or really knows it well,” she said in a recent
interview. “You’re not just talking about the streets,
but you’re talking about the ethnic neighborhoods and
the history. I lived in Revere the first 22 years of my life
and I’ve stayed in touch with it. I do a better job writing
about it than somewhere else.”
Minichino grew up in Revere in the 1950s right next door to
DeMaino’s Restaurant on Malden Street. She graduated from
Revere High in 1954 with a strong interest in science and went
to Emmanuel College.
After college graduation, she became a nun in the Sisters of
Notre Dame order, and stayed with it for 20 years, teaching
science, philosophy and physics at Emmanuel.
Meanwhile, she got her Ph.D. in physics at Fordham University
in New York and in the 1970s took a sabbatical from Emmanuel
to work in a Department of Energy weapons lab design center
in northern California, where she applied her scientific knowledge
and also met her husband.
She never permanently returned to the East Coast after that.
Ten years ago, Minichino retired from physics, but still teaches
a few courses at Golden Gate University. Her passion, however,
has become a full-time career writing her murder mystery series
based on the periodic table of elements.
She said she got the idea from author Sue Grafton, who established
a mystery series based on the alphabet. Minichino wanted to
entertain, promote fundamental scientific principles, and
also write about her hometown.
“Writing seemed like the next thing to do when I retired,
and I always thought the alphabet series was clever,”
she said. “My alphabet was the periodic table. I was
amazed no one had done it. It seemed so obvious to me.”
Now, she has a writing agent and is signed on with St. Martin’s
Press of New York City’s historic Flatiron Building.
As she celebrates publication of her sixth book in the series,
she said she’s already working on the seventh book entitled
“The Nitrogen Murder”.
“That’s part of the excitement of all this, for
me to say I’m going to have lunch with my editor in
the Flatiron Building in New York City,” she said. “That’s
so cool to me.”
California to Revere
The California lifestyle and the New York City lunches aside,
Minichino is always returning to her roots in Revere, setting
five of her seven books here.
Her main character, Gloria Lamerino, jets back and forth from
California to Revere to help the Revere Police solve murders
through the use of science in most of the books. In “Boric
Acid Murder,” the story centers on a murder that actually
takes place in the Revere Public Library.
That story and others have spawned quite a relationship between
the library and Minichino. The author has done several book
signings, including a recent signing that coincided with her
50th high school reunion, and intends to put on a writer’s
workshop at the library this October.
Library Director Bob Rice has helped Minichino research several
of her books, informing her of various street names and the
conditions of certain areas of the Rumney Marsh - as well
as coordinating her events at the library.
“We love it when she comes,” he said. “When
she comes, we get more people than we get for any of our programs...All
her books are on our shelves. We have many copies of each,
and some of them are signed.”
Minichino said she is glad people still welcome her back to
“When you move out of a place you don’t necessarily
have the right to expect people to welcome you back,”
she said. “It’s just the way it is. Bob has been
Shaped in Revere
Minichino credits most of her success to Revere’s uniqueness.
She talks of the Revere she knew growing up, when the Italians
in the community were on the lower rung of the social ladder,
where the Irish were just well-off enough to send their kids
to Immaculate Conception School and Jewish people were the
professionals of the community.
“Everyone had a Jewish doctor in those days,”
she said, noting that despite ethnic differences, people always
got along very well.
Her favorite memory of Revere, however, is Revere Beach, where
she said she worked at a concession stand under the Cyclone
from the time she was 13 until she went to college. Every
summer, from Palm Sunday to Labor Day, she sold cotton candy
and made change.
“Revere Beach was an opportunity to go to work in those
days,” she said. “If you could reach a cash register
and make change, you could go to work.”
The influence of Revere Beach on her life has challenged her
to include something about the Beach in each of her books.
In the most recent book, she talks of the diving horses of
After some research, she learned that an amusement on the
Beach used to feature ponies diving from 40-foot platforms
into a giant tank of water before an anxious audience.
“That’s probably illegal now,” she said.
“I don’t think you could even do that these days.”
Another driving influence in her success was Revere High School,
where she said dedicated teachers - especially the females
- peaked her interest in learning and encouraged her to pursue
science, which was dominated by males at that time.
She specifically mentioned Olga Mafera, who coincidentally,
died last week at age 99. Minichino remembered Mafera for
always pushing them harder, for bringing back things from
her summer vacations around the world, and for taking extra
classes about subjects she knew nothing about - just to experience
what it might be like for first-time students who took her
“We read Dante in Italian my senior year,” said
Minichino. “At the time, who knew that was anything
special? But when I got to college, I learned it was. I could
have gone to the best private school and not gotten as good
an education as at Revere High in the 1950s.”
While Minichino calls California home, it wouldn’t take
a super-sleuth to figure out her heart has long lived in Revere.
And while life’s circumstances haven’t allowed
her to physically live here on a daily basis, she can travel
here as much as she wants in her writings.
“One of the advantages of writing fiction is you can
live whatever life you want through your characters,”