Martin Limón | Michael Jahn | O'Neil De Noux | Rex Burns | Elizabeth Gunn | Judith Lea Koretsky | Steven F. Havill | Steven Torres | James H. Cobb | William Hallstead | John H. Dirckx | Yokoyama Hideo | Susan Fry | Bruce Graham | David Knadler | Eric Wright | Margaret Maron | Barbara Cleverly | Lou Manfredo

A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection Home Page

Recommended Works:

Martin Limón

George Sueño and Ernie Bascom tales

Gonzo Gonzales tales

Michael Jahn

Murder in Central Park (2000) (Chapters 1 - 5)

Murder on the Waterfront (2001) (Chapters 1 - 6)

Bill Donovan stories

O'Neil De Noux

New Orleans Confidential (collected 2006) (Lucien Caye tales)

Uncollected Lucien Caye tales

New Orleans Nocturnal (collected 2010) (John Raven Beau tales)

Other John Raven Beau tales

Jason Bartlett tales

Jacques Dugas tales

Rex Burns

Leonard Smith tales Snake Garrick tales

Elizabeth Gunn

Jake Hines tales

Judith Lea Koretsky

Stillman tales

Yokoyama Hideo

Kaise Masayuki stories

Steven F. Havill

Bill Gastner stories

Steven Torres

Luis Gonzalo tales Mickey Cruz tales

James H. Cobb

Kevin Pulaski tales

William Hallstead

Kat Curtci tales

John H. Dirckx

Cyrus Auburn tales

Susan Fry

Mitra Mohanraj tales

Bruce Graham

Lori Prewitt tales Sharon Lucelli tales

David Knadler

John Ennis tales

Eric Wright

A Killing Climate

Margaret Maron

Sigrid Harald tales

Aelia Tertia tales

Barbara Cleverly

Richard Jennings tales

Lou Manfredo

Gus Oliver tales

Gus Oliver and Joseph Oliver tales

Martin Limón

Martin Limón is best known as a mystery writer for a series of novels and short stories about George Sueño and Ernie Bascom, two American Military Policemen stationed in 1970's South Korea. The stories are notable for the complexity of their sociological setting, involving all aspects of the lives of the large peacetime contingent of US soldiers in Korea, and also their interactions with Korean soldiers, policemen and civilians.

Martin Limón is a Hispanic-American, like his sleuth George Sueño. Recently Limón has started a new series about Los Angeles private investigator Gonzo Gonzales. "Death of an Aztec Princess" (2005) offers some pointed commentary about sociological and ideological trends in the United States Hispanic community that Limón views with alarm. It also brings out nearly as many lines of division within US society as his Sueño and Bascom stories: between rich and poor, Anglo and Hispanic, liberal and conservative, fundamentalists and non-fundamentalists in religion. Many of these are linked by Limón to class issues, which he tries to highlight, rather than cover up, unlike many writers on US society.

Martin Limón's short stories appear regularly in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine: "Death of an Aztec Princess" (June 2005), "Dragon's Teeth" (October 2005). "The Opposite of O" (July/August 2008). "Pusan Nights" was reprinted in the anthology Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine Presents Fifty Years of Crime and Suspense, edited by Linda Landrigan.

Michael Jahn

Michael Jahn is best known for a series of mystery novels, each of which focuses on a different New York City institution. The background writing about these NYC locales is rich and well researched. The fact that Jahn's books are police procedurals with detailed Backgrounds of city life links them to the Freeman Wills Crofts tradition.

Michael Jahn's Murder on the Waterfront (2001) is best in its first third (Chapters 1 - 6). This section includes the events leading up to the crime itself, and the initial investigation of the crime scene by the police. Jahn is good at describing the two ships in the New York City harbor that are the setting of the crime. These sections are loaded with vivid detail. They also show some solid detection on the hero's part, as he picks up on clues embedded in the crime scene.

Jahn includes much humorous, zingy dialogue. The exchanges between his police detective Donovan and Donovan's Sgt. Moskowitz are especially good. Moskowitz and Donovan have a deep male bonding. Moskowitz is a roughneck on the surface, but with plenty of brains underneath, a neat combination.

Please click here for Michael Jahn's website.

O'Neil De Noux

O'Neil De Noux is a New Orleans writer, author of five novels and over 150 short stories, largely set in New Orleans and the surrounding countryside. He is a born storyteller whose best tales sweep the reader up in a fascinating situation.

Please click here for O'Neil De Noux's website. The July/August 2007 Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine contains an interesting interview with O'Neil De Noux.

John Raven Beau

Noux's most prolific series of pure mystery short stories stars John Raven Beau, a good-looking young policeman in modern-day New Orleans. Nine tales are collected in New Orleans Nocturnal (collected 2010). There is also a novel titled John Raven Beau (2011).

"Murder Most Sweet" (1999) is perhaps Noux's best tale. It has both a well-constructed mystery puzzle plot, and a rich Cajun atmosphere. The story has affinities with the Scientific Detection tradition.

Almost all of Noux's police short tales are constructed as mysteries, with a mysterious crime that needs to be solved. However, some have fair play puzzle plots, like "Murder Most Sweet" and "The Bonnie and Clyde Caper", while others have no clues to the solution or choice of killer. One simply can read them, and watch the plot unfold.

The police tales often conclude with Beau interrogating suspects, working to get a confession out of them. This part of the story can be elaborately developed.

While Beau is a New Orleans cop, several of the tales involve him with small town or rural Louisiana.

Noux's John Raven Beau stories appear in both Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine: "Murder Most Sweet" (1999), "Love and Murder" (July 2001), "A Gathering at Lake St. Catherine" (March 2003), "When the Levees Break" (November 2006), "The Bonnie and Clyde Caper" (August 2008); and in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine: "The Body in Crooked Bayou" (October 2003), "Pinning the Rap" (July/August 2005), "21 Steps" (January/February 2006), "Down on the Pontchartrain" (July/August 2007). "Love and Murder" gets Beau in the same tale as Noux's earlier police detective, Dino Francis LaStanza, but otherwise is one of the lesser Beau stories.

Lucien Caye

New Orleans Confidential (1997 - 2006) is an unusual combination of mystery and mainstream fiction. The stories all star Lucien Caye, a private eye in late 1940's New Orleans. In each tale Caye gets involved in a mysterious situation, which he tries to investigate - but the mysteries only occasionally turn out to involve crime. More often Caye gets involved in the colorful personal lives of various denizens of the Big Easy. Some of the best stories in the collection show Caye trying to help children who have come to him for assistance: "St. Expedite" (2000), "Christmas Weather" (2006), "Friscoville" (1999).

There are also real detective stories in the collection, including the powerful "Hard Rain" (1999). "Kissable Cleavage" (2006) is a light-hearted mystery, in the same story-telling vein as "Hard Rain".

In other stories, Caye gets involved with beautiful women clients, in the time-honored tradition of private eyes. Some of these stories become quite erotically explicit, but they tend to focus on the warm feelings Caye and the women have for each other, rather than anything mechanical. The stories as a whole are quite lyrical, and have a rich New Orleans atmosphere.

Lucien Caye tales have also been appearing in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine: "Too Wise" (November 2008). There is a Lucien Caye novel, Enamored (2012).

Jacques Dugas

Another series, the stories about policeman Jacques Dugas, show New Orleans in the later 19th Century. Noux's numerous police protagonists allow him to write about New Orleans in any era. The Dugas stories appear in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine: "A Killer's Killer" (October 2005), "No. 40 Basin Street" (November 2008).

"No. 40 Basin Street" includes some of Dugas' dreams. The whole tale is in fact dream-like. Dugas keeps watching colorful events, which unreel like a dream.

Other Series

"General Order No. 28" (2004) is a historical mystery set in a unique era: New Orleans under Northern military occupation during the US Civil War. Noux packs a remarkably detailed view of those times into his short tale. The story appears in the May 2004 issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.

Rex Burns

Rex Burns started a series in 2006 about Aboriginal Liaison Constable Leonard Smith of Australia. "In a Civilized Manner" (2006) offers an in-depth look at Aboriginal life and political issues, while "Shadow People" (2006) has a rich look at Smith's enormous police district in Western Australia as a whole.

"Shadow People" is also notable for mentioning Global Warming - something which is still rarely discussed in mystery fiction, presumably because it is censored by far right wing corporate publishers.

Rex Burns' short stories about Leonard Smith appear regularly in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine: "Shadow People" (June 2006), "In a Civilized Manner" (November 2006), "Homestead" (November 2007), "Constable Smith and the Bone Pointer" (October 2009), "Constable Smith and the Lost Dreamtime" (October 2012).

Burns earlier short story about detective Snake Garrick, "Dust Devil" (1994), bears some resemblance to the Leonard Smith tales to come. It is set in Colorado, not Australia. But like the Smith tales, it richly depicts a dry, thinly populated rural region, and the way of life of the people who live there. In both cases, such lifestyles are integrated in a mystery plot. "Dust Devil" is in the anthology The Mysterious West (1994) edited by Tony Hillerman.

Elizabeth Gunn

Elizabeth Gunn has written a series of police procedural novels, set in a medium size city in Minnesota. They all star her series sleuth Jake Hines, and the police team with which Hines works.

Gunn's novella "Too Many Santas" (2002) is found in How Still We See Thee Lie, a collection of four Christmas-themed mystery novellas by various authors. It contains much welcome comedy, as well as a bizarre and puzzling mystery.

Judith Lea Koretsky

Judith Lea Koretsky wrote an interesting short story about Inspector Stillman in "A Delicate Balance" (1994). This is one of several mystery works about Native American life that sprang up in the wake of Tony Hillerman's popular tales. The story appears in the July 1994 issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.

Steven F. Havill

Steven F. Havill writes procedurals about Bill Gastner, who works as a sheriff in small town New Mexico. The setting involves a detailed picture of rural life, in a part of the United States unfamiliar to most people.

"Red or Green?" (2003) is a novella in the anthology Deadly Morsels. It integrates its setting well with the mystery plot, offering an unusual motive for murder that is not common in urban areas.

Steven Torres

Sheriff Luis Gonzalo

Steven Torres writes about sleuth Sheriff Luis Gonzalo, the main lawman in a remote rural area in Puerto Rico. This setting is largely unfamiliar in mystery fiction. The stories build up a rich sense of the community, with many local types and typical farms and businesses all playing roles in the tales.

Luis Gonzalo appears in a series of novels. The first, Precinct Puerto Rico (2002), is an action thriller, featuring violent and gory battles between cops and crooks, and not much mystery. Action thrillers are a kind of book I don't usually read, and am not qualified to judge. It has a good discussion about moral issues, hunger and refugees (Chapter 7).

By contrast, such Gonzalo short stories as "UFO" (2005) and "The Valley of Angustias" (2006) are real mystery tales, with the police trying to figure out a baffling series of events. These short mystery tales are well done. Action in the tales is often triggered when dishonest outsiders move into the community, and start operating some hidden crooked scheme. Luis Gonzalo has to figure out what is going on - the scheme is hidden from view, and Gonzalo can only deduce its presence from its impact on the surface actions of the community.

Steven Torres' short stories about Luis Gonzalo appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine: "UFO" (November 2005) and "The Valley of Angustias" (October 2006).

The Case of the Strangled Man: a short story

"The Case of the Strangled Man" (2021) has two different impossible mysteries: "The Case of the Strangled Man" is set in a police station. This means it includes much info about the police. But it is NOT a police procedural in any traditional sense. This "police oriented, but not a procedural" structure has a paradoxical feel.

James H. Cobb

James H. Cobb has a series of short stories about Kevin Pulaski, who starts outs as a teenager in the Midwest, and who eventually becomes a police officer in the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. All the stories center on the car culture of the 1950's, and offer a nostalgic look back at the young hot rodders of the era. Most of the stories are mystery tales, with both the detection and the story background revolving around cars. The technical material about cars relates the stories to the tradition of Scientific Detection.

"Over the Edge" (2007) is an impossible crime story. Its solution is easily guessed, but the impossible crime situation shows originality.

Both "Framed" (2006) and "Body and Fender" (2008) have puzzle plots that depend on the collapse of identity among cars. Their punning titles reflect this.

Cobb's stories about Pulaski appear in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine: "The Sound of Justice" (July 2005), "Framed" (June 2006), "Over the Edge" (July 2007), "Body and Fender" (August 2008), "Desert and Swamp" (March/April, 2009).

William Hallstead

William Hallstead's "Pledge Night" (2004) offers a mystery, set against a nicely done comic background of a Public Television station in the United States, and its fund-raising pledge drive. The tale has a murder mystery, but not really a puzzle plot, or fair play clues to the killer. It does have an interesting criminal scheme, that is revealed as part of the solution. The story appears in the November 2004 issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.

"Museum Man" (2013) also has a "murder mystery, but not really a puzzle plot". But it does have dovetailing plot elements, that come together in ingenious ways.

Hallstead also writes under the pseudonym William Beechcroft.

John H. Dirckx

In recent years, veteran short story writer John H. Dirckx has published a long series of police procedural tales about homicide detective Cyrus Auburn. These take place in an unnamed, mid-size American city. They include all aspects of police investigation, from crime scene analysis by a forensics team to Internet background checks on the suspects. Dirckx includes a large continuing cast of police investigators. However, the emphasis is mainly on exploring the situation of the crime and how various connected characters fit in with it. Auburn usually then develops some unexpected theory about who and why the crime was committed. The best stories in the series tend to be fair play whodunits, which offer surprising but well-clued solutions in the best fair play detective tradition.

Sometimes the stories bring in motives for the killer at the finale that are unexpected. These can be based on some hidden activity of the killer.

The Auburn tales often open on some public festival, party, entertainment. This can be anything from a nature tour to a flea market to dinner theater. The stories tend to give a back stage look at how this is staged, and the characters involved in presenting it to the public.

Next, each tale tends to focus on a particular business or institution: a book store, a small-time restaurant, a local University department. These tend to be small, locally operated businesses with a tiny staff - all of whom immediately become suspects. The Auburn tales never look at huge corporate conglomerates, big-time academics or the famous. They concentrate instead on portraits of small business America away from centers of power. How such small companies or academic departments operate is fully explored in the stories. There is an enormously detailed look at the physical plant of the business. Every object on the premises can be listed, along with a vivid description of the place's overall look and feel. These objects often took years to build up, and give a pronounced look at the character and personalities of the people who work there.

Science often times make an appearance in the stories. It is used to describe and explain some aspect of the business and the murder. The science tends to be tightly focused on one aspect of the crime, often the part used in the actual murder. We get looks at some little known, out of the way fact that is peculiar to the business, and which has an impact on the crime. The focus is tightly controlled. Still, it links the Auburn tales to the tradition of the scientific detective story.

Dirckx likes settings near the water. These are most prominent in "Midnight on Cemetery Bog", but they run though other of the tales. These settings are not glamorous. Instead, they can involve "routine" - but interesting - infrastructure. In this too, the Auburn tales follow the scientific detection tradition. "Midnight on Cemetery Bog", "Murder on the Rise", "Green Fish Blues", "Eliminate the Middleman", "Real Men Die", and "Race You to Coffin Castle!" are notable for the elaborate landscapes that play a role in the mystery.

The Cyrus Auburn stories appear in both Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine: "Midnight on Cemetery Bog" (August 2001), "A Thing of the Past" (August 2003), "In a Pool of His Own Blood" (November 2004), "Race You to Coffin Castle!" (August 2010); and in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine: "Murder on the Rise" (September 2003), "Ah, Rash Deceiver!" (December 2003), "Green Fish Blues" (January/February 2006), "The Dog in the Daytime" (July/August 2006), "Not Your Everyday Poison (April 2007), "Numskullduggery" (January/February 2008), "First Cousin, Twice Removed" (September 2008), "Eliminate the Middleman" (January/February 2009), "Real Men Die" (September 2009), "Grit" (September 2010), "Meltdown" (November 2011), "Window of Time" (November 2012).

Yokoyama Hideo

Yokoyama Hideo's "Motive" (2000) won the Best Short Story Award for 2000 from the Mystery Writers of Japan. It was later published in English translation, in the May 2008 issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.

"Motive" shows Yokoyama Hideo as a skilled all-arounder. A police procedural tale, "Motive" has the detailed, inside look at police procedure (here in Tokyo), and realistic characterization that are de rigueur in the procedural subgenre. It also has a solidly constructed puzzle plot. As the title suggests, the sleuth is trying to find out the mysterious motive, for a theft in a police station, as well as identify the culprit. Characterization, police procedure and puzzle all interact with each other, in a logical and ingenious fashion.

Hopefully, more of Yokoyama Hideo's mystery fiction will be translated into English.

Susan Fry

Susan Fry wrote "Peat" (2003), a mystery short story starring Mitra Mohanraj, a British policewoman of Indian descent. The tale has a good puzzle plot. "Peat" is notable for the way in which social commentary ideas about the situation are also woven into the puzzle plot aspects of the story: they form structural building blocks for different solutions proposed in the story. There are a lot of such solutions: Fry's tale resembles E.C. Bentley and Ellery Queen, in the number of different possible solutions the author proposes, and in the compass of a very short story.

"Peat" also evokes another ancient mystery tradition: that of R. Austin Freeman, and his interest in "dispose the corpse" puzzles. Freeman's interest in British antiquities, some also found in Freeman's follower H.C. Bailey, also pops up in this story.

"Peat" appeared in the December 2003 Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.

Bruce Graham

Bruce Graham wrote an amusing tale about Public Attorney Lori Prewitt, and her clever scheme to convict a sinister mobster in "The Charge Not Filed" (2004). This tale is not a mystery story in the strict sense - there is no mysterious situation to be solved - but the ingenious plotting is in the tradition of the mystery tale. Graham clearly knows a lot about law: the story is full of legal detail about a prosecutor's life.

"Either Way" (2007) about policewoman Sharon Lucelli is in the same mode. Although it is about a police officer, not a prosecutor, it has a courtroom framework, and also features an ingenious scheme to trap a villain. Here we look at legal issues involved in gathering DNA.

Bruce Graham's short stories appear in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine: "Four Lawyers" (April 2001), "The Charge Not Filed" (January/February 2004), "Either Way" (October 2007).

David Knadler

Newcomer David Knadler has started a series about Montana policeman John Ennis. "Karaoke Night" (2006) offers a witty satirical look at the "new" Montana, and the rich white people who move there to live what they consider to be fantasy lives of cowboys on the frontier. Class issues are never far from the foreground in Knadler, with a look at what poverty means in America and the very restricted options of the working poor.

David Knadler's stories about John Ennis appear in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine: "Karaoke Night" (September/October 2006).

Eric Wright

Eric Wright's short stories are collected in A Killing Climate, available from its publisher Crippen & Landru. The best detective stories in the book, "One of a Kind" (1998), "Caves of Ice" (2002), "The Lady of Shalott" (2003), are notable for their complex detective work, often using oblique and off-trail approaches. This detection is often accompanied by layers of reflection on the work, from the police and officials involved, by the narrator, and by other characters in the story. People reflect on the detective technique, the sociological implications of the investigation, whether other approaches would work, how such things are viewed by detective fiction authors, etc. The author shows both wry humor and a supple intelligence in such reflections and commentary.

The stories display Wright's ability to describe whole ways of life. "The Lady of Shalott" looks at construction and neighborhood life in modern Toronto, while "One of a Kind" and "Caves of Ice" recreate Canada's far North of fifty years ago.

The little locked room story, "An Irish Jig" (2001), is pleasant in its story telling, but not very creative with its puzzle plot.

The book also contains a number of crime stories without mystery or detection. Although these too have some of the reflective approaches of Wright's real detective fiction, they tend to be less interesting as a whole - "Twins" (1990) is the best. The crime stories tend to be the earlier works in the collection, while most of the stories from 1998 on feature real mystery and detection. Just as Wright's mystery stories use a reflective technique of detection, so does "Twins" deal reflectively with its crime scheme. The scheme is discussed, explored for options, and finally varied, just like the detection in Wright's mysteries.

Margaret Maron

Margaret Maron's "Lieutenant Harald and the Impossible Gun" (1991) is an impossible crime tale that should be better known.

Barbara Cleverly

Barbara Cleverly's "A Black-Tie Affair" (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, August 2008) is a police procedural mixing sophisticated comedy and mystery. The tale is notable for its elaborately evoked social setting, and for the complex ways in which the police become more and more involved with it. The formal wear "black tie" of the title also plays an ever-increasing role in the story. The tale is a whodunit mystery, but it never develops into a fair play puzzle plot. However, its intricate, logically unified story gives pleasure. The police themselves do rigorously follow up evidence - both financial trails and physical clues.

Detective-Inspector Richard Jennings seems unusually knowledgeable about matters of clothes and style - he seems like a refined policeman sleuth in the tradition of Ngaio Marsh's Roderick Alleyn. Meanwhile, his lady friend Ellie Hardwick provides the architectural expertise.

Lou Manfredo

Lou Manfredo's "Central Islin, U.S.A." (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, August 2009) stars retired cop Gus Oliver, but it essentially is a police procedural anyway. The motive that is eventually uncovered is (deliberately) far-fetched. But the logical structure of the tale and its detective work is strong: Comments by Bob Schneider. Bob Schneider writes:

"Manfredo really "got" the flavor of that part of Long Island during the late 1950's. It brought back memories of the many hamlets and villages that dotted the Long Island landscape between the Gold Coast North Shore "Gatsby" region and the East End "Hamptons" region.

The only other writer who manages to capture the Long Island I know is Susan Isaacs in her Judith Singer mysteries.

The world Manfredo describes would greatly change with the paving over and house building boom that exploded just after 1959 in that area. Thankfully, the State of New York managed to acquire much of the "thirty-five hundred acres of unspoiled, pristine pine barrens" surrounding the Connetquot River. It's now a state park, Connetquot River State Park Preserve, that pretty much has retained the wild beauty that Manfredo alludes to.

I don't know all the intricacies of using actual place names in fiction writing. Manfredo used some real town and street names, in other cases he changed the spelling of places by just one letter. Why? I don't know. Susan Isaacs almost always uses real place names in her Judith Singer stories---that's why I like her mysteries. I can compare her descriptions of places to what I know of them. Oddly enough, the only fictional name Isaacs employs is the name of the hamlet Judith Singer lives in. All the other towns, cities, villages and hamlets Judith travels to are real Long Island places."