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
George Sueño and Ernie Bascom tales
Gonzo Gonzales tales
Murder in Central Park (2000) (Chapters 1 - 5)
Murder on the Waterfront (2001) (Chapters 1 - 6)
Bill Donovan stories
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
Jake Hines tales
Kaise Masayuki stories
Bill Gastner stories
John Ennis tales
Sigrid Harald tales
Richard Jennings tales
Gus Oliver tales
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'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.
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.
"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.
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).
"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.
"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.
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.
"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.
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).
"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).
"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.
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).
"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.
"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.
"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's stories about John Ennis appear in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine: "Karaoke Night" (September/October 2006).
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.
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.
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."