I love wilderness settings, both in books and real life. Something about wild places has always fascinated me, and if you ask me my favorite vacation spots—Vancouver Island, Cape Breton Island, Alaska—you’ll notice a theme: rugged mountains, rocky shores and endless forest. I even write surrounded by forest, in an off-the-grid cabin in our back field. It’s an optical illusion, with our neighbors living not far beyond the surrounding woods, but if I look out any window, I see only trees and wildflowers, deer and wild turkeys…and occasionally the neighbor’s St. Bernard dogs—but I tell myself they’re just there in case I ever need rescue.
Most mysteries I read take place in cities. I can see the appeal—so many people, so many stories and lives intersecting. But if you tell me a mystery is set in the wilderness, it goes straight on my to-read list. As amazing as the great outdoors is, it can be a terrifying place too, invoking that ingrained fear of the unknown, of watchful predators, of nature itself, waiting to reclaim us if we lose our way. It’s also the perfect place to hide a body. The infamous shallow grave, often in a spot not far from civilization, but hiding terrible crimes for years—sometimes forever.
So, in praise of the wild whodunit, here are just a few of my favorite mystery series set in the great outdoors:
Anna Pigeon series
Setting: Various US national parks
First book: Track of the Cat (1994)
Kate Shugak series
Setting: Generic Alaskan national park
First book: A Cold Day for Murder (1992)
Joe Pickett series
Setting: Wyoming in the Big Horn Mountains
First book: Open Season (2001)
Kelley Armstrong graduated with a degree in psychology and then studied computer programming. Now, she is a full-time writer and parent, and she lives with her husband and three children in rural Ontario, Canada.