A Driving Tour of Midwestern Mysteries

With so many mysteries set in big cities, Kristen Lepionka spreads the love to the Midwest, outlining some of the best mysteries in the region!


To a detective character from a big city like New York or Los Angeles, the Midwest might look like one big flyover zone. But to plenty of mystery writers (myself included), the Midwest looks like home—and a good setting for a crime novel. We have plenty of cynicism to counteract that apple-cheeked, earnest idea of Midwestern values, and wild imaginations besides. Here is a selection of mysteries set in each of the ten states that officially comprise the Midwest, at least according to the census bureau. The geographic region, that is, not the mysteries. I don’t know if the census bureau likes mysteries, but I hope they do.


My pick here is Andrew Welsh-Huggins’s series set in Columbus, starring Andy Hayes, a disgraced former Ohio State footballer turned private eye. OSU football is a big deal here, and Welsh-Huggins works that into the fabric of the story in a cool way. Check out Fourth Down and Out for Andy’s first case.

Other roadside attractions: Michael Koryta’s Lincoln Perry series; Lynn S. Hightower’s Flashpoint


The Motor City is a common setting for mysteries—masters like Elmore Leonard and Loren D. Estleman have penned novels set here. But you can check out another side of Detroit in Lori Roy’s Until She Comes Home, a historical mystery and an unbelievably tense masterpiece about what happens when a young developmentally disabled woman disappears from her 1950s working-class neighborhood.

Other roadside attractions: Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley; the Nick Hoffman series by Lev Raphael


Known for the Indy 500 and, fittingly, the invention of the gasoline pump, Indiana is also home to David Levien’s Frank Behr series. Frank is a hulking ex-cop-turned-PI with his share of demons. His series starts with City of the Sun, where Frank tries to help the father of a missing twelve-year-old boy.


Chicago, of course, has no shortage of brilliant crime fiction set there. But for a real taste of the region, venture downstate to Little Egypt for Down Don’t Bother Me by Jason Miller, a darkly funny mystery in the heart of coal country.

Other roadside attractions: Sara Paretsky, Michael Harvey, Lori Rader-Day’s The Black Hour


Ellie MacIntosh is a Milwaukee homicide detective in Kate Watterson’s thrilling series. Check out Fractured, which combines mystery and romance elements against a frantic search for a serial killer.

Other roadside attractions: Victoria Houston’s Loon Lake fly-fishing mystery series


Head west into Minnesota and stop in Minneapolis for a dinner date with Jane Lawless, restaurant owner and crime solver in Ellen Hart’s iconic lesbian mystery series, which is now 24 entries deep.

Other roadside attractions: Jake Hines series by Elizabeth Gunn; Twin Cities Noir from Akashic Books


You’ll need the wayback machine for this one: Max Allan Collins’s Spree, the final entry in his Nolan series. There’s a lot to like here: blood, gangsters, and a heist at a Quad Cities shopping mall against the multicolored panic of Christmas shopping—a winning combination even thirty years after its release.


Lee Child’s Jack Reacher gets around—in fact, that series alone could be something of a murder tour of the Midwest (and beyond). But in Worth Dying For, Reacher stops at the rural Nebraska Apollo Inn, where he gets into a beef with the family that runs the only trucking company in the area, and therefore has a death grip on the town.

Other roadside attractions: Alex Kava’s A Necessary Evil; Dan Chaon’s Await Your Reply

North Dakota

Another historical entry on our tour, See Also Murder by Larry D. Sweazy takes us to 1964 North Dakota, where Marjorie Trumaine’s work as a professional indexer results in the local sheriff consulting her for help in identifying a mysterious medallion found at a murder scene. You can feel the loneliness of the prairie in the pages of this beautifully written crime novel.

South Dakota

Mercy Gunderson is basically a badass. A Black Ops sniper on medical leave for a detached retina, Mercy returns to her South Dakota home when her father dies. She then becomes entangled in a criminal investigation when a body is found on her family’s property in No Mercy, the 1st installment in Lori Armstrong’s gritty series.


  1. Rhonda Barkhouse

    Great article. I like being introduced to new authors. This novel looks good.

  2. Jane Schwarz

    I always knew that the Midwest had great authors and I am thrilled that you mentioned ones that I am not familiar with. Great work. Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy of your book, THE LAST PLACE YOU LOOK.

  3. Deb Philippon

    So many interesting books to read. Wish me luck!

  4. Katie Steele

    This should be fun and good reads. you always had great taste in books. I can’t wait to read your new one. ????

  5. Gordon Bingham

    Never lived in the Midwest but have enjoyed many mysteries set there…

  6. Eileen Lepionka

    So looking forward to “The Last Place You Look” by Kristen Lepionka. This is one talented writer!

  7. Patrice Gottfried

    Great books!

  8. Larry D. Sweazy

    Thanks for the nod, Kristen. Looking forward to reading your book.

  9. Myra Dunlap

    My to read list just got a little longer.

  10. Thomas Walker

    I have read a few mentioned above and have really enjoyed them. Always like to hear of new authors. would love to win the book.

  11. Therese Terndrup

    Thank you for a great list of new mysteries to read. Really happy to see my friend Andrew’ Welsh-Huggins’ books mentioned for Ohio.

  12. jean olaughlin

    Thanks for the list. I’m a midwesterner.

  13. jean olaughlin

    Thanks for the list. I’m a midwesterner.

  14. Linda A

    I enjoy mysteries & thrillers from states I’ve lived in or visited. Try Joe R Lansdale’s SAVAGE SEASON set in Texas.

  15. John Smith

    Yeah, the Quad Cities are pretty dangerous and unpleasant.

  16. Theresa

    well, my tbr list is definitely longer now! =)
    looking foward to checking out the authors that I didn’t know about!

  17. lasvegasnv

    interesting places

  18. L

    I loved the breakdown by area. It would be fun to do this in several regional areas. Would love to read this debut novel.

  19. Rylee Hollingsworth

    This is such a cool way to read. I’m so excited to start the series from Indiana!!


    YES, YES, YES. Send it.


    YES, YES, YES. Send it.

  22. Sandra Slack

    Love the travel of mysteries blog and would love to have her debut novel!

  23. ZS Seastrunk

    Yes indeed, taking a lock picking class to make her story more believeable is great. I am ready to read this one.

  24. Julie Matthews

    These sounds like some interesting recommendations! It was such a cute idea to group them as a “driving tour.”

  25. James Joyce

    Sounds like a roadtrip…

  26. Ann Muth

    sounds good


    Thank you.

  28. Tammy Z Evans

    We used to live in Cincinnati and then in Chicago so this is really interesting for me.

  29. Alison Almquist

    What a fun trup.

  30. david basile

    lots of good mysteries

  31. patricia skinner

    I love a good mystery.

  32. Lori Walker


  33. Cecelia Rohrbacher

    interesting post – like the Driving Tour – have read some of the authors but a few are new to me and will check them out – thanks for the sweeps too

  34. roy gruss


  35. Jillian

    Um, aren’t there actually 12 states in the Midwest? You are missing Missouri and Kansas.

  36. Kim Keithline

    sounds great sign me up

  37. luc durazo


  38. Susanne Troop

    Love a good mystery!

  39. Susanne Troop

    Love a good mystery!

  40. Beverly Henry

    I would love to win these great books

  41. Marlyn Beebe

    Sounds great!

  42. Michael Carter

    Yes, please count me in for this sweepstakes.

  43. Miriam Downey

    Sounds great. I think William Kent Kruger should be added for Minnesota.

  44. Clydia DeFreese

    Usually I’m so involved with the character I scarcely notice what city I’m in…….it’s an interesting point of view….I look forward to your book.

  45. Clydia DeFreese

    Usually I’m so involved with the character I scarcely notice what city I’m in…….it’s an interesting point of view….I look forward to your book.

  46. Susan Pertierra

    I love how Lee Child uses the flat landscape of Nebraska as a character inhis book.

  47. Linda Scott

    Thanks for the great suggestions of new books and authors!

  48. Kris Kaminski

    Road trip!..even if its only in a good book.

  49. Kris Kaminski

    Road trip!..even if its only in a good book.

  50. Sara Lontcoski

    Sounds very interesting! Can’t wait to read!

  51. Sue Farrell

    I always enjoy mysteries set in my home state of Minnesota, that’s why I read Ellen Hart’s books. Thanks for the contest.

  52. bogie

    Wonderful post and giveaway. interesting.

  53. pat murphy

    I would like to read this .

  54. Patrick Murphy

    This is very helpful.

  55. susan beamon

    I guess I don’t really pay attention to location so much when I read mysteries. While I know a big city mystery won’t translate to a small town, I find one big city is pretty much like another big city. Only the names are changed.

  56. julie hedrick

    Want to read. 🙂

  57. Lee Ann Cole

    I like to read thrillers on places I have connections – lately it’s Colorado and NM

  58. Ellie Lewis

    Love the article. These are all fascinating.

  59. Deborah Dumm

    These sound really awesome!

  60. Vernon Luckert

    Would love to win – since I live here in the MidWest.

  61. Pearl Berger

    Enjoyed learning about the mysteries in the MidWest. Thanks.

  62. Amanda Banks

    This novel sounds great! Lately the Midwest is my favorite setting- Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio.

  63. Carl

    So many great names up there. Put me down for a healthy dose of
    Michael Koryta and Sara Paretsky please. Thanks for the chance to win a book

  64. Joan Schramm

    Thank you! This gives me some great ideas for new books to try!

  65. Sharon Haas

    Thanks for the suggestions! I like books that have regional flavor.

  66. Sally Kohlenberg

    Looks good. ould love a copy

  67. Sally Kohlenberg

    Looks good. ould love a copy

  68. Esther Whatley

    I’ve never been to Nebraska, but I’ll be sure to read about Jack Reacher’s adventures there.

  69. Sherri Swalinkavich

    the Nolan series from Iowa sounds really GOOD. Actually all the books do. Thx (=

  70. Joyce Mitchell

    I love regional mysteries. Thanks for the chance to win.

  71. Suzanne McMannis

    Yes, pease send more mystery to Texas.

  72. Ruth F

    Mostly I have stuck to Pacific Northwest adventures but the Midwest is intriguing.

  73. Karen Mikusak

    Would love to win!

  74. Karl Stenger

    I would love to read the book.

  75. Darlene Goodman

    Thanks for the great list of recommended mysteries in the midwest. One of my 2017 reading challenges is to read a book set in every state, so I hope you’ll do another post like this for the other states! Thanks for the chance to win The Last Place You Look!

  76. Barbara Lima

    Give me the Midwest mystery tour!

  77. Jeffrey Tretin

    Thank you for the giveaway!

  78. Lorraine Bowen

    Looks good, fingers crossed.

  79. Lori P

    If I won this giveaway I’d have a roadtrip on my bookshelves. I know these books would get a lot of mileage!

  80. Debra Sluis

    I am happy I discovered this website, I am thankful for the scoop on new books for me to read. I get deleriously happy when the library actually has them!! Some they do, some they do not….. I hope I win this one.

  81. Slashy

    Great new books and authors

  82. Teelioli

    Looks like good stuff. I’m a little disappointed that my home state of Missouri was left out. I thought K.C. or St. Louis would have had the requisite criminal activity but maybe they just aren’t chosen by authors. The book looks excellent though.

  83. Russ Cross

    There’s a lot of interesting books in this article. I need to look for them.

  84. Pamela Frady

    Learned where some of my mystery writers are from,good article. Would love to read her book

  85. Daniel Morrell

    always like a mystery

  86. Terrie

    Would love to win a copy of The Last Place You Look! Being from Indiana, I’ll also check out David Levien’s Frank Behr series. Thanks for the info.

  87. Diana Meyer

    I hope I win this sweepstakes. I love mysteries.

  88. Rebecca Boukikaz

    This is article is very good. I always like to find new authors and having midwestern settings is a bonus. I think I will have to check all of the authors out.

  89. Jackie Wisherd

    Some of my favorite authors are mentioned as writing about the Midwest. I would like to read the books listed under the state of Nebraska.

  90. Chris Wolak

    Nice post, Kristen. Just added your novel to my Goodreads TBR. I live in Connecticut now, but am originally from Chicago. I’ve also lived in Nebraska and look forward to checking out those Cornhusker novels. For now, I’m off to check out Betty Fedora!

  91. Jean Dickinson

    Kristen Lepionka’s “driving tour of U.S.midwestern mysteries is a fascinating “read” and I look forward to Her debut “Last Place You Look”.

  92. Laurent Latulippe

    Sounds like a good read.

  93. Barbara Fish

    Never knew the Midwest was such a dangerous area! I hope I win the book.

  94. Wendy Allex

    Interesting roundup!

  95. Kara Marks

    This sounds like a great book–it’s right up my alley!

  96. Kara Marks

    This sounds like a great book–it’s right up my alley!

  97. John Davis

    Looks like if we win there will be a battle here. My wife is from Illinois, while I’m from the (Mid) west of the Mississippi. Good that you mention these great finds from ‘flyover’ country! Thanks!

  98. Saundra K. Warren

    Looks really good!!!

  99. Melissa Keith

    Hee. My hubby’s from Michigan and I tease him a lot. Don’t ask…though we do live in TX and I’m from here, love the DALLAS COWBOYS, and always talk about the great big, open, beautiful sky. It’s fun to read a mystery set in your state. Especially if you’ve traveled all over and know the area. I will say Michigan has given us some great authors and musicians. 🙂 Shout out to Elmore Leonard! (R.I.P.) Would love to read LAST PLACE YOU LOOK. Cheers.

  100. Rita Anderson

    Thanks Kristen for listing some authors that were new to me!

  101. Greg

    Sounds interesting.

  102. Rena

    These are good mysteries. Would love to win this book!

  103. Celia Fowler

    Thanks for the tour of the Midwest. My TBR pile is now teetering!

  104. Jim Belcher

    Minnesota–John Sandford–Lucas Davenport
    Midwest, a really bad name for the area since the country moved past St Louis about 150 or more ago.

  105. Kim Johnston


  106. Mark Bailey

    What a great book to read.

  107. Patrice Gottfried

    Would love to read this!

  108. Mary Ann Woods

    I appreciate the info on all these authors. The book sounds like something I would enjoy.

  109. charles j hauser jr

    The Last Place You Look is definitely something I would like to read

  110. Barbara

    I’m from a small town in the Midwest, so this book really appeals to me!

  111. Laura Shangraw

    Driving Tour-neat concept.

  112. Laura Shangraw

    Driving Tour-neat concept.

  113. bill norris

    so cool to see places i know as settings for cool books.

  114. Barbara Bibel

    These sound great. I love Sarah Paretsky and Lev Raphael.

  115. Kimberly Dull

    I love the concept of this.


    Mystery from Michigan sounds fasinating.

  117. SallyW

    I will be putting this book on my to be read list.

  118. Sally Schmidt

    Great post, lots of names to add to my TBR. And I would love to win the book. Thanks.

  119. vicki wurgler

    I live in the midwest-love to read this

  120. Paula Strickland

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  121. Joyce Lokitus

    My bucket list is to visit all 50 states. Being a huge murder mystery reader, I like to combine that goal with my love of reading. When I am traveling to a state, it is fun to first buy a mystery book where the story takes place in that state. Thank you for the list of many good books I can purchase to read as I make my way to the midwestern section of states on my bucket list!

  122. Lorena Keech

    Thanks for the overview. Lots of books I’m interested in.

  123. Susan Smoaks

    thank you for the chance to win

  124. CarolT

    Another new author – and a midwestern mystery. It couldn’t get better!

  125. vickie dailey

    great list of books that sound like really good reads – two of my favorite minnesota authors are William Kent Krueger and John Sanford love them both – have added some of the above books to my TBR list – love a good mystery 🙂

  126. Anastasia

    I’d love to check this out 🙂

  127. kathy pease

    Thanks so much for the chance 🙂

  128. Tricha Leary

    love to see this

  129. Ed Nemmers

    I heart midwestern values.

  130. Heather Cowley

    How fun! Great idea, as well.

  131. Jerry Marquardt

    I can’t wait to readA Driving Tour of Midwestern Mysteries. I think that it looks like a very informative book, and I never knew there was such mystery amongst the states.

  132. Rhonda Stefani

    Wonderful hearing about authors I’m not familiar with, have quite a few to add to my TBR list! Would love, love, love a copy of The Last Place You Look!!

  133. Buddy Garrett

    I want to read it. It sounds great.

  134. Carl White

    [b]Count me in.[/b]

  135. Sandy Klocinski

    Great post! Great book! Would love to win

  136. johnna smith

    I’m proudly from the Midwest and greatly appreciate the vast array of Midwest authors!!

  137. Kat Emerick

    Thank you for the chance.

  138. Daniel Vice

    This looks great

  139. Lily

    Thanks for the great giveaway!

Comments are closed.