Wed
Jan 18 2017 3:00pm

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! Read her exclusive guest post, and make sure to sign in and comment for a chance to win her debut novel, The Last Place You Look!

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.


Ohio

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
 

Michigan

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
 

Indiana

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.


Illinois

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
 

Wisconsin

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
 

Minnesota

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
 

Iowa

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.
 

Nebraska

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.
 

Comment below for a chance to win a copy of The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka!

To enter, make sure you're a registered member of the site and simply leave a comment below.

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The Last Place You Look Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at https://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2017/01/a-driving-tour-of-midwestern-mysteries-kristen-lepionka-comment-sweepstakes beginning at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) January 18, 2017. Sweepstakes ends 1:59 p.m. ET January 31, 2017. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

 

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Kristen Lepionka grew up mostly in her local public library, where she could be found with a big stack of adult mysteries before she was out of middle school. In the name of writing research, she has gone on multiple police ride-alongs, taken a lock-picking class, trespassed through an abandoned granary, and hiked inside an Icelandic volcano. Her writing has been selected for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Grift, and Black Elephant. She is also the editor of Betty Fedora, a semi-annual journal that publishes feminist crime fiction, and lives in Columbus, Ohio with her partner and two cats.

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138 comments
Rhonda Barkhouse
1. Rhobar
Great article. I like being introduced to new authors. This novel looks good.
Jane Schwarz
2. Janeschwarz
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.
Deb Philippon
3. DebP
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. ????
Gordon Bingham
5. gordonbingham
Never lived in the Midwest but have enjoyed many mysteries set there...
Eileen Lepionka
6. Emlepionka
So looking forward to "The Last Place You Look" by Kristen Lepionka. This is one talented writer!
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.
Thomas Walker
10. twalker
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.
13. Linda A
I enjoy mysteries & thrillers from states I've lived in or visited. Try Joe R Lansdale's SAVAGE SEASON set in Texas.
John Smith
14. jsmith2jsmith
Yeah, the Quad Cities are pretty dangerous and unpleasant.
Theresa
15. theresajs
well, my tbr list is definitely longer now! =)
looking foward to checking out the authors that I didn't know about!
L
17. LStirling
I loved the breakdown by area. It would be fun to do this in several regional areas. Would love to read this debut novel.
Rylee Hollingsworth
18. RyleeE
This is such a cool way to read. I'm so excited to start the series from Indiana!!
Sandra Slack
20. mz.pembroke
Love the travel of mysteries blog and would love to have her debut novel!
ZS Seastrunk
21. appalachianannez
Yes indeed, taking a lock picking class to make her story more believeable is great. I am ready to read this one.
Julie Matthews
22. Julie1212
These sounds like some interesting recommendations! It was such a cute idea to group them as a "driving tour."
Tammy Z Evans
26. tzevans
We used to live in Cincinnati and then in Chicago so this is really interesting for me.
Cecelia Rohrbacher
31. notarobot
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
32. roy gruss
AWESOME!!!!
33. Jillian
Um, aren't there actually 12 states in the Midwest? You are missing Missouri and Kansas.
Beverly Henry
38. bevhen
I would love to win these great books
Michael Carter
40. rubydog
Yes, please count me in for this sweepstakes.
Thanks!
Miriam Downey
41. miriamdowney
Sounds great. I think William Kent Kruger should be added for Minnesota.
Clydia DeFreese
42. clydia
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.
Clydia DeFreese
43. clydia
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.
Susan Pertierra
44. orchidlady01
I love how Lee Child uses the flat landscape of Nebraska as a character inhis book.
Linda Scott
45. Slashy
Thanks for the great suggestions of new books and authors!
Kris Kaminski
46. kjkski
Road trip!..even if its only in a good book.
Kris Kaminski
47. kjkski
Road trip!..even if its only in a good book.
Sara Lontcoski
48. smml2
Sounds very interesting! Can't wait to read!
Sue Farrell
49. Suekey12
I always enjoy mysteries set in my home state of Minnesota, that's why I read Ellen Hart's books. Thanks for the contest.
50. bogie
Wonderful post and giveaway. interesting.
susan beamon
53. susanbeamon
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.
Lee Ann Cole
55. lacole527@gmail.com
I like to read thrillers on places I have connections - lately it's Colorado and NM
Ellie Lewis
56. Guido
Love the article. These are all fascinating.
Vernon Luckert
58. vl4095
Would love to win - since I live here in the MidWest.
Pearl Berger
59. Sunshine
Enjoyed learning about the mysteries in the MidWest. Thanks.
60. Amanda Banks
This novel sounds great! Lately the Midwest is my favorite setting- Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio.
Carl
61. Carl Scott
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
Joan Schramm
62. joansch
Thank you! This gives me some great ideas for new books to try!
Sharon Haas
63. kazul
Thanks for the suggestions! I like books that have regional flavor.
Esther Whatley
65. ewhatley
I've never been to Nebraska, but I'll be sure to read about Jack Reacher's adventures there.
Sherri Swalinkavich
66. sherrisean
the Nolan series from Iowa sounds really GOOD. Actually all the books do. Thx (=
Joyce Mitchell
67. JoyceLm
I love regional mysteries. Thanks for the chance to win.
Ruth F
69. piedmontgirl
Mostly I have stuck to Pacific Northwest adventures but the Midwest is intriguing.
Darlene Goodman
72. darlenesbooknook
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!
Lori Provenzano
76. Mountainesque
If I won this giveaway I'd have a roadtrip on my bookshelves. I know these books would get a lot of mileage!
Debra Sluis
77. Grammadeb
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.
78. Slashy
Great new books and authors
79. 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.
Russ Cross
80. Inertia-Lad
There's a lot of interesting books in this article. I need to look for them.
Pamela Frady
81. nursepam45
Learned where some of my mystery writers are from,good article. Would love to read her book
Terrie Ash
83. teria222
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.
Diana  Meyer
84. vvwoman
I hope I win this sweepstakes. I love mysteries.
Rebecca Boukikaz
85. RebeccaBoukikaz
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.
Jackie Wisherd
86. JackieW
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.
Chris Wolak
87. 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!
Jean Dickinson
88. justjean
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".
Barbara Fish
90. Barb Fish
Never knew the Midwest was such a dangerous area! I hope I win the book.
91. Wendy Allex
Interesting roundup!
92. Kara Marks
This sounds like a great book--it's right up my alley!
Kara Marks
93. karaleigh2
This sounds like a great book--it's right up my alley!
John Davis
94. John
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!
Melissa Keith
96. melly801
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.
Rita Anderson
97. tefenut
Thanks Kristen for listing some authors that were new to me!
Rena Sollish
99. Rena
These are good mysteries. Would love to win this book!
Celia Fowler
100. bobandcelia
Thanks for the tour of the Midwest. My TBR pile is now teetering!
Jim Belcher
101. librarypops
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.
Mary Ann Woods
105. puttputt1198eve
I appreciate the info on all these authors. The book sounds like something I would enjoy.
charles j hauser jr
106. admiral
The Last Place You Look is definitely something I would like to read
Barbara
107. braeuber@sbcglobal.net
I'm from a small town in the Midwest, so this book really appeals to me!
bill norris
110. bnchile
so cool to see places i know as settings for cool books.
Barbara Bibel
111. bbibel
These sound great. I love Sarah Paretsky and Lev Raphael.
JAMES LYNAM
113. jpl123456
Mystery from Michigan sounds fasinating.
114. SallyW
I will be putting this book on my to be read list.
Sally Schmidt
115. bigcootie
Great post, lots of names to add to my TBR. And I would love to win the book. Thanks.
vicki wurgler
116. bison61
I live in the midwest-love to read this
Joyce Lokitus
118. Joyce710113
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!
Lorena Keech
119. llkee
Thanks for the overview. Lots of books I'm interested in.
Carol Turner
121. cjpturner
Another new author - and a midwestern mystery. It couldn't get better!
vickie dailey
122. kidcurry
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 :)
Jerry Marquardt
128. versatileer
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.
Rhonda Stefani
129. RStefani72
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!!
Sandy Klocinski
132. ATTEA2D
Great post! Great book! Would love to win
johnna smith
133. johnnabooks@hotmail.com
I'm proudly from the Midwest and greatly appreciate the vast array of Midwest authors!!
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