Sunday, November 14, 2021

Celebrating Mysteries: the USA


With today's post, I finally come to the last list of crime fiction authors who write series with an exceptionally strong sense of place. Will I be listing all my favorite authors who fit this criterion? Absolutely not. By not listing all my favorites perhaps I'll come back to this topic in the future to add more. You never can tell!
Where possible, I have linked the books I list to my reviews. If I read the book pre-blog, I have linked the book to its page on Amazon so you can learn more about it.

This list is a long one, so get something to drink, get comfy, and let's get this show on the road!


Stan Jones writes an excellent police procedural series set in northern Alaska that features Inupiat police officer Nathan Active. Nathan was raised by a white couple in Anchorage but his job has taken him back to his roots, and the series shows him gradually acclimating to life at the Arctic Circle and the customs of the people who live in the small villages he serves.
The characters are good, the stories are good, and I have learned so much about that part of Alaska and the culture and customs of the Native people who live there.
The first three books in the series are:


As you can see, I had a difficult time narrowing down my choices for Arizona, a state I know rather well. I went with four authors, one of whom you may not be very familiar with.

J.A. Jance writes a marvelous series set in Cochise County, Arizona, that features Sheriff Joanna Brady. The series covers the sweep of her career as sheriff from newbie to seasoned professional as well as her personal life. The hub of the series  is the town of Bisbee. Jance grew up there, and-- I can testify to this as I've spent a lot of time there-- she brings the town and the county to life. The first book in the Joanna Brady series is Desert Heat.

Jon Talton is the author of the David Mapstone mystery series set in Phoenix. Mapstone is a former college history professor who now works for the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department, mainly on cold cases. Talton grew up in Phoenix and knows its history well. I enjoy this series for the characters, the mysteries, and for how much I've learned about the city in which I live. The first book is Concrete Desert.

Sinclair Browning is the author of the Trade Ellis mystery series set in the Tucson area. Ellis is a rancher and part-time private investigator, so she gives readers a slightly different perspective on both the land as well as the mysteries she solves. I've always wished there were more than just five books in this series. The first one is The Last Song Dogs.

Betty Webb has written the excellent Lena Jones series. Lena is a private investigator based in Scottsdale who was shot in the head and abandoned as a child. Her investigations have taken her all over Arizona. I've loved this series from the very first book, Desert Noir, when Lena is taken out to the desert and left there to die. Not all writers get desert survival right. Webb nails it, as she does so much else in this series.


Todd Borg is the author of another favorite series, this one set in the Lake Tahoe region of California (and occasionally Nevada). This area is breathtakingly beautiful, and Borg not only brings the landscape and wildlife into focus, but the incredible scope of its history as well. 

The first three books in the series are:


Margaret Mizushima writes a series featuring Deputy Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo that takes you right into the mountains of Colorado. This is the perfect series to give armchair traveling sleuths a Rocky Mountain high.

The first three books in the series are:


Charlotte Hinger wrote a four-book series featuring Lottie Albright, an editor for the county historical society in western Kansas, who gets more involved in law enforcement. Not only did I enjoy Lottie and Hinger's depiction of the landscape, I learned a lot about western Kansas history. (I'd hate to tell you how many times I've answered Jeopardy! questions because I learned the information from the mysteries I read!)
The first three books in the series are:
Los Angeles

California is a big state and deserves a bit more attention, so how could I go wrong with choosing a series set in its biggest city that features one of the most iconic police officers in all of crime fiction? I've learned so much about the city of Los Angeles by following Harry Bosch on his investigations. Thank you, Michael Connelly! I well remember the day I walked into a local Waldenbooks and came across The Black Echo.
The first three books in the Harry Bosch series are:

It's odd how some states can slip under a person's radar. That's what Maine had done until I came across Paul Doiron's series about Mike Bowditch, a game warden in the Maine wilderness. With my love of wide open spaces and the middle of nowhere, Maine is now firmly placed on my map, so much so that I'd love to visit. Thanks, Paul and Mike!
The first three books in the series are:


When most people think of Massachusetts, they think of Boston or Harvard University or Cape Cod or Plymouth Rock. Thanks to Francine Mathews, I think of Nantucket Island. Mathews' series featuring police officer Merry Folger has brought the island's landscape, customs, and history into sharp focus, and I certainly enjoy my visits there.

The first three books in the series are:

North Carolina

North Carolina is a beautiful state with lots of history. I've been there, and I know that one branch of my family settled there pre-Revolutionary War. Mark de Castrique, with his Blackman Agency Investigations series, has taught me so much about North Carolina's rich heritage in the arts. Sam Blackman is a private investigator, a former Chief Warrant Officer who lost part of his leg in Iraq. With his personal and professional partner, Nakayla Robertson, he solves some fascinating mysteries in the area around Asheville.
The first three books in the series are:

As you can see, I had no choice but to pick two authors for Ohio. Judy Clemens wrote one of the most realistic series about a dairy farmer that you'll ever have the pleasure of reading. When I began reading the Stella Crown series, I greatly appreciated that here was an amateur sleuth who just couldn't go haring off whenever she felt like looking for clues. You see... when cows need to be milked, they need to be milked. 
The first book in Judy's series is Till the Cows Come Home. (Even the title tells you this isn't your usual Big City mystery.) 
My other choice for Ohio is Jess Montgomery, whose Kinship mysteries set in the 1920s has opened my eyes to so much in that state's rich history. A female sheriff, mining disputes, unions, Ku Klux Klan involvement...historical mystery lovers simply cannot go wrong with this series. The first book is The Widows

Turn of the century Oklahoma comes to life in Donis Casey's series about Alafair Tucker, a busy farm wife with ten children who still manages to find time to solve mysteries. As with all the other books I've mentioned in these posts, the landscape, customs, and history of this place come to life, and I was sorry to see Alafair put her apron back on and turn her back on investigating mysteries.
The first three books in this series (and I love the titles as well as the stories):

I can't say that Mette Ivie Harrison's series will put you in touch with the depth of Utah's natural beauty, but there's more than one way to imbue books with a strong sense of place. Harrison's Linda Wallheim mysteries will take you into the heart of Mormon belief and culture, and for most of us, that is alien territory. Linda is a bishop's wife, and her questioning mind leads her into deep waters as she investigates mysteries in her community. I cherish these books for their honest, even-handed portrayal of Mormonism. (I lived in Provo, Utah, for three years.)
The first three are:

 Like Arizona and Ohio, I couldn't choose just one author for Wyoming. Some states seem to have a wealth of stories written about them, and you can't go wrong with C.J. Box, Craig Johnson, and Margaret Coel for this one.

Like Maine's Mike Bowditch, C.J. Box's Joe Pickett is a game warden, which is one of the best occupations for showing off the countryside to armchair traveling sleuths. The first Joe Pickett mystery is Open Season.

I've been raving about Craig Johnson's Sheriff Walt Longmire mysteries since The Cold Dish, although I do wish Walt would stop going up into the Big Horn Mountains in the middle of a blizzard. Don't those bad guys know any better?

Well, I've mentioned a game warden, a sheriff, and now it's time for Margaret Coel's Catholic priest, Father John O'Malley, and Native American lawyer, Vicky Holden in her mystery series set on the Wind River Reservation. The first book in Coel's series is The Eagle Catcher. Not only do you get up close and personal with Wyoming's landscape, you learn about Native American culture, too.

Are y'all exhausted yet? You should see the ones I left out! Which reminds me, I do have a couple of authors that I'm going to give their own post, but that will be in the future. In the meantime, I hope I've given you some new writers to read, and if I've left out any of your personal favorites, please, please, please, tell me about them in the comments. I like adding to your reading lists, but I rely on you to add to my own! 


  1. I've bookmarked this post so that I can keep coming back to it to check out the books and authors properly. I love, love, love books set in the US with a sense of place and I know for certain that there are books here I don't want to miss. Thanks, Cathy!

  2. Wow, you've really got a great list of writers here, Cathy. Every time I thought of one, you'd already included it. The only one I'm thinking of is, for a look at Louisiana, perhaps James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux novels?

    1. Burke would undoubtedly be a good choice. I read his first four or five Robicheaux mysteries but stopped after that, and I can't remember the exact reason why. I think it may have had something to do with getting tired of the violence or Dave always being beaten to a pulp. Like I said, I can't remember the precise reason.

  3. Some of my favorites here, but so many more to explore!

    1. I'm glad I included some new-to-you authors, Jen!

  4. That's an incredible list...lots to chew on. I'm familiar with more of them than I would have figured, but you've added several new ones for me to explore, too. So thanks.

  5. Lots of good authors to explore! Some I hadn't heard of. Thanks!

    1. You're welcome, Gretchen. I hope you find some new favorite authors from this list!

  6. Sinclair Browning is new to me for AZ, so I'll be checking those out. Literally, if my local library has any 😁

    1. She's probably going to be one of the more difficult ones to find. :-(


Thank you for taking the time to make a comment. I really appreciate it!