A who’s who of outdoor mysteries

It would seem that I’m not the only person who is a fan of murder mystery books, especially ones that are set in the great outdoors. Last December I wrote a column, entitled Getting In Touch With My Feminine Side that was exclusively about women murder mystery writers who write in such a genre. Since then I have been asked many times for a copy of that column so readers could have a list of the books and authors. I figured I would go one step further. Here is a list from that column, as well as a few more women murder mystery writers whose books are set in the wilds.

Nevada Barr (Blood Lure, Endangered Species, Winter Study and High Country) is a former park ranger with 16 books to her credit. The main character in all her books, Anna Pigeon, is also a park ranger. Each book, oddly enough, takes place in a national (U.S.) park. Barr’s prose flow like a mountain stream, her characters are  more than believable and her plots are well-crafted. One cannot help but feel like you’ve been to each of the parks once you’ve read her books.

Sue Henry’s books (Murder on the Yukon Quest, Murder on the Iditarod Trail, Dead North and Degrees of Separation) take place in the north. She knows her stuff when it comes to dog sled racing and life in the rugged wilds of the far north. Henry combines the murder mystery genre with the reality of a musher’s life along the trail.

Victoria Houston (Dead Angler, Dead Frenzy, Dead Hot Mama and Dead Deceiver) writes fishing murder mysteries. Need I say more. A couple of years ago someone left one of her books on my desk at work. I still don’t know who it was. I took it home to read over the Christmas holidays and couldn’t wait for the stores to open so that I could order more. I’ve read them all.

Dana Stabenow (Dead in the Water, The Mysterious North, A Fatal Thaw and A Fine and Bitter Snow) is another murder mystery writer whose books mostly take place in the north (Alaska). She too has a feel for the land. Although I would have to say that her plots are somewhat darker and more sinister than some of the others whose books take place in the wilds. I like her attention to small details. Her books really are the kind that keep you turning the page to read “just a little more.”

L. R. (Laurali Rose) Wright (A Chill Rain in January, Fall From Grace, Prized Possessions and The Suspect) was Canadian. Although she died far too young, she did write a fair number of really good murder mysteries, most of which took place in and around Sechelt on the West Coast. I think one of the reasons I particularly like her books is because her heros are almost as flawed as her villains. Her characters are real, down-to-earth, everyday people.

Sharyn McCrumb (She Walks These Hills, The Rosewood Casket and The Ballad of Frankie Silver) is best known for her Appalachian “Ballad” novels set in the Tennessee mountains. They are as connected to the land as they are to the lives of the characters in her books.

These are just some of the many, really fine female writers whose books take place on the land and in the outdoors. Not to mention writers such as B. J. Oliphant, a pseudonym for Sheri S. Tepper, whose books take place in both the outback and remote rural areas, or M. C. Beaton, a pseudonym Marion Chesney, whose books are set in the rugged highlands of Scotland.

I am sure there are a lot of other female murder mystery writers, whose books are set in the outdoors, that I have yet to discover, just as there are a lot of good male murder mystery writers who’s books take place in wilderness settings. Next week I will cover some of the men.


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