Column: Murder, mystery and the great outdoors

Great Outdoors by James Murray

The evenings are getting cooler and cooler. Winter can’t be all that far off. So I guess it’s time to start gathering together reading material for the long winter months ahead.

Since I enjoy fishing and the great outdoors, as well as reading a good murder mysteries, what could be better than mystery books that take place on the water and in the wilds.

Mike David Leitz’s (Fly Fishing Can Be Fatal, Dying to Fly Fish, Casting in Dead Waters, Hooked on Death and The Fly Fishing Corpse) main character, Max Addams, runs the Whitefork Fishing Lodge. I only wish it were me. During the course of his day, Addams fly fishes, unravels murder mysteries and works hard to save his favourite trout streams. His books are interesting, witty and, well, for some reason I just can’t help but relate to them.

John Galligan (The Nail Knot, The Blood Knot, The Blood Knot and The Wind Knot) is another murder mystery writer who incorporates fly fishing into his books. His main character, Ned “Dog” Oglivie is a dedicated fly fisherman in Wisconsin who, while fishing, also happens to stumble upon the occasional dead body and subsequently has to solve the mystery and find the killer.

The Royal Wulff Murders and Grey Ghost Murders, by Keith McCafferty, are clever, fast-paced murder mysteries full of wit, suspense and fly fishing. Cold Hearted River, Dead Man’s Fancy, Buffalo Jump Blues and Crazy Mountain Kiss all take place in the outdoors and have at least some fishing.

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Victoria Houston’s books are set in the fictional town of Loon Lake, Wisconsin. Her two main protagonists are Doc Osborne, a retired dentist and Ms. Lew (Lewellyn) Ferris, the chief of police for Loon Lake. Osborne, who happens to have a background in forensic dentistry, also has an interest in both fly fishing and the police chief. Houston’s books include Dead Creek, Dead Water, Dead Angler, Dead Jitterbug, Dead Madonna, Dead Hot Shot, Dead Renegade, Dead Boogie and Dead Lil’ Hustler. Are you seeing a pattern here with her titles?

Born and raised in the small Wisconsin town of Rhinelander, Houston grew up fishing. Her father, grandfather and uncle were all dentists. I’ve read all nine of her Loon Lake Fishing Mystery series and found their plots are more than plausible. They are the kind of books you can read for a while, put down, and come back to whenever you have the time. One might go so far as to say her Loon Lake fishing-murder mysteries are a good way to kill some time.

Fishing season can be down right deadly in Beth Groundwater’s books Wicked Eddies, Deadly Currents and Fatal Decent. Also very informative. She knows her stuff when it comes to fly fishing.

Nevada Barr is a former park ranger with 19 books to her credit including Blood Lure, Endangered Species, Winter Study, High Country, Destroyer Angel and Boar Island. The main character in all her books, Anna Pigeon, is a park ranger. Each book 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 park settings once you’ve read her books.

Ken Goddard (Prey, Wildfire, Double Blind, First Evidence and Outer Perimeter) is the lab director of the National Fish and Wildlife Laboratory in Oregon – the only wildlife forensics crime lab in the U.S. While most of his books are set in the wild, some have another-worldly twist. I would highly recommend First Evidence and its sequel, Outer Perimeter.

Mark Sullivan only has two murder-mystery books that I know of: Purification Ceremony and Ghost Dance. What a shame. Both are great reads that, like Goddard’s, have a bit of a supernatural twist.

These are all books that I have read and enjoyed, enough so that I would be willing to read them again … if I have to. However, if anyone out there knows of any other books, especially a good murder mystery that involves fishing and/or the great outdoors, please let me know.


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