~by David H.
The mystery story is one of the most flexible of stories, because a mystery can take place anywhere. The time and place don’t make any difference; all that’s required is a crime and someone to solve it. So what happens when a mystery takes place in the depths of space or on an alien world? What if the crime was committed using magic? Or what if the killer is a vampire, or a werewolf, or something much worse? Well, here are some books whose authors decided to answer those questions.
Science fiction has always been a home for mystery stories. Isaac Asimov, one of the best known of the genre’s founding authors, wrote a trilogy chronicling the cases of Elijah Bailey, a human police officer, and R. Daneel Olivaw, a humanoid robot. The second novel The Naked Sun is an especially clever take on the locked room mystery: how did someone commit murder on a planet where the inhabitants can’t stand to be in the same room with each other? Tied to both Asimov’s Robot stories and his Foundation trilogy, these books are wonderful for fans of classic science fiction.
For a more contemporary take on the science fiction mystery, try the Alex Benedict & Chase Kolpath novels. Benedict is a space-faring antiquities dealer with a taste for the unknown and Chase is his female pilot & bodyguard who regularly keeps him from losing his life to his latest quest. The series begins with A Talent For War, but really takes off in the second novel Polaris, when Chase takes over the narrating duties. Here the two try to discover why someone is willing to kill for artifacts from a spaceship whose passengers & crew mysteriously vanished 60 years ago.
Leaving the vast reaches of space, we now head into the woods of the fantasy genre. One of the earliest takes on the fantasy mystery came from author Randall Garrett, whose Lord Darcy is a Sherlock Holmes style character in an alternate universe London where magic works and the Plantagenet Dynasty never fell. Encompassing several short stories and one novel, the entire work is collected in the omnibus Lord Darcy.
If you want a more “realistic” fantasy, try the Eddie LaCrosse novels. Eddie is a sword-wielding Philip Marlowe, trying to make a living in a world where magic and mystical beings are rare and the worst dangers are all too human. Eddie’s cases begin with The Sword-Edged Blonde, where the key to who murdered the royal heir may be tied to an incident from his own past.
Finally, we dive into the horror genre. Some of the darkest mystery novels running, the Charlie Parker books are filled with the kind of dementedly inventive serial killers that would make Hannibal Lector applaud. As the series has gone along, Parker, a private detective haunted by the ghosts of his murdered wife and daughter, has discovered that he and his adversaries may be pawns in a game played between primal forces of good and evil. The first book, Every Dead Thing won both the Shamus Award and the Bram Stoker award. A great series, but beware: Parker treads a dark and violent path that costs him dearly.