Florida and Louisiana Mysteries

This column is focused on the states of Florida and Louisiana and mysteries that deliver a sense of place in these warm and humid locales. Both states are hotbeds of excellent crime fiction.

Florida is well represented by a gaggle of talented crime writers. One of the most revered was J.D. MacDonald whose Travis McGee novels captured a good deal of the Sunshine state's character. Currently Ed McBain (Evan Hunter) delights readers as they follow his cool character, Matt Hope, through Miami's variegated urban population. McBain has published 13 books in this series so far! Another outstanding Miami-based series is written by Edna Buchanan and stars ace crime reporter Britt Montero. She literally noses into all kinds of trouble in a city inhabited by some nasty people. Her recent novel, Pulse, is excellent. Carolina Garcia-Aguilera writes a clever set of stories focused on the Cuban community of Miami. Her affable Lupe Solano provides exciting adventures from the barrios to the Island of Cuba. Barbara Parker also uses Miami as her stage and has a fine sense of geography. Her Lawyer/sleuth Gail Connor is hot on the trail of the bad guys in her recent effort, Suspicion of Deceit. Key West comes alive in the work of John Leslie with a very zany and disreputable P.I. named Bud Lowry. His personality fits the steamy Keys community well. Carl Hiassen has written some excellent anti-development novels set in southern Florida but wanders from the genre often these days. Lawrence Sanders set his 90s series in Palm Beach using a somewhat comic hero.

Louisiana is well populated by skilled place mystery writers. The very best is, of course, James Lee Burke. His work conjures up smells of the bayou, visions of "good ole boys", corrupt politics and pollution. He is not to be missed inasmuch as he is one of the best place writers in America. Julie Smith sets her police procedurals in the Big Easy and does it very well indeed (she also has two series set in California). Tony Dunbar has let loose a very interesting lawyer/sleuth in a New Orleans characterized by some pretty bizarre events and characters. Sophie Dunbar (no relation to Tony) infiltrates the lighter side of the city with a hair stylist crime solver who inhabits the "blue apron" district of the city. James Sallis has created a very unusual black P.I. in Lew Griffin. His stories are redolent of some of the seamier sides of New Orleans. Tony Fennelly is another place conscious New Orleans writer in a series featuring Terry Manion (try, The Blue Bayou). D.J. Donaldson has a pair of sleuths - one a criminal psychologist and the other a medical examiner - who explore some very messy crimes in the city. His most recent is Sleeping with the Crawfish. Finally Lynda LaPlante, author of the British series, Prime Suspect, has a New Orleans series starring a feisty, female ex cop. A new entry on the New Orleans scene is Barbara Hambly who has written an unusual historical mystery (1860s) with a black surgeon sleuthing in the voodoo districts. Colorful and entertaining stuff. Malcolm Shuman covers Baton Rouge with an archeologist investigator who delivers some earthy (pun intended) and fascinating solutions to local crime.

I hope these mysterious places bring you satisfying reads. We will shift our focus to the Midwest in the next installment. As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome!


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