I love crime thrillers. I also love fantasy novels. If you dangle a mashup of the two genres in front of me, I’ll bite. Here are some of the weird detective stories that have hooked me.
‘Storm Front’ by Jim Butcher
Harry Dresden is both a Chicago private eye and a wizard. This two-edged career is almost his undoing when he becomes the primes suspect in a series of magical murders.
Dodging a Wizard Council enforcer sent to execute him, Harry works with a petite but tough cop named Karin to catch the real killer. It’s a mystery laced with laughs, sex appeal and exciting fights, plus vampires, faeries, monsters and a wise-cracking skull.
This is the first of 15 terrific Dresden Files novels. Book 16, “Peace Talks,” is coming soon.
‘The Automatic Detective’ by A. Lee Martinez
In a sci-fi spoof of hardboiled fiction, a robot cab driver named Mack Megaton falls in love with the family next door. When they disappear, Mack switches to detective mode, uncovering mutants, aliens, a talking gorilla, battles and explosions and a ton of laughs.
Martinez is one of the funniest authors I know of, specializing in action-packed adult fantasy. His other books include “Gil's All Fright Diner.”
‘Greywalker’ by Kat Richardson
Seattle P.I. Harper Blaine is minding her own business one day when someone beats her to death. Somehow, she gets better. Then really weird stuff starts happening.
Harper learns she is a Greywalker, at home in the no-man’s-zone between life and death. This takes her detective career in new directions, like helping a college kid come out as a vampire, searching for a lost talisman and confronting the unquiet dead.
This is the first of nine novels full of dark, supernatural danger and adult romance.
‘Hot Lead, Cold Iron’ by Ari Marmell
In 1930s Chicago, a hardboiled P.I. named Mick Oberon happens to be a faerie. He looks human, but he’s allergic to iron. He’s handy to have around, though, because some palookas are pookahs.
Hired to find a gangster’s daughter who was switched with a fae child at birth, Mick deals with a witch, a shape-changer and tommy-gun-wielding goons. Tough, action-packed and loaded with eccentric characters, it’s the first in a series of four novels.
‘The Manual of Detection’ by Jedediah Berry
Charles Unwin works as a detective’s clerk in a dreamlike, unnamed city. Then his boss disappears and Unwin is unwillingly promoted. Mysteries multiply as an army of sleepwalkers goes around stealing alarm clocks, a sinister carnival threatens reality and a chapter goes missing from the Agency’s manual.
Unwin’s search for clues leads him deeper into questions of existence and consciousness – questions both he and the reader are still pondering after the crime is solved.
‘The Yiddish Policemen’s Union’ by Michael Chabon
Suppose that after World War II, worldwide Jews settled in Alaska instead of Palestine and started a nation that speaks Yiddish rather than Hebrew. Now it’s 1999, and the “Frozen Chosen” are about to lose their homeland.
On the eve of an uncertain future, homicide cop Meyer Landsman lands a case that shakes everything he believes. This grittily human novel conjures a strange world you’ll want to savor. It also coins Yiddish slang words you’ll want to keep in your vocabulary.
‘Every Dead Thing’ by John Connolly
Charlie “Bird” Parker is an ex-detective who left the NYPD when his wife and daughter were murdered. Newly sober and working as a private eye, he lands a missing person case that leads him to a pair of child killers.
Even with that case solved, the story is only half over. Now the “Traveling Man,” who took Parker’s family from him, is killing in the New Orleans area, and it may take a sleuth with a lot of darkness inside to track him down.
This grisly, literary novel has a hero who moves with ease among monsters in human form. Something between that and a light touch of the paranormal – a few faint glimmers of ghosts – twist the serial killer/detective genre in a creepy new direction.