Scary Indiana: Crime Fiction from the Crossroads of America

Mystery MonthMaybe it was Tuesday’s hotly contested Republican primary in the Hoosier state. Or maybe it’s the fact that I haven’t been able to get Rowdy Yates’ Bring Me the Head of Yorkie Goodman out of my head (which, fortunately, is still attached to my shoulders). Either way, I’ve been thinking about Indiana, and given that it’s Mystery Month, I thought I’d share some of the most twisted, Indiana-set crime fiction I could find. Sure, readers in the sixteenth most populous state have long been able to enjoy the spooky stylings of Michael Koryta and the hard-boiled pleasures of Ronald Tierney‘s long-running Deets Shanahan series. But they also have the weird, wild, and woolly books below.

Bring Me the Head of Yorkie Goodman by Rowdy YatesBring Me the Head of Yorkie Goodman, by Rowdy Yates

Readers will soon learn that the titular imperative is not metaphorical—but what has Indiana farmer Yorkie Goodman ever done to anybody? One of the strongmen tasked with his decapitation thinks Goodman is guilty of nothing more than living a criminally ordinary life. In a book that evokes the films of the Coen Brothers and the books of Elmore Leonard, Yates (a pseudonym for Jared Yates Sexton) whips his offbeat cast of characters into motion in a way that ensures they’ll collide unpredictably while doing maximum damage.

Crimes in Southern Indiana by Frank BillCrimes in Southern Indiana, by Frank Bill

The short stories in this bleak collection depict sorrow, bad choices, and violence among characters whose only solutions to problems require guns, knives, fists, and fire. Bill’s debut shows a writer with promise but uneven execution, and will likely enthrall and frustrate readers in equal measure. Similes can be overwrought (“blood peeled like three-day-old biscuits”) and dialogue can be caricaturish (“done fried that brain of yours to plumb crazy”). But one thing’s for sure: you’ll never look at Indiana the same way again. That is, if you’re brave enough to visit after reading this.

Eye Opener by Michael Z LewinEye Opener, by Michael Z. Lewin

Private investigator Albert Samson finally has his license back, and after pounding the pavement looking for work, he lands the best-paying job he’s ever had: verifying an alibi for the most notorious serial killer in Indianapolis history. But why did he really get the job? This one may not be quite as raw and bleak as the other two, but mix the sensibilities of Woody Allen and Quentin Tarantino, and you have an offbeat mystery to savor. And don’t worry: your horrified gasps will be quickly followed by bemused chuckles. It’s just that kind of book.





About the Author:

Keir Graff is Executive Editor of Booklist Publications and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix (2011). Follow him on Twitter at @Booklist_Keir.

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