Three Mystery Novels about Hemingway’s Lost Suitcase

The Curious Case of the Hemingway MacGuffin

Ernest Hemingway may not have written mystery fiction, but you can blame him for a lot of it. It’s possible that, after Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, no other author has had as much influence on the way would-be tough guys punctuate their crime fiction. (You know. What I mean. Right?) Beyond his prose, his life—lived large and writ even larger—has served as a source of inspiration, too.

A deep-sea fishing expedition in the Booklist archives reveals sleuths named Hemingway (Blaize Clement’s Dixie Hemingway, Joel Rosenberg’s Sparky Hemingway), plenty of reviewers’ comparisons between modern authors and their would-be Papa (often disparaging), and much more Hemingway-mania. In the three books below, the authors use a tantalizing footnote of the real-life Hemingway saga—the legendary suitcase containing Hemingway’s work that disappeared from a train in 1922—as fuel for their own imaginings.

Cold Hearted River by Keith McCafferty

Cold Hearted River, by Keith McCafferty

The MacGuffin: a lost trunk of Ernest Hemingway’s fishing tackle with the tantalizing possibility of lost manuscripts tucked inside and plenty of bodies bobbing along in its wake. The sixth entry in McCafferty’s series about fly-fishing painter and private investigator Sean Stranahan has authentically rendered fishing “action” and makes good use of Hemingway’s enduring mystique.



The Hemingway Thief by Shaun Harris

The Hemingway Thief, by Shaun Harris

Another variation of the legendary missing trunk, this one starts with the purchase of a locked trunk that turns out to contain lost chapters from A Moveable Feast—with hand corrections and editor’s notes, a gold mine for Hemingway-heads (or should we call them Hemingway-philiacs?). The chapters are then stolen by a thief who flees to Mexico, walks into a bar, and . . . meets a writer.


Hunting for Hemingway by Diane Gilbert Madsen

Hunting for Hemingway, by Diane Gilbert Madsen

In the second DD McGil Literari Mystery, the insurance investigator reconnects with a former lover, a Hemingway expert, who claims to have found the stuff Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley, lost in 1922. DD’s initial task is to provide proof the papers are real, but after her ex-lover is murdered, the insurance company pressures her to prove they’re fake in this hard-boiled cozy.

About the Author:

Keir Graff is Executive Editor of Booklist Publications and the author of six books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Phantom Tower (2018). Follow him on Twitter at @Booklist_Keir.

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