When you think about the contents of the Whodunit Mystery Bookstore, there are two possible ways of looking at it: one is that it’s a specialty bookstore with a very limited range of books, the other is that it is a specialty bookstore with an extremely wide range of books, stretching from Agatha Christie-type whodunits to cookie baker cozies to Sherlock Holmes to great spy novels to books set in about 50 different countries to steam punk and beyond. As co-proprietor, I choose to think of the store in its latter conceptualization. Moreover, the shop features an interesting assortment of “crossover” titles that defy easy categorization. In this category, I would put a fairly substantial number of books that involve fantasy elements about crime detection. The sort of books I mean are mainly British in origin; the Americans don’t need any fantasy about FF since they have Donald Trump.
For the most part the typical fantasy book involves a large dose of magic. Take Douglas Adams’ The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul, for example. Adams made his international reputation with his space fantasy series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but followed this success with a detective series featuring Dirk Gently. The second volume of Gently, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, opens with the mysterious explosion of an airline ticket kiosk and follows the adventures of several elderly gods through the British private healthcare system, with all sorts of zany blackouts owing much to Monty Python along the way. We’ve got The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul in stock in new trade paperback and book #1 in the series, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, on order. Netflix’s dramatization of the series is available on, where else, Netflix in an initial 5 episode season.
There are robots. Adam Christopher’s Made to Kill stars the World’s last robot, Raymond Electromatic, formerly a private eye and now a hit man for hire. One day a beautiful young woman appears in his office with a bagful of gold bars and a job. He and his controller, a compute named Ada, are off and running in sixties Hollywood. We’ve got the book in stock in hardcover in new. Book #2, Killing is My Business, comes in hardcover in July.
Then there is George Mann’s The Affinity Bridge, a steampunk novel set in 19th-century London. The main task at hand it the investigation of the crash of an automated airship, although there are also strangulations by a mysterious bobby and a plague of zombies that must be resolved. There are four books in the series thus far and we’ve got them all in stock in new trade paperback. Book #5 comes in hardcover in January 2018.
I am personally very fond of police procedurals investigated by special units devoted to paranormal goings-on. These are always British. Perhaps the best illustration of this sub-genre is by Ben Aaronovitch. The first in a series of books by Aaronovitch is called Midnight Riot (or Rivers of London, in the UK, we have had both in stock) and features PC Peter Grant with the assistance of Lesley May who have been co-opted to the Economic and Specialist Crime Unit 9, a Scotland Yard unit also known as ‘The Folly’ headed by a wizard named Inspector Thomas Nightingale. The Folly is one of a number of fictional British crime units in these kinds of books devoted to the supernatural. Grant is a biracial young constable with magical capabilities who has come to the Force’s attention by successfully interviewing a ghost. This act sets off a series of actions and incredible events which stretch across six books and two graphic novels (i.e. expensive comic books). We’ve got all six books in stock in new mass market, The Hanging Tree (book #7) is on the way also in mass market, and the graphic novels in stock too.
After Aaronovitch comes Charles Stross, who has written eight novels in the ‘Laundry’ series. The Laundry is a British government agency along the lines of MI5 or MI6 which specializes in the paranormal. Stross has gotten more ambitious as he has gone along and his latest effort The Nightmare Stacks involves an invasion (called here an intrusion) into the British countryside around Leeds by a small army of extraterrestrials. We don’t currently have any in stock, but can order the first six titles in the series in mass market and The Nightmare Stacks in hardcover.
Guy Adams’ novel The Clown Service – that is what his British government agency consisting of one old man and a younger assistant recently sent there is nicknamed– also deals with the paranormal. So far there are three novels (also The Rain Soaked Bride and A Few Words for the Dead) and undoubtedly more will follow. We’ve got all three in stock in new trade paperback.
A recent entrant into this world of paranormal crime detection is Oscar de Muriel The Strings of Murder which is set in 1888 Edinburgh and features a Scotland Yard Inspector investigating under the cover of a made-up department specializing in the paranormal. We’ve got this first book in the series in new trade paperback. Books #2 and #3 seem to be coming this spring.
Saving the best for last: the master of modern fantasy is the recently deceased Terry Pratchett. One of his best novels of crime investigation is The Hogfather. The main crime is the kidnapping of a figure much like Santa Claus. His disappearance leaves a gaping hole in the world of belief which is very hard to fill. An enlarged tooth fairy just doesn’t hack it. The major investigator is Death’s granddaughter, a gal who is very handy with a frying pan to battle creatures under the bed of the children she looks after. We’ve got a copy in stock in new mass market. We can also recommend the film adaptation, available on DVD, starring Michelle Dockery of Downtown Abbey fame as Susan, Death’s granddaughter.
Fantasy really requires no more suspension of belief than sf novels about space travel. Try it sometime.