Great Chicago Detective Stories

By Andrew Hazard

Calling all lovers of mystery and the Windy City! Explore Chicago with these great takes on the detective story.

  • The Great Hotel Murder

    2020 by Starrett, Vincent

    At first glance, quirky man-about-town Riley Blackwood may seem like he belongs in a "Golden Age" English detective story instead of Great Depression-era Chicago. But there's actually quite a bit of local flavor in this novel written by a longtime Chicago Tribune theater critic. Enjoy luxe hotel accommodations and yachting out of Burnham Harbor. Just keep your guard up for poison or a shove overboard.

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  • The Fabulous Clipjoint

    2021 by Brown, Fredric

    The back alley murder of a man on a bender is really only of interest to his teenage son, Ed, and his philosophically inclined "carnie" brother Ambrose. First published in 1947, The Fabulous Clipjoint takes place in a Nelson Algren world of seedy tenements, seedier taverns, small-time hoods, and cops who take bribes as a matter of course. Brown's descriptions are detailed enough to trace Ed's and Am's wanderings around what is now some of Chicago's priciest real estate.

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  • Blood Shot

    1989 by Paretsky, Sara

    If you're looking for the moment when what many consider to be the greatest of all Windy City mystery series hit its stride, you should check out 1988's Blood Shot. It's Paretsky's fifth book and the first of several in which V.I. Warshawski returns to her rust-belt South Chicago roots. Kicking an extremely dangerous hornet's nest while searching for the father of a childhood friend, the righteously stubborn V.I. takes blows (and lands a few) amid the decrepit factories and polluted waterways.

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  • Lieberman's Folly

    2013 by Kaminsky, Stuart M.

    Abe Lieberman is a Chicago cop nearing retirement* who loves the Cubs, his grandchildren, and his brother's deli. The investigation of a murder in a Sheridan Road apartment building is a shaggy-dog story with so many meanders that's it's jolting when Lieberman reveals an elegant solution to the central mystery--and shows that maybe he is a great detective after all.

    *His wife thinks they should sell their house in Rogers Park and get a condo in Skokie.

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  • An Eye for Murder

    2002 by Hellmann, Libby Fischer

    How, exactly, an elderly stranger dying in a Rogers Park rooming house knew filmmaker Ellie Foreman's name is a question she would be more interested in were she not preoccupied with making ends meet as a single parent. Then it becomes clear that anyone connected to the old man is now marked for death. While the mystery has its roots in wartime Europe and Chicago's long-gone Jewish West Side, the resolution feels alarmingly pertinent two decades after the book's publication.

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  • Jackson Park

    2007 by Carter, Charlotte

    Chicago hasn't had many months bleaker than April 1968, when parts of the South and West Sides burned in the unrest following Martin Luther King's assassination. The generation gap separating college student Cassandra from her great-uncle, neighborhood godfather Woodson Lisle, is getting wider, but they're both committed to finding a woman named Lavelle Jackson. The trail seems to lead in opposite directions, toward the militants Cassandra rubs elbows with on campus and the shady intersections of crime and clout where "Mr. Woody" has spent his life.

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  • The Bishop Goes to the University: A Blackie Ryan Story

    2003 by Greeley, Andrew M.

    Msgr. John "Blackie" Ryan--a sort of South Side Irish answer to G. K. Chesterton's Father Brown--must solve the locked-room murder of a Russian visiting professor at the University of Chicago's Divinity School. But it seems that the victim wasn't actually the professor, and the professor isn't who he claimed to be (or Russian). Greeley was a Catholic priest who taught at the Divinity School, and he has great fun skewering academic and ecclesiastical politics in this outlandish mystery.

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  • Broken Places

    2018 by Clark, Tracy P.

    If V.I. Warshawski ever does hang it up, then Cassandra "Cass" Raines will be a shoe-in for the Queen of the Chicago Private Eyes title. Broken Places finds her at odds with her former CPD colleagues over the death of activist priest Fr. Ray Heaton, found next to a young man wearing gang colors in what is quickly labeled a murder-suicide. Raines was close enough to "Pop" to take the case personally, and she knows he made as many enemies as friends.

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  • Curious Toys

    2019 by Hand, Elizabeth

    It's the summer of 1915. Essanay Studios is cranking out movies in Uptown, and a serial killer is making the Riverview Amusement Park his hunting ground. The task of stopping him falls to Pin Maffucci--who prefers to dress as a boy--and Henry Darger--a young man with a brilliant creative mind and a questionable grip on reality. Allusions to Darger's artwork and appearances by other real-life figures are scattered throughout this historical mystery/queer coming-of-age tale.

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  • Clark and Division

    2021 by Hirahara, Naomi

    Rose Ito allegedly jumped in front of a train just days before her sister Aki and their parents--newly released from wartime Internment at Manzanar--were to join her in Chicago. Aki pursues the truth about Rose's death through a city where the signposts for how a young Nisei woman is supposed to behave have vanished, from dances at the Aragon Ballroom to the first stirrings of gay culture along Clark St. (Any book with blurbs from both Sara Paretsky and George Takei pretty much has to be good.)

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