The Mysterious Bookshop

Sinister Doings In the Garden State


Everyone knows that New York City is the center of the universe for everything, especially the creative arts.  But what about some love for New Jersey, right across the river?  There have even been several mystery series and standalones set in the Garden State:

Dorothy Gilman’s Mrs. Pollifax--Through a misunderstanding, widowed, bored little old lady Mrs. Emily Pollifax is given a simple courier assignment for the CIA.  The sort-of-successful conclusion to this caper leads to others. Quite often seemingly ordinary people get sucked into a mission, likely set during the Cold War.  And lest you think that romance is for the very young, in one story Mrs. Pollifax herself finds love.

William Arden (aka Michael Collins, among other pen names, real name Dennis Lynds) and Kane Jackson--Industrial espionage expert and occasional PI Jackson starred in five novels between 1968 and 1973. Lynds/Collins/Arden was quite prolific, using several pen names and garnering acclaim for modernizing the traditional hard-boiled detective story.  He’s probably best known for his Dan Fortune series featuring a one-armed detective of Eastern European descent operating in New York City, that place right across the Hudson River from New Jersey.

The late Anthony Bruno created the duo Loretta Kovacs and Frank Marvelli of the New Jersey Parole Violators Search Unit.  The last of the three books in the series deals with gourmet ice cream and kinky bedtime fun--what topic could make a better novel than that?  And how many states have a Parole Violators Search Unit?  

Harlen Coben has written over a dozen non-series novels set in Jersey, among them:

Wallace Stroby’s Rane is an ex-state trooper who begins battling the Jersey mob boys almost by accident, then deals with an ex-con who returns to his old stomping grounds bent on vengeance.  So far, there’s just the two, perhaps Rane will return!

Dave White birthed the character Jackson Donne, who was a narc for the New Brunswick PD. This was sort of understandable, since Jackson took dope himself, the better for knowing the lingo and where to find the dealers, etc.  But all that got hims was booted off the force, so he switched to booze and became a private eye.

Female bounty hunter Stephanie Plum has been described as a cross between Nancy Drew and Dirty Harry, and who are we to disagree?  There are a couple of dozen novels in the series, and from the start Ms. Plum has been based in Trenton. Broke and desperate, she appealed to her cousin Vinnie, owner of a bail bond company. The only position open was that of apprentice bounty hunter and a person’s got to do what it takes to survive, but Vinnie didn’t want to hire her, so she did what any well-brought up person would do.  She threatened to blackmail him.


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Written by Ian Kern — August 03, 2017

Specializing in Mystery Fiction and all its subgenres, including Detective, Crime, Hardboiled, Thrillers, Espionage, and Suspense.

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