by Marvin Lachman

   Everyone knows the major divisions of the mystery: the private eye, the classic puzzle, the police procedural, et al. I like small genres, which I define as at least two mysteries about one topic, usually an obscure one. Here are some examples:

1. Mysteries about black-eyed blondes. In the Anthony Abbot book About the Murder of a Man Afraid of Women discussed here, Colt is drawn into the mystery when his fiancee sends him a young blonds with a problem-and a shiner. There was also the 1944 Erie Stanley Gardner novel, The Case of the Black-Eyed Blonde.

2. Mysteries about beautiful women who have documents tattooed on their backs. The only novel which comes to mind is H. Rider Haggard’s Mr. Meeson’s Will (1888), in which the heroine has a will tattooed on her back. In the movies, Myrna Loy had plans on her back in Stamboul Quest (1934) and so did Paulette Goddard in The Lady Has Plans (1942), My favorite variation on this is in the Helen Simpson short story, “A Posteriori,” in EQMM, September 1954.

3. Murders observed by people on trains. I’m sure there are more than the two examples which come to my mind: Agatha Christie’s 1957 Miss Marple novel, What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw (in Britain as The 4.50 from Paddington), and Cornell Woolrich’s novelette, “Death in the Air” (Detective Fiction Weekly, Oct. 10, 1936), in which the hero sees two people struggling in a tenement, one of whom shoots someone in the elevated car in which he is riding.

4. Mysteries in which the detective is named Paul Pry. Erie Stanley Gardner had a pulp sleuth named Paul Pry, and the hero of Margaret Millar’s first three books was a psychiatrist, Paul Prye. The hero of Albert Borowitz’s This Club Frowns on Murder (1990) is true-crime historian Paul Prye.

5. Mysteries with plots based on the Ted Kennedy Chappaquiddick affair:
a. Warren Adler’s Options (1974), published in paperback as Waters of Decision.
b. Douglas Kiker’s Death at the Cut (1988).
c. Margaret Truman’s Murder at the Kennedy Center (1989).

6. Mysteries about bag people used as couriers for drugs or drug money:
a. Dorothy Salisbury Davis’s Julie Hayes series.
b. Anna Porter’s Judith Hayes series.

7.Mysteries set at the Isabella Gardner Museum in Boston:
a. Jane Langton’s Murder at the Gardner (1988).
b. Charlotte MacLeod’s The Palace Guard (1981). (Madam Wilkins’s Palazzo seems based on the Gardner.)

8. Mysteries with reporter-detectives named J. Hayes:
a. Dorothy Salisbury Davis’s Julie Hayes series.
b. Anna Porter’s Judith Hayes series.

9. Mysteries in which the authors get to make use (or fun) of the famous armaments company, Smith and Wesson:
a. In Michael Bowen’s cleverly titled recent book, Washington Deceased, he has a prison guard named Wesson Smith.
b. Phoebe Atwood Taylor had a murder suspect in Spring Harrowing (1939) named Susan Remington who owns a pair of bobcats named Smith and Wesson.
c. The series characters in Annette Meyers’s Wall Street mysteries are Xenia Smith and Leslie Wetzon.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier,
       Vol. 13, No. 2, Spring 1991 (very slightly revised).

Editorial Comment: This list was put together 24 years ago. If you can add examples to any of Marv’s nine categories, please do so in the comments. And if you can add a category 10 (or more), that would be most welcome as well!