The best mystery novels set on the banks of Lake Superior

Who am I?

I’m a Minnesota writer who loves to read and write books set in places I’ve spent time in. The Upper Peninsula is a favorite vacation destination. It has so much history to unearth, quaint towns and woods to explore, and giant mosquitoes to avoid. I’ve traveled along Lake Superior in all seasons. Lake Superior covers 31,700 square miles and holds more water than all the other Great Lakes combined, so there's a lot to see and enjoy. After my first visit to the U.P., I began to write the Double Barrel Mysteries series. Set in the tiny fictional town of Port Scuttlebutt, Lake Superior isn’t just a backdrop, but part of the story.


I wrote...

Roadkill

By Barbara Ellen Brink,

Book cover of Roadkill

What is my book about?

Blake and Shelby Gunner are living the perfect life in Minneapolis. He’s a hotshot homicide detective and she is doing what she loves best, performing Shakespeare at a small theatre. But after an arrest goes badly and Blake is shot and injured, they decide to leave the crime-ridden city for the quiet, quirky little hamlet where he grew up. Nestled along Lake Superior in the upper peninsula, Port Scuttlebutt isn’t as calm and serene as they anticipated. Below an innocent Mayberry surface are secrets as dangerous as the Great Lake’s rip currents. Trying to solve the hit-and-run death of a local resident, the Gunners are moving ever closer to a dangerous killer.

The books I picked & why

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Superior Justice: a Lake Superior Mystery

By Tom Hilpert,

Book cover of Superior Justice: a Lake Superior Mystery

Why this book?

I loved that the protagonist of Superior Justice is an unorthodox Lutheran pastor who loves fly fishing and a great cup of coffee maybe a bit more than the job he’s paid to do. While he’s not slack in performing his preaching and counseling, he does tend to have heavier things on his mind. Like the fact that one of his parishioners is in jail for a murder he didn’t commit. Finding a way to prove that to the police and courts may be the death of him. 

Unlike his namesake, Jonah doesn’t run away when the going gets tough. While this story deals with murder and other crimes, the writer’s use of light humor and romance woven throughout is a gentle respite from the otherwise dark, suspenseful thread.

Superior Justice: a Lake Superior Mystery

By Tom Hilpert,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Superior Justice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE CONFESSION THAT COULD KILL HIM...

Jonah Borden is not your typical Lutheran pastor, and he takes pains to make sure everyone knows it. He's a tough-guy, thinks-he's-funny, rock-music-playing, gourmet-cooking, painfully-moderate-drinking, hard-boiled man of the cloth. He is even available for a bit of romance, under the right circumstances.

Doug Norstad, a member of Jonah Borden's church, is arrested for a vigilante killing. Norstad shares his true alibi with Borden, under the privileged status of religious confession. Knowing now that the man is innocent, Borden must prove it somehow, without divulging his secret. Along the way he uncovers a twisted…


Superior Death

By Matthew Williams,

Book cover of Superior Death

Why this book?

The Lake Superior backdrop and surrounding area are so familiar from personal visits that it seemed like I was walking around in the book. I enjoyed the sense of place as much as the mystery. 

A young journalist struggling with the age-old problem of leaving his job at the office when he’s home with his family finds that the news stops for no man. He’s soon caught up in the mystery of why a native American woman came to town just to throw herself off a cliff over Lake Superior. Town politics, an elite family with enough power to squelch any gossip, and his own mother try to divert his attention from the story, but a newsman needs to know.

Superior Death

By Matthew Williams,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Superior Death as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Small-town reporter Vince Marshall faces looming deadlines, an over-the-edge boss, a wife he suspects is cheating, and the challenge of balancing his career while raising a toddler. The last thing he needs is for his mother to become the suspect in a mysterious woman's death-a story he's covering for the local newspaper.

Vince searches for answers and runs up against the town's irascible police chief, an untouchable influential family, and a rogue detective-who are all trying to kill the story for their own reasons. Even more mystifying is his usually opinionated mother's infuriating silence. The harder he tries to uncover…


Iron Lake

By William Kent Krueger,

Book cover of Iron Lake

Why this book?

This is the first book I’ve read by William Kent Krueger, but it made me want to read the whole series. Set during a miserably cold winter in the northeast corner of Minnesota, a stone’s throw from Lake Superior, this mystery about a brutal murder and a missing native American boy will make you fear frostbite just from turning pages. 

Cork O’Connor is a complicated character in a seemingly downward spiral. Once the sheriff of this small town, he’s since lost his wife, his job, and is worried about losing his children. His mixed heritage of Irish and Ojibwe makes him see things a little differently than the new sheriff, but not having a badge won’t stop him from taking action when people he cares about are in danger.

Iron Lake

By William Kent Krueger,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Iron Lake as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The 20th anniversary edition of the first novel in William Kent Krueger's beloved and bestselling Cork O'Connor mystery series-includes an exclusive bonus short story!

"A brilliant achievement, and one every crime reader and writer needs to celebrate." -Louise Penny, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Glass Houses

"A master craftsman [and] a series of books written with a grace and precision so stunning that you'd swear the stories were your own." -Craig Johnson, author of the Walt Longmire series

"Among thoughtful readers, William Kent Krueger holds a very special place in the pantheon." -C.J. Box, #1 New York Times…


The Stroke of Winter

By Wendy Webb,

Book cover of The Stroke of Winter

Why this book?

I really enjoyed this story even though it isn’t exactly the kind of mystery I normally choose. At the center is a rather eerie vein of darkness, but the beautiful winter scenes of Minnesota, neighbors who care about one another, and a budding romance, tend to lessen the impact. It’s rather a heartwarming story with a ghoulish murder mystery attached.

A woman returns to her hometown to open a bed-and-breakfast in the old mansion that has been in her family for generations. One wing of the house is blocked off and she wants to open it up for her personal living quarters. Cue scary noises and sudden chilly drafts.

This story is also set by Lake Superior in winter, and you get an authentic taste of Northern Minnesota Nice, but inside, the house has a sinister presence that needs Tess to know what happened fifty years ago.

The Stroke of Winter

By Wendy Webb,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Stroke of Winter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

She's restoring the old family home on the hill. And unearthing something evil.

In the tourist town of Wharton, on the coast of Lake Superior, Tess Bell is renovating her old family home into a bed-and-breakfast during the icy dead of winter...

As the house's restoration commences, a shuttered art studio is revealed. Inside are paintings Tess's late grandfather, beloved and celebrated artist Sebastian Bell, hid away for generations. But these appear to be the works of a twisted mind, almost unrecognizable as paintings she and others familiar with his art would expect. The sinister canvases raise disturbing questions for…


A Cold Day in Paradise

By Steve Hamilton,

Book cover of A Cold Day in Paradise

Why this book?

From the first sentence, There’s a bullet in my chest…, you know this story is going to be exciting. Set in the U.P. on the banks of Lake Superior, Paradise is a town with plenty of work for a newly-licensed private investigator. Hamilton’s protagonist is an ex-cop who barely escaped death, is dealing with PTSD, and just wants to live a quiet life chopping wood, having a beer at the pub, and on occasion getting a non-violent case to work. 

This author knows how to ramp up the action and keep the reader turning pages. He makes a well-worn mystery twist (a convicted murderer serving a life sentence appears to be killing people on the outside), seem brand-new and completely original.

A Cold Day in Paradise

By Steve Hamilton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Cold Day in Paradise as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When first published, A Cold Day in Paradise won both the Edgar and Shamus awards for Best First Novel, launching Steve Hamilton into the top ranks of today's crime writers. Now, see for yourself why this extraordinary novel has galvanized the literary and mystery community as no other book before it....

Other than the bullet lodged near his heart, former Detroit cop Alex McKnight thought he had put the nightmare of his partner's death and his own near-fatal injury behind him. After all, the man convicted of the crimes has been locked away for years. But in the small town…


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