Several years ago, I discovered that I love reading Westerns. I have always been a lifelong mystery fan, but I hadn’t branched out into other genres at that point. And then I learned that Westerns and mysteries are two great tastes that taste great together. That’s right: Western mysteries. The crime, the tension, the high-speed horse chases. If you like your crime more on the rural side and want your detectives to wear shiny stars on their vests, I am happy to recommend to you 10 of the best Western mysteries and thrillers to check out.
There are few authors as prolific as James Patterson, who started out in mysteries and has since tried his hand at many other genres. Texas Ranger is his first foray into Western thrillers. It's about lawman Rory Yates, who suddenly finds himself a suspect in his ex-wife's murder and must find the real killer to clear his good name.
Melissa Lenhardt delivers up a satisfying feminist Western about a group of outsiders who band together and take up the outlaw lifestyle after being run off their ranch. Their newfound family goes after a rival gang piece by piece, dismantling and destroying what they have right up to the explosive ending.
J. A. Jance
This is the first in J. A. Jance's long-running Joanna Brady series. In Desert Heat, we are introduced to Brady as the wife of a sheriff whose murder is covered up as a death by suicide. When his name is then dragged through the mud, and their daughter is bullied at school, Joanna decides to take on the men actually responsible.
And this is a 19th-century treasure hunt on the Gulf Coast. Lucinda Carter is on the run from the Texas brothel where she worked, headed to meet her lover at the site of buried treasure. Nate Cannon is a policeman headed in the same direction on the hunt for a killer. When their paths finally cross, who will come out rich, and who won't make it out alive?
If you like your Western mysteries dark and violent like Deadwood, this is a perfect read. Alma Rosales Is an ex-Pinkerton agent on the hunt for stolen opium. She disguises herself as a man to investigate on the docks and reports to her lover, Delphine Beaumond. But it's getting harder and harder for Alma to know who to trust.
This is one of Cormac McCarthy's most famous books, set at the Texas-Mexico border, about a man who makes a terrible decision and ends up running for his life. When Llewellyn Moss stumbles upon a drug deal gone wrong and a satchel full of cash, greed gets the better of him. But his actions set the most blood-chilling killer in literature on his trail.
J. Todd Scott
J. Todd Scott is an actual DEA agent in Texas, and he uses his knowledge to paint a realistic picture on the borderlands in his first novel featuring Chris Cherry. When a human skeleton is unearthed in the badlands, Deputy Cherry fears he knows who is responsible: his own boss, the town's sheriff. But can he take him down on his own?
Here is the first of 18 books in Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon series. Pigeon took a job as a national park ranger in order to find peace in the wilderness. But what she finds instead is the horrible death of a fellow ranger. Though the examiner rules it a mauling by a mountain lion, Pigeon suspects something far more sinister is responsible and seeks the answers herself.
Finally, no list of crime novels is complete without a mention of Elmore Leonard. Most people are familiar with the hit television show Justified with Timothy Olyphant. Fire in the Hole is nine superb stories of crime, cops, and crooks in the West, including the title story starring U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, which was the basis for the show.
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Liberty Hardy is a Book Riot senior contributing editor, co-host of All the Books, a Book of the Month judge, and above all else, a ravenous reader. She resides in Maine with her cats, Millay, Farrokh, and Zevon. You can see pictures of her cats and book hauls on Twitter @MissLiberty and Instagram @franzencomesalive.