Whatever the Case May Be: 8 Speculative Detective Fiction Recommendations

February 7, 2022 | Ames

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Staff at the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy have been busy investigating sleuths in speculative fiction. They’ve uncovered books, graphic novels and original art featuring detectives, private investigators (PI’s), and everyday people who find themselves caught up in a mystery. They’ve followed the clues and have put together cases of professionals, amateurs, non-humans and Sherlock wannabes. This post features just a few highlights from their newest exhibit, Cracking the Case: Sleuths in Speculative Fiction.

Case 3 in the exhibit featuring 8 books.
This case features characters inspired by Sherlock Holmes.

Here are their favourite stories.

Sephora’s Picks


Witchmark by C.L. Polk

Sweet, charming and responsible, Dr. Miles Singer uses his magical gifts to aid others despite the perils of discovery. His is a world where being exposed as a witch guarantees a one-way ticket to the asylum, or worse – becoming entangled in the affairs of his powerful family.

Recommended for fans of steampunk, romance, mystery and delicious will-they-or-won’t-they tension. For fans who become hooked, this is Book 1 of the Kingston Cycle, so there is more after the story ends.

Guilty Pleasures

Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton

This first novel in the Anita Blake series lives up to its name, and then some. Anita is strong, beautiful and capable of communing with the dead. She is on the case when the Master Vampire of the city comes calling, to find out who has been murdering vampires in his domain.

For fans of vampires, romance, horror, and strong female leads who are curiously drawn to the dead. It has also been adapted into a graphic novel.


Ames’ Picks

A Master of Djinn

A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark

After writing two novellas, A Dead Djinn in Cairo (ebook only) and The Haunting of Tram Car 015, Clark has just released a novel in his alternate version of Cairo. Agent Fatma el-Sha'arawi investigates a cult whose leader is stirring up trouble, and whose members are being murdered.

Recommended for readers who love hot weather, malfunctioning technology and a well-cut suit.

Dark Currents

Dark Currents by Jacqueline Carey

First in a trilogy, Daisy Johanssen – half-demon and liaison to the local goddess – helps the local police investigate the death of a college student. It would be easier to solve the murder if she wasn’t so distracted by the sexy werewolf cop.

Recommended for readers who love tourist traps, Norse mythology and deep, dark secrets.


Kims’ Picks

A Study in Emerald

A Study in Emerald by Neil Gaiman

Queen Victoria’s nephew has been gruesomely murdered and the Queen herself has called in the famous detective and his trusty companion to investigate the case. In a world where royals are Cthulhu-like Great Old Ones, not all is what it seems, not even Holmes and Watson.

Recommended for those who like their mysteries with a twist in the... tail.

Killing is My Business

Killing is My Business by Adam Christopher

Robot turned hitman Raymond Electromatic heads out into the seedy streets of an alternate 1960s Los Angeles. He has a contract to fulfill – rubbing out a city planner. This is the second in the Ray Electromatic series.

Recommended for readers who enjoy vintage cars, visiting bad neighbourhoods and rusty detectives in need of repair.


Isabel’s Picks


Provenance by Ann Leckie

Ingray Aughskold of the planet Hwae has a perfect plan to raise her status in society. She smuggles the criminal Pahlad Budrakim out of prison to help her locate stolen relics. But when Ingray’s brother frames Pahlad for murder, can she clear her name? Set in the world of the Imperial Radch.

Recommended for readers who love complex alien societies, political intrigue and family drama.

Sorcery and Cecelia

Sorcery and Cecelia, or, the Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

Kate is off to London for the season while her cousin Cecilia remains in the country. But there are villainous schemes afoot and soon both of them are embroiled in sorcerous intrigue. The story is told through their correspondence.

Recommended for readers who love clever ladies, Regency romance and magical kitchen appliances.


Case 9 in the exhibit featuring 10 books.
All of these sleuths work on behalf of an organization or employer.

For more books featuring gumshoes, PI’s and investigators, visit Cracking the Case: Sleuths in Speculative Fiction at The Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy. The exhibit is open from now until April 2! It can be viewed:

  • Mondays to Fridays – 10am to 6pm
  • Saturdays – 9am to 5pm

Everyone is welcome.