Books are a great way to have a metaphorical trip to somewhere new, with one prime destination being the great state of Florida. And while Florida is definitely a fantastic place to journey to for those looking for a fun vacation in general, it is also a prime setting for books that aren’t simply all about beaches and good times in the sun.
Florida — the Sunshine State — is a remarkably popular story setting for some of the top mystery and crime novels. When exciting mystery plots unfold against a paradise-like setting, readers are enticed. The balmy landscapes of Florida, both urban and rural, are the backdrop for some of the most intriguing and dramatic mystery books on the market. From the glistening sands of fashionable Miami to the secret underbelly of breezy Key West, authors take advantage of palm-filled Florida to enhance their fictional creations. Florida is also one of the best destinations to actually read these beach-ready mysteries. In a poolside lounge chair or sinking gently into warm sand on a beach, Florida offers ideal summer reading weather for most of the year.
Florida doesn’t have to remain in the realm of mystery, however. You can explore vacation packages to the Sunshine State here and learn about cheap flights to the beautiful Florida Keys, where some of these stories are set. You might even say that Florida helps these mysteries come alive — as much as we’d probably like most of them to stay safely tucked in their paper pages. Here are seven scintillating mystery stories that invoke a Floridian setting.
1. “Rum Punch” by Elmore Leonard
This gritty, gripping mystery is set amidst the skyscrapers, clubs and white sands of Miami. Behind the glistening façade of the chic city lies a compelling underworld of criminals. Elmore Leonard is considered a master of extremely intricate mystery plots and vibrant dialogue. He is also known for crafting some of the most charmingly sinister villains in modern crime literature. This particular book inspired film director Quentin Tarantino’s equally gritty film, “Jackie Brown.” If you can envision yourself relaxing poolside at a ritzy Miami hotel, you probably imagine you’d have a fast-paced and dynamic read in your hands. “Rum Punch” would be a great first choice among Florida-set novels.
2. “Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper” by John D. MacDonald
John D. MacDonalad is known as the godfather of Florida crime novels. His character-driven mysteries are known for sharp plot twists and turns and witty conversational dialogue. This story is set in small town Florida with its quirky repertoire of characters and their mysterious behavior. The author has a knack for placing the eerie and the commonplace together — a juxtaposition that brings his Florida setting to life.
3. “Sanibel Flats” by Randy Wayne White
In the case of “Sanibel Flats,” the author himself is a resident of Southwest Florida, giving him keen insights about his chosen setting. This detective novel follows the adventures of a retired NSA agent named Doc Ford, a marine biologist who gets embroiled in local shenanigans. Sanibel Flats is a real place, and the book offers descriptive details of the windswept Gulf Coast of Florida.
4. “Miami Blues” by Charles Willeford
This is a classic novel about a denture-wearing detective who chases down a cold-hearted, eccentric criminal. The streets, alleys, hotels, bars and beaches of Miami are so prominent in the novel that they almost feel like a character in and of themselves.
5. “Torpedo Juice” by Tim Dorsey
Tim Dorsey’s detective novel is set in the Florida Keys and chronicles one man’s search for love along its sandy shores. As he island-hops and performs sub-par music in bars, he looks for the woman — or women — of his dreams. In the process, he gets embroiled in some very shady island drama and with some women with very dubious motives
6. “Tropical Depression” by Laurence Shames
Also set in Key West, “Tropical Depression” leans towards the sillier side of mystery as Shames follows the exploits of Murray Zemmelman, a lingerie-company mogul trying to find himself. Along the way, he explores the beautiful scenery of Key West and accidentally gets involved with the Mafia. Amidst new friends and new business opportunities, Zemmleman finds himself rather in-over-his-head in paradise.
7. “Dead of Night” by Randy Wayne White
This is a very thrilling tale of a marine biologist (who also is involved with the CIA) taking on a terrorist that threatens the state of Florida. This terrorist has a plan to fill Florida’s water systems with not only parasites but even poisonous snakes. If you were hesitant of going into the water at the beach before, reading this book will definitely make you think twice and give you chills!