A mailman tasked with delivering a potentially life-saving secret formula to a Des Moines epidemiologist finds his life threatened by people determined to steal the information for themselves.
A woman befriends the daughter of a homicide victim after a 1945 pogrom in Krakow’s Market Square and swears to do whatever it takes to find the mother’s murderer.
A woman with a chronic medical condition begins to question reality and her sanity when specially purchased therapeutic foods in her refrigerator begin to vanish.
These are three of the plotlines from Mystery Magazine, a 6-year-old print and digital publication based in Canada. Editor Kerry Carter looks for stories that evoke classic mysteries by Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie, as well as the pulp fiction stylings of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Got a contemporary tale that’s more Tana French or Patricia Cornwell? Carter wants to see those as well.
Tone, editorial content of Mystery Magazine
“Judging by the reviews and feedback we’ve received, our readers seem to love stories with humor,” Carter says. To meet this demand, staff recently released their first hardcover anthology, called Die Laughing: An Anthology of Humorous Mysteries, which Carter notes has sold exceptionally well. “We received so many great stories for that collection that we’ve got quite a few left over, so readers will be noticing more humorous mysteries in our regular magazine issues,” she says.
One of these stories is T.T. Trestle’s “Breastman,” about a hard-edged male debt collector who wakes up with well-endowed breasts. “He comes to realize that having them offers special perks,” Carter explains. In December 2021, she published another humorous piece, “Cajun State” by O’Neil De Noux. Set at Cajun State University, De Noux’s story follows retired New Orleans police detective Hunter Bourget, now a university police officer, who’s charged with finding both the large Christmas tree that’s been stolen from campus…and the thief. Carter appreciates the author’s witty writing, along with the absurd premise of a worldwide hunt for a stolen Christmas tree.
The December issue of Mystery Magazine includes Robert Jeschonek’s “The X in Xmas,” about Detective Charlie Collins, who joins forces with a female detective connected with the mob in order to solve the murder of a Mafia boss during the December holiday season. Kerry notes on the magazine’s website that in the story, “the twisted holiday traditions of local wise guys lead them down a dark road decorated with death.”
She’s excited to publish Frank Oreto’s “The Maintainer of Diaries” in an upcoming issue. It’s the story of a retired detective trying to solve the only bona-fide mystery he’s come across during his policing career. “Customers of a certain used bookstore have a habit of disappearing,” she says of Oreto’s piece. “Using stark but evocative writing, the author doesn’t waste any time pulling you into his clever story, and the story also has a surprising ending.”
Carter enjoys mysteries with unique settings, pointing to Josh Taylor’s “The Path of Least Resistance,” a whodunit set on a mining ship in space, as the type of story she likes to publish. John M. Floyd’s “Lily’s Story” (publication date TBA) takes place in 19th-century California, while Gretchen Altabef’s “In the Land of the Living” (October 2021) is set in the Swiss Alps.
Advice for potential contributors
Editors are open to almost any type of story as long as it has a mystery element. “We tend to turn down stories that give themselves an expiration date or reference politics, terminal diseases, or the COVID pandemic,” Carter explains. She also rejects pieces involving excessive violence and/or animal cruelty. Everything else is fair game.
She suggests that potential contributors submit a story for one of the magazine’s special annual issues, such as the Sherlock Holmes issue in October or the Christmas issue in December. “And we’re always on the lookout for more cross-genre stories,” she says. “Although we brand ourselves as a mainstream cross-genre mystery magazine, we really don’t receive enough stories with sci-fi, horror, or fantasy elements.”
Hoping to land a cover story? Carter explains that to snag this coveted spot, you need to submit a story of at least 4,000 words and include evocative visual scenes to inspire cover artist Robin Grenville Evans.
C. Matthew Smith’s story “Hundred Year Flood” in the August 2021 issue is an excellent example. From the magazine’s website: “Massive flooding disinters bodies from a small town’s cemeteries. In the wake of this horrific event, someone is leaving a trail of new bodies, and the local sheriff must race to figure out who – or what – is to blame.” Evans’ cover illustration depicts coffins floating down a flooded urban street in the midst of a punishing rainfall.
Potential contributors wanting to study the stories in Mystery Magazine’s back issues have plenty of options. Subscribe in Kindle Newsstand or download issues from Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and other online retailers. “Our own story reader mobile app lets you read any of the stories from our current and back issues using tokens,” Carter explains. “These can be purchased or earned through social actions such as commenting on stories or promoting our issues.”
Mystery Magazine at a glance
“At the cutting edge of crime fiction, Mystery Magazine presents original short stories by the world’s best-known and emerging mystery writers.”
Reading period: Year-round.
Genres: Cozies, police procedurals, noir, whodunit,
supernatural, hardboiled, humor, and historical mysteries.
Length: 1,000-7,500 words.
Submission format: Submit via form on website.
Payment: Two cents/word USD.
Melissa Hart is the author, most recently, of Better with Books: 500 Diverse Books to Ignite Empathy and Encourage Self-Acceptance in Tweens and Teens (Sasquatch, 2019). Instagram: @writermelissahart.