The Best Of:

Casefic

To make it onto Inkfoundry's "Best Of Casefics" collection, a story must have an intriguing beginning, a logical progression to mystery-solving, and a satisfying ending.

There are great stories in the casefic catalogue that aren’t on this list, so if you’re a true connoisseur of the genre, I recommend browsing there for more challenging, open-ended, or tangentially related mysteries.

The Detective: Amir, a hard boiled PI with a broken arm and a tangential grip on reality.

The Mystery: When a mummified head is stolen from St. Johan’s Cathedral by the director’s nephew, Amir is tasked to find both the artifact and the fragile young academic that took it.

  • InkFounder Comments: (Includes Spoilers)

    “Headhunting” by Rich Larson is fun. I don’t think there’s a higher recommendation I can give a short story, and I’ve read maybe thousands at this point.

    Casefic is probably the genre I love the most, and this hits all my favorite notes. It stars a flawed protagonist with an unreliable point of view (not to be confused with an unreliable narrator– Amir is very honest with the reader about everything he’s doing and seeing, including the fact that he doesn’t trust his eyes one bit). It takes place in a cyberpunk future but leans more into classic noir than neon-noir, probably because the character is so grungy he just greases up our lens. 

    I remember on my first time reading it I was on the fence about whether or not I would be okay with there being a magical fix or explanation to Amir’s apparent mental illness, but by the end I was so completely on board. Amir is such a reprobate, all the trouble he gets into feels inevitable. The conclusion to the story clicks into place with exactly the right beat. Some mysteries end with a forehead slapping “of course!”, but even upon my first read, I ended with a fond and exasperated eyeroll of an “of course“. Having gotten to know Amir, of course he’s exactly the kid that would have kissed a mummified head on a school trip. 

    To make it onto the best of casefic, the story must have an intriguing beginning, a logical progression to the mystery, and a satisfying end. “Headhunting” delivers it all with deliciously deranged darkness and a good dose of humor to chase it down.

    It ranks so high on my list of favorite stories, I read it every few months.

The Detective: Loren McCully, one of the many workers isolated inside a dangerous Quintessence mine. 

The Mystery: When their witch refuses to treat the dying miners, Loren takes matters into his own hands and discovers that nothing is what it seems.

  • InkFounder Comments: (Includes Spoilers)

    This is a kind of unusual one, but just… breathtaking in so many ways. the story changes genres, protagonists, and even mysteries a few times in the telling, but the transfer of tension is entirely seamless. The sense of dread and desperation ramps up throughout and each time I thought things couldn’t get any worse for the protagonists, BAM, they absolutely did.

    The world itself is a sort of antagonist, gritty and uncomfortable as in any survival tale, but it teases such fascinating magic, medicine, and ruling systems you want to stay and explore for as long as you can.

    It’s unexpectedly sweet too. The roughness of the circumstances and characters is evened out by a sense of respect, loyalty, and altruism that makes a story feel good to read over and over again. The ending is bittersweet, but it’s so beautiful too.
    I think this is the first of Andrew Dykstal’s stories that I’ve read, and I was just completely blown away. I’m looking forward to more.

The Detectives: Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale, two sensible women accompanying their husbands to John Wright’s murder scene.

The Mystery: Mr. Wright was strangled last night, that’s what his wife said. The Sherriff and county attorney don’t believe that, but they need is a motive to prove it.

  • InkFounder Comments: (Includes Spoilers)

     While the sheriff and county attorney talk over the grisly details of Mr. Wright’s murder, their wives find the smaller, even more grisly details of what Mr. Wright had been doing to his wife behind closed doors.

    It’s not a tough read, the murder and abuse that lead to it is touched on in the same matter-of-fact, barely-there way as it probably is talked about in the small town where it took place. The silent implications speak louder than any violent, gory details ever could, and the protagonists don’t need to talk to understand the evidence they uncover in the simple walk-through of the crime scene.

    It’s a masterful story in both the telling and the effect it has on a reader. It’s a classic for good reason.

     

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