Mystery Authors You May Have Missed
Joan Hess

Photo of Joan Hess on a camelBiography
Joan Hess was born in 1949 in Fayetteville, Arkansas where she still lives. She received degrees in art and education and worked for a time as an art teacher. While now divorced, she has two children. Hess began writing in the 1980s and now writes full time. She has been an active member of Mystery Writers of America, American Crime Writers League, Sisters in Crime, and is executive vice-president of the Whimsey Foundation, an organization that honors significant achievement in comedic mystery fiction.

What she writes: Hess is a prolific writer, having produced four different mystery series and several young adult novels. Her Arly Hanks series is set in the Ozark town of Maggody, Arkansas and features a female police chief who has returned to her home town after having lived in New York City. The full cast of recurring characters, including Arly’s mother, Ruby Bee Hanks and her best friend Estelle Oppers, are eccentric and funny and add a lot to each installment. Every book features a new outlandish situation and the involvement of many of the locals.

A second series features Claire Malloy, bookstore owner and young widowed mother of a teenage daughter, Caron, and is also set in Arkansas. The warm relationship between the two is an integral part of each mystery, as is the setting of the bookstore.

Hess also writes a third series featuring a retired male florist, Theo Bloomer. All of the books are humorous and often incorporate a particular subgroup of society like Civil War re-enacters or beauty pageant contestants.


List of works
Arly Hanks Maggody series
  Malice in Maggody (1987) Martians in Maggody (1994)
  Mischief in Maggody (1988) Miracles in Maggody (1995)
  Much Ado in Maggody (1989) The Maggody Militia (1997)
  Madness in Maggody (1991) (2000)
  Mortal Remains in Maggody (1991) Maggody and the Moonbeams (2001)
  Maggody in Manhattan (1993) Muletrain to Maggody (2004)
  O Little Town of Maggody (1994) Malpractice in Maggody (2006)
Claire Molloy series
  Strangled Prose (1986)
  The Murder at the Murder at the Mimosa Inn (1986)
  Dear Miss Demeanor (1987)
  A Really Cute Corpse (1988)
  A Diet to Die For (1989)
  Roll Over and Play Dead (1991)
  Death by the Light of the Moon (1994)
  Poisoned Pins (1994)
  Tickled to Death (1994)
  Busy Bodies (1995)
  Closely Akin to Murder (1996)
  A Holly, Jolly Murder (1997)
  Death of a Romance Writer and Other Stories (2002)
  Out on a Limb (2002)
  Big Foot Stole My Wife! and Other Stories (2003)
  The Goodbye Body (2005)
  Damsels in Distress (2007)
  Mummy Dearest (2008)
Crosswinds series
  Red Rover, Red Rover (1987)
Theo Bloomer series
written under pseudonym Joan Hadley
  The Night-Blooming Cereus (1986)
  The Deadly Ackee (1988)


Anthony Award nomination, Malice Domestic Convention, 1986, for Strangled Prose, and 1988, for Mischief in Maggody; American Mystery Award, Midwest Mystery and Suspense Convention, 1989, for A Diet to Die For; winner of Agatha Award and Macavity Award.

What the critics say
"Hess’s low-key humor and bull’s-eye dialogue are reason enough to read anything she writes." - Publishers Weekly
"Hess aims and fires her comic Gatling gun with reckless abandon and great glee." - Booklist


Learn about other Mystery Authors You May Have Missed.