Name Games Headline
Hot Spot CoverSixth in the series of
Mark Manning mysteries
by Michael Craft

Hardcover published July 2002
Trade paperback published June 2003
St. Martin’s Press, New York
284 pages, ISBN 0-312-28900-6

During his distinguished career as a journalist, Mark Manning has seen it all—riots, murder, political corruption, and every manifestation of the dark heart of the human species. But even his proven emotional resources will be stretched when the home he shares with his lover, architect Neil Waite, and his ward and nephew, Thad Quatrain, becomes the site of one of the most daunting, taxing, and potentially dangerous of all human rituals—a wedding.

Roxanne Exner, best friend to both Mark and Neil, is having her nuptial ceremony at their house in the normally bucolic Dumont, Wisconsin, partly because Carl Creighton, her husband-to-be, is in the final weeks of his campaign for lieutenant governor of Illinois. For Roxanne, Dumont will afford some needed distance from the campaign, and for the city of Dumont, it will be the social event of the season. The wedding, despite everyone’s fears, comes off with nary a hitch. The reception, however, takes a disastrous turn when a local matron, who happens to be a major donor to the campaign of Creighton’s rival, is killed in what appears to be a freak electrical mishap.

Authorities soon discover that the electrocution was no accident. It was murder. Then another shocker—Roxanne herself becomes the prime suspect. If Roxanne is ever to enjoy her honeymoon, and if Carl and his running mate are to stand a chance of election, Mark will have to win a race against the clock to solve a most perplexing crime.

Michael Craft Author’s comments

In many ways, my sixth Mark Manning mystery seemed to “write itself.” Previous installments had established a momentum of converging plotlines that cried for resolution in this book. When I set to the task of outlining the story, I found that its overarching framework was already in place. All of the subplots relating to Manning’s home life were drawing to a close.

The main subplot of these books, which gives the series its “serial” flavor, has dealt with Manning’s self-recognition and development as a well-adjusted gay male. In Hot Spot, he’s where I want him to be in his journey toward maturity; in fact, he’s where I myself hope to be in my own life.

The ending of the book, therefore, has an unmistakable tone of finish and conclusion, but loyal readers needn’t fret. This is not meant to signal the end of the series. In fact, a seventh Mark Manning is already contracted for. But future books will doubtless exhibit a shift in tone and focus, and the stories may grow a bit darker, with more “edge.” We’ll see. As a writer, I feel that I’ve now sufficiently explored the phase of Manning’s life that ends in Hot Spot. He and I are now itching to try something different, and the results of that exploration are scheduled for publication by St. Martin’s in August 2004.

Regular readers of the series will also note that the main plot of Hot Spot—the whodunit—is considerably more topical, timely, and opinionated than previous installments. The story deals, at least tangentially, with some political issues that affect me deeply and stir me passionately. If the depth of those feelings sometimes spills over into the narrative, so be it. I offer no apologies.

Critical acclaim

“Beneath Craft's trademark gay-rights updates is another sly retro puzzler complete with formal gatherings, understated gossip, half a dozen red herrings, and clues by the bushel. The best of Mark's six cases to date.”
       — Kirkus Reviews

“Michael Craft's sixth solid Mark Manning mystery, Hot Spot, . . . [is] an engaging whodunit.”
       — Publishers Weekly

“If you haven't picked up one of Michael Craft's Mark Manning mysteries yet, you're missing out—they're light on the camp factor and with just the right amount of bizarre intrigue and sexual tension.”
       Instinct Magazine

“Michael Craft’s Mark Manning mysteries get better with each book written . . . Hot Spot is a one-sitting read, impossible to put down until the last page is turned.”
       Harriet Klausner, BookBrowser Reviews

“Michael Craft's Mark Manning series is a delight. The characters are sharp-tongued and intelligent, the mystery is nicely plotted and unfolds at a good clip, and the humor, especially Mark's nocturnal dreaming, is outstanding.”
       Sally Powers, I Love a Mystery newsletter

“The new Mark Manning mystery has sleepy little Dumont, Wisconsin, rivaling Jessica Fletcher's Cabot Cove as the fictional murder capital of America . . . So enjoy the electrifying intrigues of a simple country town.”
       Whitney Scott, Booklist

“Committing the perfect crime requires almost as much skill as writing a novel . . . Author Michael Craft has once again succeeded at writing the perfect novel about a murder committed—almost—as perfectly.”
       Craig Lawver, The Bottom Line, Palm Springs

“In this danse macabre, Manning is only one of many chartacters to find himself in a hot spot . . . An entertaining read.”
       Ken Furtado, Echo Magazine, Phoenix


Hot Spot was honored by the Lambda Literary Foundation as a Lammy Award finalist for "Best Gay Mystery" published in 2002.

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