Name Games Headline
Name Games CoverFourth in the series of Mark Manning mysteries
by Michael Craft

Hardcover published June 2000
Trade paperback published May 2001
St. Martin's Press, New York
312 pages, ISBN 0-312-24552-1

What’s in a name? Everything, at least in the small world of dollhouse interiors. When the reigning “king of miniatures” pays a visit to Dumont—then turns up dead, strangled with a silk scarf—local newspaper publisher Mark Manning brings his investigative skills to the fore. Confronted by dizzying plot twists, with motives that range from professional rivalry to election shenanigans, Manning soon discovers that there’s much more at stake than dollhouses. There’s a killer on the loose . . . one who’s not toying around.

Michael Craft Author’s comments

Name Games is the fourth Mark Manning mystery, but the first to be published by St. Martin’s Press under its “Minotaur” mystery imprint. The series continues with its principal characters and plotline intact; it is September, some nine months after the events of Body Language, the 1999 installment. Manning is now established in Dumont, Wisconsin, as publisher of the local newspaper, adjusting to life with his sixteen-year-old nephew, Thad—part of his unexpected “inheritance” from the previous book. Manning’s lover Neil, a Chicago architect, is spending more time in Dumont, but the future of their relationship is still uncertain. This struggle for the three guys to create a family is an important subplot of Name Games.

The main plot, naturally, focuses on another murder that has shocked the sleepy sensibilities of tranquil little Dumont. The idea for this whodunit was inspired by a hobby—an art, really—that hits close to home for me. Several years ago, when I secured my initial contract to write the first three installments of the Mark Manning series for Kensington Books, my “better half,” Leon, understood that he’d have some time on his hands while I worked at the word processor. So he cultivated a new interest, miniature interiors, which dovetailed nicely with his lifelong interest in full-scale interior design. I quickly came to learn that devotees of the “little world” were a far cry from casual dollhouse hobbyists. Miniature interiors, I discovered, are a big business, and its enthusiasts are by nature somewhat obsessive, if benignly so. The potential for deadly intrigue proved irresistible, and there lay the inspiration for the plot of Name Games.

Readers may find it of interest that the three miniature rooms detailed on pages 149 through 151 of the novel are not the least bit fictitious. They actually exist—designed and built by Leon during the “spare time” he found during my writing of previous installments of the Mark Manning series. Shown here is "Cabot Cove Summer." Click on the photo for a larger view.

Critical acclaim

Name Games, Michael Craft's new Mark Manning mystery, is Craft's and Manning's fourth foray into whodunit territory. It's also their best . . . Craft goes to greater lengths than in previous novels to create characters with both strengths and weaknesses, which makes this his best mystery yet and augurs for a promising future for Manning, his family, and cohorts.”
       — Lambda Book Report (Washington)

"Craft's best tale yet."
       — Ken Furtado, Echo Magazine (Phoenix)

"Not only does Craft give us a great mystery, but he also includes some of the sexiest scenes this side of porn . . . His best mystery yet."
       — Erik Swallow, Out & About (Norfolk)

“Manning's erotic obsessions are an important part of the story and once again one of Craft's great strengths as a writer . . . From the perspective of the classic 'whodunit' school of mysteries, this is the best plotted of all of Craft's novels . . . A first-rate mystery.”
       — Tavo Amador, Bay Area Reporter (San Francisco)

“Craft manages a thoroughly refreshing solution to the engaging murder case . . . It's all in Manning's skillful explanation of clever, tiny clues.”
       — Gerald Bartell, New York Blade News

“Michael Craft's Name Games is a sexy, fun whodunit with refreshingly nonjudgmental attitudes about pornography’s role in the gay community and the world at large.”
       — Will Clark, adult video star

"Craft's compelling style and well-defined characters draw the reader into the story almost from the opening, with plot twists and turns as complicated as Agatha Christie's . . . Eagerly turning pages to see what new developments will unfold, readers will find themselves constantly rethinking the solution until the very end."
       — D.C. Culbertson, Baltimore Alternative

“Mark Manning is a sensitive and erudite character. Though the series is labeled a gay mystery, Mark's sleuthing will appeal to fans of cerebral mysteries because of his intelligence and willingness to risk everything for a just cause. His relationship with his lover is compassionate and serves to endear him further to his audience. The entertaining whodunit that is Name Games is well crafted and complex with many viable suspects. Michael Craft is a gifted storyteller born to weave tales of entertainment.” 
       — Harriet Klausner, BookBrowser Reviews

“A welcome addition to the ranks of gay mysteries”
       — Whitney Scott, Booklist (Chicago)

“A well-written and engaging addition to the series.”
       — Library Journal (New York)


Name Games was honored by the Lambda Literary Foundation as a Lammy Award finalist for Best Gay Mystery published in 2000.

Foreign edition

Name Games Cover German
Name Games was published in German as Wahlgeheimnisse ("Election Secrets ") in April 2001 by Bruno Gmünder Verlag, Berlin. To see details of the translated edition on Amazon's German website, click here.


Click here to read an excerpt from Name Games.

Click here to read a related interview by William E. Robbins.

Click here to order Name Games (hardcover) from

Click here to order Name Games (trade paperback) from

Click here to order SIGNED copies.