Donald Levin

Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Science Fiction & Fantasy

Author Profile

Donald  Levin

An award-winning fiction writer and poet, I'm the author of seven Martin Preuss mysteries: In the House of Night (2020), Cold Dark Lies (2019), An Uncertain Accomplice (2018), The Forgotten Child (2017), Guilt in Hiding (2016), The Baker’s Men (2014), and Crimes of Love (2011). I'm also a contributor to a new book of dystopian novellas, Postcards from the Future: A Triptych on Humanity's End (2019). I am the author of The House of Grins (1992), a novel; and two books of poetry, In Praise of Old Photographs (2005) and New Year’s Tangerine (2007). My poetry and short fiction have appeared in numerous print and e-journals. Follow my blog at and my website at


In the House of Night

Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

When the police investigation into the gruesome murder of a gentle retired history professor stalls, two friends of the dead man plead with PI Martin Preuss to find out what happened. The twisting trail leads him across the entire metropolitan Detroit region, from a peace fellowship center, a Buddhist temple, and a sprawling homeless encampment into a treacherous world of long-buried family secrets where the anguished relations between parents and children meet the gathering storm of domestic terrorism. Will all his wits and skills be enough to navigate through the hate to find the killer? This seventh Martin Preuss mystery is a powerful, gripping novel of guilt and redemption.

Book Bubbles from In the House of Night

The Three Poisons

In this section, private investigator Martin Preuss visits a Buddhist center in Detroit. He has been directed here by a friend of the dead man. Preuss has a conversation with the abbot of the center, Roshi Ross, in an effort to find out more about the man who was killed, who was a devout Buddhist. In the process, Preuss hopes to gain some insight into the murdered man's death.

Preuss vs Domestic Terrorists

Preuss's investigation into Charles Bright's murder take him into some of the darkest spaces in modern life. One of those spaces is filled with an organized group of white supremacist domestic terrorists. Once they realize Preuss has his eye on them, they decide to strike back--hard.

The case gets under way

In this excerpt, Martin Preuss gets a visit from two potential clients, who explain how they hope he can help them. There's just one problem: what they want will draw him into an ongoing police investigation conducted by his former department--not the best place in the world for this private investigator to find himself.

Where's Charlie?

This is the opening chapter of the book. Here's where the mystery starts . . . Charlie Bright, a member of the local neighborhood association, seems like he's going to miss his first association meeting in years. Why? What's happened to him? His friends want to know . . . and persuade the chief of police to help them find out.

The Forgotten Child

Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

Newly retired Martin Preuss passes his days quietly with his beloved son Toby. When a friend asks him to look for a boy who disappeared forty years ago, the former investigator gradually becomes consumed with finding the forgotten child. Meanwhile, ex-colleague Janey Cahill persuades him to help her locate the missing father of a troubled young girl. Juggling both cases, Preuss revisits the countercultural fervor of Detroit in the 1970s--and plunges into hidden worlds of guilty secrets and dark crimes that won’t stay buried.

Book Bubbles from The Forgotten Child

Preuss meets a character

As he plunges further and further into the past, Preuss searches for anyone who might be able to help him. Because the young man he is looking for wanted to be an artist, Preuss's search takes him into the Detroit artist community. Looking for someone who might have been around in the mid-1970s, he speaks with some of the older artists around town. Some are willing to be helpful, while others, like Lena Donetti in this scene in Chapter 16, are mostly irascible.

The case begins

This excerpt is where the case begins. The main character, Martin Preuss, recently retired from the Detective Bureau of his city's police department, is at loose ends. A friend of his, a private investigator named Manny Greene, asks Preuss to have dinner with him and introduces him to couple whom Manny hopes Preuss can help. Here, the couple explain to Preuss what their problem is.

Cold Dark Lies

Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

COLD DARK LIES is the sixth explosive entry in the riveting Martin Preuss Mystery series. When distraught Carrie Morrison hires Martin Preuss to find out how her younger brother wound up clinging to life in a disreputable Ferndale motel, the private detective thinks the story will be a familiar one—a young man takes a walk on the wild side and pays a terrible price. But the deeper Preuss digs, the more he realizes that nothing is as it seems in the brother’s world of secrets and lies. How is the young man involved with a missing prostitute? What’s the link to a local rap mogul who moonlights as the city’s main drug supplier? Why is a stone-cold killer out for revenge with Preuss in his cross-hairs? And—most upsetting of all—why is a local crime boss threatening Preuss’s beloved handicapped son Toby? A 5-star Reader's Favorite.

Book Bubbles from Cold Dark Lies

A Riff on Sadness

Martin Preuss isn't the typical hard-boiled super-detective. I consciously set out to make him as realistic, and as human, as possible. As a result, he's a complex character, dedicated to his cases as a private detective but also dealing with his own demons . . . particularly his feelings of guilt over the death of his wife and the disappearance of his older son, and the bundle of issues involved with caring for his younger son Toby, who is multiply handicapped and whom Preuss loves fiercely. Sometimes the pressures of dealing with his demons, as well as taking on the troubles of his clients, leave him morose and terribly sad. In this excerpt, Preuss has given his son a bath in the group home where Toby lives, and then reflects on the role of sadness in our lives.

A Colorful Character

This bubble introduces one of the more colorful characters of the Martin Preuss Mystery Series: Franklin McShane, an ex-FBI agent who has helped Preuss out on previous cases, and whom Preuss calls for help with this one. Suspicious of everything and prepared for anything (as this excerpt shows), McShane is a major annoyance but he's a good man to have in a bad situation.

Inside a decaying city

The action of COLD DARK LIES takes the private investigator, Martin Preuss, across the entire metropolitan Detroit area as he searches for answers to the multiplying mysteries of his case. His search goes from the affluent northern suburbs into the heart of Detroit itself. Though many parts of the city are beginning to revitalize after a long decline, there are still neighborhoods where the housing stock is old and decayed, and the regeneration has not yet taken root. This excerpt describes one such area where Preuss searches for a character named Meeshell Lee who will, he believes, prove vital to his case.

The case kicks off

This excerpt comes from a scene early in the book where the private investigator, Martin Preuss, has his first interview with a potential client. The woman, Carrie Morrison, tells Preuss that her brother is in the hospital and he asks the question that launches the main mystery investigation. Before it's over, Preuss will discover that nothing is as it seems in the brother's complicated world of secrets and lies.

Meet Toby

This excerpt introduces Toby Preuss, the 20-year-old son of the main character, private investigator Martin Preuss. Toby is his father’s remaining family member, for reasons I won’t go into here (no spoilers!). Toby is profoundly handicapped, born with cerebral palsy and a list of disabilities that fill a whole page of his yearly IEP (Individualized Education Program), including cognitive disabilities, seizures, visual impairment, scoliosis, and paraplegia. Though the teen-aged Toby lives in a group home because the widower Preuss can’t take care of all his son’s needs, Preuss loves his son fiercely. They spend as much time together as possible, doing things Preuss knows his son enjoys— going to parties, to the movies, on walks, to the library, and so on. The character of Toby is a lovingly drawn portrait of my grandson Jamie, who is no longer with us; he died after I finished the first book in the series but just before it was published. Writing about Toby helps keep Jamie alive. By remembering how he looked and sounded and acted, and endowing a fictional character with all his qualities, I can conjure up the sweet, loving child and keep him close to our hearts for a while longer. As a result, some people come away from the books loving Toby as much as his father does.

The story begins

This is the first chapter of Cold Dark Lies, the sixth novel in the Martin Preuss mystery series. The idea for the book came to me many years ago, when I read a newspaper article about an auto executive who was found dead at a sleazy motel in a Detroit suburb. I was fascinated by this, particularly by the difference between the executive's cushy lifestyle in one of Detroit's wealthiest suburb, and the end he came to in a motel at the exact opposite end of the socioeconomic scale. This idea stayed with me ever since, and when it came time to write the sixth entry in the series, I decided now was the time to use this idea that had stayed with me for so long.

Postcards from the Future: A Triptych on Humanity's End

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Three innovative authors imagine the end of humanity. Postcards From the Future is the remarkable result. Andrew Lark’s “Pollen” is a riveting, multiple point-of-view account of a strange atmospheric phenomenon that destroys humankind’s ability to reproduce, ushering in the extinction of our species. Donald Levin’s “The Bright and Darkened Lands of the Earth” is a gripping tale set in a desperate, post-apocalyptic future where a heroic woman battles ecological and social collapse in an effort to save her tribe—and humanity—from certain annihilation. Wendy Sura Thomson’s “Silo Six” is a suspenseful story of love and survival set far into the future, when the sun begins its transformation into a red giant and scorches the earth into a virtually uninhabitable cinder.

Book Bubbles from Postcards from the Future: A Triptych on Humanity's End

Language and the Book

A century and a half in the future, when this tale takes place, there have been many changes to society, all of them bad. Books have virtually disappeared, and the language that the inhabitants of the novella use has shrunk as their worlds have shriveled to the basics of survival. A small cadre of people have taken it upon themselves to search for books to preserve learning for some future day when it will be valued. In this excerpt, the main character of the novella, Ash, runs into one of those people . . . and neither one knows what to make of the other.

The chief elder reflects

In "The Bright and Darkened Lands of the Earth," the main character is a woman named Ash. Her tribe consists of mostly women who live underground, away from the toxic air and land of the dead earth, under the direction of a Council of Elders. In this excerpt, the chief elder, Odile, reflects on the current dismal situation of her tribe, and the possible role of Ash in the future of the group.

From the Prologue to "Pollen"

Andrew Charles Lark's "Pollen" unfolds in a creative, unconventional format. Rather than being a standard narrative, "Pollen" tells its story through a variety of points of view. Activists, scientists, regular people, writers, clergy, post-Pollen children . . . all contribute their perspectives, which Andrew deftly weaves together to make as full a picture as possible of the catastrophic effects of Pollen. This excerpt comes at the end of the Prologue, written by the man who spent his life painstakingly collecting the tales. He describes how--and why--he did it.

A Journey into the Wasteland

The main character of my novella, "The Bright and Darkened Lands of the Earth," is a young woman named Ash. She makes three journeys in the novella: the first in her tribal role as a scavenger for food or anything else that might be of use to her underground tribe, and the other two journeys with more specific purposes. This excerpt is the beginning of her second journey, where her instructions start with finding a nearby river. Her trek takes her into parts of the post-apocalyptic wasteland where she has never been before.

Love in the far future

Wendy Sura Thomson's "Silo Six" is a wonderful combination of science fiction, action adventure, and romance. Set far into the future, the main characters, Bailey and Ephraim, try to carve out a life for themselves in a society where every aspect of life is regulated. Their plans to start a family move along smoothly--until a looming cosmic disaster threatens everything.

Levin's world is a devastated land

Donald Levin's novella, "The Bright and Darkened Lands of the Earth," takes place not-so-many years in our future, but the Earth is ecologically desolate and people either live underground or else take their chances in a poisoned land. In this excerpt, Ash, the main character, is out scavenging for anything her tribe can use. But she runs into a man whose intentions, she thinks, may prove deadly.

The first sighting of "Pollen"

Andrew Lark's "Pollen" is a fascinating and complex look at an event that fundamentally changes the history of humanity. Is it man-made? Extra-terrestrial? Supernatural? One thing is clear: it's gorgeous . . . at least at first.

An Uncertain Accomplice

Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

Twenty years have passed since Raymond Douglas went to prison for the kidnapping and murder of a local businessman’s wife. Now Douglas’s daughter has hired private investigator Martin Preuss to track down a previously-unknown accomplice to the crime—who may not even exist. But no sooner does Preuss get involved than he finds himself entangled in two murders, a family whose wealth has bought them nothing but trouble, a body discarded in a dumpster, and a web of deceit stretching across metropolitan Detroit from the megarich suburbs to a hardscrabble trailer park. AN UNCERTAIN ACCOMPLICE blends greed, misplaced loyalties, and the cascading effects of violence into a riveting crime novel that’s impossible to put down.

Book Bubbles from An Uncertain Accomplice

Some background on the case

The book starts out when a former flame, a reporter, contacts private investigator Martin Preuss with a possible case for him. The daughter of a recently deceased convict, Raymond Douglas, wants to find somebody to re-investigate Douglas's case. The reporter suggests Preuss. Preuss and his old flame meet at a local street fair where he takes his handicapped son Toby. They repair into a local restaurant so Preuss can fill in some of the details of the old case for the reporter. Though Preuss is glad to see her, he still wonders if she is being on the level with him.

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