Upstate New York Crime: Real vs. Fiction

by Emilya Naymark

Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of the book and a link to purchase it.

There are hundreds of crime novels, films, and series set in the Catskills and the Hudson Valley of New York, a trend as old as Washington Irving’s Sleepy Hollow stories.

The Hudson Valley stretches along both sides of the Hudson River and encompasses mountains, vineyards, orchards, farms, and the state capital. Its vistas inspired an entire art movement—The Hudson River school of landscape painting. Its proximity to New York City and a myriad of waterways put it smack dab at the strategic center of the Revolutionary War. 

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Image Source Crooked Lane
I live twenty minutes away from the mountain path where Major Andre was caught with a map of West Point in his boot (a hiking trail now), and twenty minutes in another direction from where he was held (a tavern to this day) and hanged (the house is unchanged and has live-in caretakers). In other words, there’s still plenty of history and wildness here, and the landscapes look much the same as they do in those nineteenth-century paintings.

Is it any wonder that an astonishing number of stories end up being set here? Among excellent authors who live in and set their novels in the Hudson Valley are: Carole Goodman, Gary Shteyngart, Allegra Goodman, Shari Lapena, Emma Straub, Mary Beth Keane, Owen King, T.C. Boyle, and on and on. Most recent television shows set in Upstate New York include The Sinner, Dexter New Blood, Escape from Dannemora, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

If a person were to form an opinion as to the goings on around here, they’d think the valley was an atomic den of iniquity overflowing with shootings, stabbings, infidelity, serial killers, the mob, cults, hauntings, disappearances, dismemberments, toxic families, secret families, runaways, drug addiction, and espionage. And that’s just in my novels! Just kidding. (Not quite.) 

But what kind of crime really goes on in our small towns and villages? How does the fictional crime we write compare to the real stuff? 

According to a recent US murder map, three of the deadliest cities in the entire country are in upstate New York: Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo. A person is more likely to be a victim of a violent crime in Catskill than in New York City, and almost twice as likely to be a victim of property crime. 

Last November, a woman stabbed a male acquaintance to death in Catskill after a night of drinking. Around the same time, another woman in New Rochelle tried to murder her older husband by wedging him behind the toilet and slitting his wrists. 

A man killed another man with a box cutter in a local ShopRite. A woman stabbed her brother to death on Thanksgiving. 

Last week, my small town saw a drive by shooting and everyone is still talking about it. 

A nearby animal shelter has been the center of controversy over fraud and mismanagement. 

We’ve had our share of fatal teen car crashes. 

A police officer friend witnessed a naked man hanging on for dear life to the roof rack of a speeding car. In the middle of a snowstorm. 

A few days later, she stopped a woman who was driving erratically, only to discover the woman’s decomposing pet in the back seat.

We have bears and coyotes wandering along Main Streets and Broadways. Unafraid of cliche, foxes sneak into chicken coops—because many households raise their own chickens. 

And if human nature and wild animals weren’t treacherous enough, the hiking trails, mountains, and serpentine roads raise the danger quotient. People young and old go onto the trails when they shouldn’t—after drinking, or in fits of depression, or at the wrong time of day, or year. Manhunts ensue and rarely end well. 

Car crashes on a winding country road have been known to knock out power to hundreds of households by bringing down power lines. 

Don’t get me started on cults. Or racial strife. Or corruption.

After all, I still need fodder for my novels.

To enter to win a copy of Behind the Lie, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line "lie,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen March 5, 2022. US residents only and you must be 18 or older to enter. If entering via email please include your mailing address in case you win. If entering via comment please include your email address so we can contact you. BE AWARE THAT DUE TO THE CURRENT CRISIS THERE MAY BE A DELAY IN SHIPPING THE WINNING BOOK. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section in Kings River Life and in our mystery category here on KRL News & Reviews. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. And check out our new mystery podcast which features mystery short stories and first chapters read by local actors! A new episode just went up.

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Emilya Naymark is the author of the novel Hide in Place, book 1 in the Sylvan series starring PI Laney Bird. Her short stories appear in A Stranger Comes to Town, edited by Michael Koryta, Secrets in the WaterAfter Midnight: Tales from the Graveyard Shift, River River Journal, Snowbound: Best New England Crime Stories 2017, and 1+30: THE BEST OF MYSTORY. When not writing, Emilya works as a visual artist and reads massive quantities of psychological thrillers, suspense, and crime fiction. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her family.
Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. Interesting listing of weird events.
    Violent mischief is all over the country.
    wish it wasn't so. txmlhl(at)yahoo(dot)com

  2. A lot of history and mystery! Count me in!

  3. Thank you so much for hosting me! This was a really interesting article to write, and I've been wanting to write something along these lines for a while. Thank you for the opportunity to get it out into the world.

    1. You are very welcome it is an interesting article. Best of luck with your book!

  4. Sounds like something I would enjoy!

  5. Sounds interesting. Thanks for the chance.


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