I just re-read HUNTING BADGER by Tony Hillerman. I remember the first time through, I was shocked at the large print and short page count. As I do with Hillerman, I read for story. This time, though, I read it for technique.
What I discovered made me rethink my own craft. Hillerman has distilled each scene, each conversation, down to its essence. There's no fluff, no "pretties" to distract from the story. Yet each character retains his/her distinctive voice. Jim Chee never sounds like Leaphorn. I found I really liked it, because the story is fairly complicated for such a short word count. Personally, I'm really fond of all my digressions and side stories, but none of them are that spectacular that they can't be eliminated. Any distractions need to be central to the mystery, or they're history.
I miss these masters of mystery, Tony Hillerman, Dick Francis. At least we have their bibliography, and they'll never go out of print.