May 27, 2012

Around the World in 15 Mysteries

I've been listening to Tana French's books on audio. If you're not familiar with them they're wonderful Irish mysteries. Listening to them has made me think about how much I love mysteries set in other countries. You not only get an interesting crime, you get to do a bit of armchair traveling.

So I'm going to take you on a whirlwind world tour - via book reviews I've written about some of my favorite mysteries.
First, James Church's Inspector O series gives an intriguing peek into the secretive world of North Korea. Poor O doesn't stand much of a chance against the secretive bureaucracy. Facing similar government pressure is Captain Alexei Korolev in William Ryan's The Darkening Field . Korolev fights to investigate a murder against the tense backdrop of 1930s Soviet Russia.

Scandinavia is chock full of great mystery authors. Sweden's Henning Mankell has written a whole series starring the fantastic Kurt Wallander, and great standalones like The Man From Beijing which tied for my Best Fiction of 2011. Michael Ridpath's Where the Shadows Lie offers a fun mix of modern day Iceland and ancient Scandinavian legends. I also really love Arnaldur Indridason's mysteries - but strangely enough I don't seem to have ever reviewed any of them!

Ireland and the United Kingdom also offer lots of great mysteries. In addition to Tana French's books I recently read Dublin Dead by Gerard O'Donovan, which is a quick-paced, up-to-date look at crime (and the economy) in Ireland. Scotland has the incomparable Ian Rankin - I love both the semi-alcoholic, in-your-face Detective Inspector John Rebus and the polite, teetotaler Malcolm Fox. In England I adore Elizabeth George's series starring Scotland Yard Inspector Lynley, and you also can't go wrong with Peter Lovesey's Inspector Diamond series (which are set in Bath).

One of my favorite authors, Fred Vargas, has written a whole set of mysteries starring the spacey but brilliant Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg. The Adamsberg books are mostly set in Paris, but some take place in the French countryside. Death at the Chateau Bremont, by M.L. Longworth, features the countryside in Provence, particularly the town of Aix-en-Provence and the small chateau nearby where a nobleman fell to his death.

In the warmer parts of Europe, Chief Inspector Max Camara, "a dope-smoking... proverb-quoting, flamenco-loving, Valencia-based murder detective" investigates the death of a matador in Or the Bull Kills You. Donna Leon's Commissario Guido Brunetti - a refreshingly happy married man and empathetic detective - ruminates at length about the state of his beloved Venice. And Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano is also a lot of fun, in a grumpy, profane, Sicilian sort of way. Next door in Greece (but a few millennia earlier) Nicolaos, older brother to Socrates, is trying to get his investigative career up and running.

Over in the Western Hemisphere, Argentinian Police Superintendent Venancio "Perro" Lascano got gunned down by corrupt fellow officers, and has to work from outside the establishment to find justice. And in Jamaica, curious bartender Shadrack Myers is pretty sure that something shady is happening in Largo Bay.

This is just a small sampling of the international mysteries I love; I didn't even mentioned Stella Rimington, Jacqueline Winspear, Anne Holt, Deanna Raybourn, or C.S. Harris! The list is endless, I'm sure I left out even more really good ones.

Do you like international mysteries? 
Have you read any great ones that I didn't mention?

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P.S. I picked the giveaway winner (with a little help from! Was it you?