Travel This Summer Without Leaving Your Seat on the Beach

Check out these international mysteries and thrillers recommended by fellow international mystery and thrill writers!

Introduction by Sarah Stewart Taylor, author of The Drowned Seapart of the Maggie D’Arcy Mystery Series set in Ireland

When I travel, my favorite moments — and memories — are when I suddenly see a place in a way I wouldn’t feel if I stuck to the tourist quarter or just visited the highlights in the guidebook. It could be a domestic scene aired on the side of the street, an extraordinary scene seen between city buildings, a bite of food, or a local ritual in particular that it can’t happen anywhere else.

My favorite reading experiences are those that lift me above the mundane details of everyday life and take me away from my chair (or cradle), those that help me see a place and completely bury me in daily life elsewhere in the world, in oceans or mountain ranges or vast deserts.

The mysteries of the international range offer a particular pleasure, I think. I love to delve, through the immediate window of criminal investigation, into the details of a different life, different food and architecture and language and customs. I would love to experience on the page the different attitudes towards law enforcement and the myriad ways that police and private detectives and amateur sleuths do their job.

And I also love the universals, the way investigations proceed in some particular way around the world, the way in which murder motives often remain the same in Australia or Jamaica, the way in which marriages and professional partnerships go awry and fail, or heal and survive, regardless of geographical location. And of course, the definition of an “international” mystery is somewhat subjective. If my reading chair is in Tokyo or London, then a crime novel set in Pasadena is international. Perhaps we should think instead of making sure that our TBR piles are geographically diverse? My favorites avoid any exoticization or romanticization of the places they set and instead celebrate and reveal what is unique and specific and true about the setting.

When I read Jimmy Perez’s Ann Cleeves novels, I feel like I’m invited into everyday life in the Shetland Isles of Scotland. In their historical series set in colonial India, Abir Mukherjee and Nev March revolve around an intricate mystery while conveying the reality of colonialism for the colonized. In his wonderful series Emma Djan and Inspector Darko Dawson, Kwei Quartey took me down to the heart of the glorious colorful Accra, Ghana, a place that now lives on in my imagination until I can visit there. I really loved Qiu Xiaolong’s Inspector Chen Cao series and their flawed, wonderful heroes, who taught me more about life in late twentieth-century China than any history book. One recent obsession I have is Ilaria Tuti’s series of crime novels set by the Dolomites, specifically atmospheric so I found myself googling their Northern Italian setting just to learn more about the history of this ancient border region . Speaking of border regions, I have always been prepared for a visit to my beloved Ireland through Brian McGilloway’s crime novels, set in the communities of Donegal and Tyrone on both sides of the Republic of Ireland border and Northern Ireland, which perfectly captures the nature of everyday life in an area where a national border is invisible — until it isn’t.

The internationally-set novels I revisit are Donna Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti series in Venice, Italy. It has been a tremendous privilege to visit this wonderful and chaotic city over the years with Brunetti and her family and colleagues as my guide, to dine with them (Oh, eat with them!) Beyond the reach of the modern world. the La Serenissima. The kind, decent, resilient Brunetti seems to be part of my own family today, her city and its familiar canals that are part of my own creative geography.

We asked Minotaur authors from around the world to write about their favorite international set of mysteries. Enjoy!

007 in Paradise

Chosen by Brian Klingborg, author of Wild Preypart of Inspector Lu Fei’s series set in China and Myanmar

One critic described his writing as “sex, snobbery and sadism.” Another said his books were “about 80,000 words, with enough plot for 8,000 and enough originals for 800.” The author himself admitted that “the target of my books is between the solar plexus and … the upper thigh.”

Ian Fleming is the one I’m referring to. And although Fleming and his “dull tool” James Bond are undoubtedly a creaky relic of a less enlightened era, for my money, few writers have come close to his talent in bringing readers in strange places and stimulation of their five senses. When you read a Bond book, you can almost feel the hot sand under your toes, smell the “disgusting” smoke and sweat in a nightly casino, taste Beluga caviar and champagne, and hear the roar of a deceived Aston Martin.

As Fleming himself summarizes: “The sun always shines in my books … most of the settings … are in themselves interesting and enjoyable, bringing the reader into exciting places around the world, and … a strong hedonistic streak is always there to recover the more painful part of Bond’s adventures. ”

It is no longer advisable to drink a bucket of booze, smoke up to 60 Balkan-Turkish cigarettes a day, gamble all night, and go scuba diving without thinking about applying SPF 50 sunblock — but we can still live as vicariously through Fleming’s books. And while James Bond is undoubtedly a dinosaur when it comes to his gender and sexual politics, as the cold war heats up again, his encounters with Russian agents in Paris, Berlin, Istanbul, and the Caribbean aren’t quite obsessed. they may sometimes seem.

A Killing Time by Julie McElwain

Chosen by Nev March, author of Risk of Exposition at Murder in Old Bombayseen in British Bombay

They say “The past is a foreign country” but what if you are suddenly in the past AND in another country? to Julie McElwain A Killing Time is the first book of her Kendra Donovan series set in 1800s England.

FBI agent Kendra is furious at her team’s betrayal and travels to England to investigate Aldrich’s old castle. To gain access, he entered a film production as an extra, wearing a costume, when… kabamm! She returns in 1815. Since she is a modern woman, she has no hope in her depth and appropriate doubt in her sanity (isn’t it?) While trying to figure out how to get back. Add to that a sympathetic aristocrat, his very charming nephew, and a mad murderer, and Elwain’s mystery reveals complexity and angst.

An impressive set of minor characters and a host of weird weather details gave life to this one. From the details of the dress, the class system along with the help — do you know what a tweeny is? —To the food, manner of living, and location, there are many surprises. How to investigate a crime on a country estate in 1815? Who will call (or pay for) a bow-street runner? What if a member of the nobility is suspected, can they still be arrested? to whom?

Reading a mystery, let alone a mystery in time travel abroad, requires the suspension of disbelief. Doing so yields relentless action and quick wit. Kendra is an experienced and knowledgeable FBI agent, but the intricacies of polite behavior, the preoccupation with clothes, avoiding the cut directly or in its various flavors, and habits of society at that time made questioning a difficult task. McElwain’s research is just right. Not so much to color the story, but just enough to color it.

The Bernie Gunther Series by Philip Kerr

Chosen by Mark Pryor, author of Die at Sunsetseen in Paris

My pick for the best series set in Europe is the series I recommend regardless of classification: Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther series. There are many things about these books that drive them to the top of the list for anyone who wants a Euro -tied documentation list. First, they will take you to most countries on that side of the lake — Germany for the most part, but also France, Austria, and as far east as Russia itself. And because the books are thoroughly researched, you can count on amazingly accurate descriptions and illustrations of wherever Bernie Gunther goes.

Another reason, and Kerr’s impressive research also helps with this, is that books bounce back a bit over time. They are centered on the events of WW2, and so his stories come out to you from that universe, through that lens, but the vast time period allows for different other real, historical characters appear (and sometimes disappear!).

Perhaps more than anything, people should read books specifically for Bernie Gunther. The time range and geography opens up to this rugged and rugged cop in front of our curious eyes. He was a charming character, a cynic with a strong moral code, one who had been repeatedly tested for over a decade, and in the middle of a war. To top it off, the mysteries themselves are fascinating, because of where they’re set, who’s involved, and because Bernie does the hunting. At least, most of the time…


Check out all the books mentioned on BookShop.org!