Stories of murder know no boundaries

Susan Withee: At the Library

By A Contributor

Last year I wrote about how the bestselling novel, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” had fueled an explosion of interest in Scandinavian crime novels and in international mysteries in general. They continue to be in high demand with readers, and publishers have responded with more and more hot titles from around the world.  Mysteries with an international setting combine exposure to unfamiliar cultures, the atmospherics of an exotic locale, and the intellectual challenges of a crime story into an absorbing and satisfying reading experience.  Here’s a list of more great international mysteries at Manhattan Public Library. 

Greece:  “Murder in Mykonos” by Jeffrey Siger.  Newly promoted to police chief of the island paradise of Mykonos, Andreas Kaldis must catch a killer while navigating the island’s convoluted local politics and religious orthodoxy, and without risking the island’s tourism.

Turkey:  “The Kiss Murder” by Mehmet Murat Somer.  Called “a delightfully over-the-top drag queen campfest” by one reviewer, this unexpected and entertaining mystery set in Istanbul features a transvestite sleuth, a quirky and refreshingly human cast of characters, and delicious dialogue. 

Denmark:  “The Boy in the Suitcase” by Lene Kaaberbol.  A noir mystery investigating criminal mistreatment of women and children, written by two women and starring female characters.  The New York Times called this “another winning entry in the emotionally lacerating Scandinavian mystery sweepstakes.”

Mongolia:  “The Shadow Walker” by Michael Walters.  It’s winter in post-Soviet Mongolia, and Minister Negrui, Harvard MBA and head of the Serious Crimes Unit, is working with a visiting British police inspector to find a serial killer. Booklist recommends this series for readers “who like plots filled with global political complexity.”

Canada:  “Still Life” by Louise Penny.  Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Quebec investigates a murder in the tiny village of Three Pines, south of Montreal.  This is a traditional procedural mystery, full of clues hidden in plain sight, red herrings, engaging characters, and complex relationships.  Author Penny has been compared to P. D. James, Ruth Rendell, Martha Grimes - and even Agatha Christie.   

Ghana:  “Wife of the Gods” by Kwei Quartey.  Darko Dawson, police inspector in Ghana’s Criminal Investigation Division, has been sent to investigate the murder of a young female medical student and AIDS worker in a village outside the city of Accra. There he confronts powerful traditional beliefs, brutal local authority, and a long-standing mystery in his own life. 

  France:  “Bruno, Chief of Police” by Martin Walker.  One reviewer wrote, “If you can’t afford that vacation in the south of France this year, Bruno may be the next best thing.”  In the quiet, friendly village of St. Denis, chief of police Bruno Courrèges, formerly with UN forces in Bosnia, hopes to find a peaceful life, but crime and the problems of contemporary French life inevitably intrude.

Israel:  “The Collaborator of Bethlehem” by Matt Rees.  For many years, Omar Yussef, a good man in a tragic and difficult place, has taught history to the children of Bethlehem.  When Israeli snipers kill a PLO soldier, one of Omar’s former students, a Palestinian Christian, is accused of being an Israeli collaborator and faces almost-certain retribution. Omar determines to save his friend, and his investigations take him deep into the complicated, violent, and corrupt world of the occupied West Bank. 

Botswana: “A Carrion Death” by Michael Stanley.  Game park rangers in the Kalahari come across a hyena feasting on a human corpse, and Detective Kubu (“Hippopotamus”) Bengu is called in to investigate.  Kubu, like his namesake, is huge, amiable, determined, and ferocious.  Publishers Weekly said, “The intricate plotting, a grisly sense of realism, and numerous topical motifs (the plight of the Kalahari Bushmen, diamond smuggling, poaching, the homogenization of African culture, etc.) make this a compulsively readable novel.”

Saudi Arabia:  “Finding Nouf” by Zoe Ferraris. In this literary mystery-thriller set in contemporary Jeddah, the teenaged daughter of a wealthy family disappears days before her marriage and is soon found dead - and pregnant.  Her family turns to conservative Muslim Palestinian Nayir al-Sharqi to investigate the death, and he turns to Katya Hijazi, medical examiner and highly-educated modern woman, for assistance.  An engrossing look into the complexities and cultural struggles of modern Saudi society.       

India:  “The Case of the Missing Servant” by Tarquin Hall.

Vish Puri is India’s Most Private Investigator and the Indian answer to Rumpole or Precious Ramotswe in this series full of humor, food, and delightful dialogue.  Nicknamed “Chubby,” Vish is “portly, persistent, and unmistakably Punjabi,” and he draws on up-to-date investigative techniques as well as ancient Indian principles in order to solve mysteries in modern Delhi.









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