Midnight in Madrid (The Russian Trilogy)
Giles Blunt always makes the most of the icy setting in his novels featuring Canadian detective John Cardinal. These are perfectly acceptable thrillers: gripping and twisty as they come. Patricia Cornwell may have invented the forensic procedural, but many prefer Kathy Reichs, and her fashionably gruesome Temperance Brennan books, usually based in French-speaking Quebec. Perfect holiday reading for the CSI generation.
Louis Bayard's period novel brilliantly evokes the misty remoteness of West Point, where the famous military academy overlooks the Hudson River. Paradise may be a long way from LA, but the dead bodies keep turning up all the same.
Apart from Ed McBain's 87th Precinct books — the epitome of the solid police procedural — you could go back in time to discover Rex Stout's novels about the legendary obese detective Nero Wolfe, who never leaves his house if he can help it. A great off-beat New York novel. George Pelecanos has written a dozen crime books set in his native Washington, spanning six decades, but all with an acute sense of politics and place.
Fans' favourites are the DC Quartet. Dave Robicheaux is one of the great misfit sleuths. Most people would agree that Carl Hiaasen is the king of Florida crime, but it's not really detective fiction.
Brit Nick Stone gave us that with his two books about Max Mingus, a corrupt Miami cop turned private eye. The four books featuring Leonardo Padura's Cuban detective, Mario Conde, certainly conform to the general conception of Cuba as a soiled idyll, both sultry and gritty.
Translated from the Spanish, these are more rum-soaked than hardboiled. Well that's too good to pass up. The Caribbean is another improbable blank on the map of international crime fiction. Inspector Espinosa moves easily between the seedy downtown and the beautiful parks and squares of Rio's moneyed areas in these gentle, intelligent whodunits. Author Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza is more interested in weaving multiple stories than in piling up corpses. In private detective Pepe Carvalho, Manuel Vazquez Montalban created one of the great characters of mystery fiction.
Barcelona is his stomping ground, but The Buenos Aires Quintet is a marvellous introduction to this philosophical gourmand of the highest intelligence. The publishers claim this is the first Arabic detective story to be translated into English, and though Abdelilah Hamdouchi's novel may be a little simple for crime aficionados, it does give a — so far — unique perspective on a much-visited country.
Khadra is the female pseudonym of Mohammed Moulessehoul, a former officer in the Algerian army. Not many people are going to be holidaying in Gaza or the West Bank, but these gripping thrillers by a British journalist are excellent — not least because they are based on real events. One of Hercule Poirot's most famous exotic excursions, Death on the Nile is a classic of travelogue crime and one of Agatha Christie's most enduring mysteries. Her sleuth is Nayir, a desert guide, who is employed to find the missing daughter of a rich Saudi family, only to find her murdered.
The prolific Alexander McCall Smith is the undisputed king of cosy crime, the antithesis of the much-touted Tartan Noir movement.
His Precious Ramotswe novels may not feature much blood and guts, but readers love them for their humour and respect for African traditions. It almost seems an understatement to call Vikram Chandra's page book "Dickensian". Certainly, Dickens would have loved his detective, Sartaj Singh, and the huge scope of the novel, which takes in Indian history, Islamic fundamentalism and Bollywood, as well, of course, as murder. Satyajit Ray is best known as a film director Pather Panchali, etc but he also wrote a series of novels and stories about Calcutta now Kolkata private eye Feluda, aimed mainly at children.
This debut from Michael Walters starts off in the Mongolian capital, Ulan Bator, where a British geologist has been found murdered, but it soon heads out to the desert. The sequel to Gorky Park has the former Moscow homicide detective solving a murder mystery on a factory fishing vessel in the Bering Sea. It's hard being a private investigator at the best of times. For Mei Wang it's worse.
She's a private eye in China, where it's illegal. Diane Wei Lang's books capture China as it is today, uneasily caught between past and future. There are a couple of home-grown Japanese detectives for example, Seicho Matsumoto's Inspector Imanishi , but lovers of seriously hardboiled fiction should turn to the first of David Peace's projected trilogy, set in Tokyo after the end of the Second World War. Qui Xiaolong's Inspector Chen mysteries mix a rather conventional detective formula with a keen eye for the country's changing political climate over the past decade.
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Chen's Shanghai is a vivid city of bathhouses, karaoke bars and corrupt officials. The Dr Siri Paiboun series by Brit ex-pat Colin Cotterill has been joyously received, both for its humour, and its intriguing historical setting, in newly communist s Laos. The books start when year-old Siri is forced to become the country's chief coroner. Christopher G Moore has long been a big name in crime for his Vincent Calvino books, based on the exploits of an American private eye in Thailand's seedy underbelly, but they're only now coming out in the UK.
This terrific debut by Adrian Hyland features Emily Tempest, a half-Aborigine woman who returns to the outback village she grew up in to find an old friend murdered. Hyland promises more books, with Tempest becoming a bona fide police detective. For some backwoods Australia, try Peter Temple's Joe Cashin novels, about a burned-out Melbourne cop who moves to the sticks, but finds corpses enough there to keep him occupied. Born in New Zealand, she set most of her books in Britain, but her detective, Roderick Alleyn, was seconded to the Antipodes for a few books.
Antarctica has Greg Rucka's graphic novel about US Marshall Carrie Stetko, out solving murders in the most desolate continent on earth. You can find our Community Guidelines in full here. Want to discuss real-world problems, be involved in the most engaging discussions and hear from the journalists? Start your Independent Premium subscription today. Independent Premium Comments can be posted by members of our membership scheme, Independent Premium.
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