The weekend article in the Wall Street Journal discussing the latest publishing craze (international mystery novels) got me thinking about my reading habits. I don't have the financial resources for a first hand visit to Rome, Istanbul or Tokyo. But I can do the next best thing...pick up a book. An international mystery, to be more specific.

Thanks to the success of Stieg Larsson, author of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo", publishers are frantically searching the world over for mysteries that take place the world over. And since murder is murder, no matter what language you speak, American readers have a lot of good writers to discover.

My preference for authors outside the lower 48 tends to favor our neighbor to the north, Canada, and they have some excellent crime writers who deserve a wider audience.

Vicki Delany writes a fine mystery series set in a small town called Trafalgar, with more than its share of secrets and murder.

Rick Mofina moves from British Columbia to New York and even the Middle East with his mysteries and thrillers, each setting recreated with first rate authenticity.

Sandra Ruttan pens a gritty series that is not for the feint of heart based in Vancouver. Her wicked writing easily ranks with (or above) many American best-selling authors that I can think of (and I'm thinking James Patterson, Jeffrey Deaver, Stephen King...)

Who knew Canadians could take such delight in the criminal underworld?

It's not that international mysteries are unknown here in the states ("The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency", is one). But compared to overseas readers, the U.S. has been positively xenophobic.

That's about to change.

You can read more about this trend in publishing at the Wall Street Journal's book section. If you're not a subscriber, you can access the article (Fiction's Global Crime Wave) through a link on my blog:

Enjoy your next destination!

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Miyabe is a bit over the top for me. Japanese writers have a very strong leaning toward the unreal, and I'm utterly opposed to tht in crime novels. Still, Miyabe is very good at other times.
the unreal, and I'm utterly opposed to tht in crime novels.

I do agree. I think it makes for a curious kind of hybrid, and leaves the reader in limbo, sort of. In Pierre Magnan's "The Murdered House," the protagonist seemed to possess some sort of supernatural powers, and it got pretty confusing. Especially since there was another murder, at the very end, that made me wonder if I'd missed something---such as, who was the narrator?
How about an Italian mystery with food?

There are some. There's a series by Donna Leon, (an American, I believe, who has lived in Italy) set in Venice, contemporary, featuring a savvy Italian police detective, and he loves to eat. (His wife's a very good cook). I don't know that you'll get recipes---but I don't think you could have an "Italian" mystery without cuisine! :) And the mysteries are pretty engrossing, too.
I'm an American but of Scandinavian descent, hence the last name. Just sayin' NY.
Currently reading ' Death of a Red Heroine' by Qui Xiaoling. Set in modern day Shanghai. Can't say I'm overly impressed.

Seems to me a good mystery novel is a good mystery novel. It doesn't matter from where it comes from.
Seems to me a good mystery novel is a good mystery novel. It doesn't matter from where it comes from.

I'd agree 100%, although I do enjoy an interesting setting---often if I've been to that country or city, because then it becomes more vivid in the story--I can "re-live" my trips to London everytime I read Ruth Rendell or Elizabeth George. Sort of, because of course I haven't seen ALL of that great city. But I've got real experience to base my imagining on. Most of what we read we "create" in our own minds, after all--the scene starts rolling, like a movie) , and a skillful writer makes it easier to do that by providing clear descriptions and carefully selected details. But no matter where a book is set, it will still be a "country of the mind."

So if a writer is not native to the place he or she is writing about, then he should at least know it well enough, through visiting or research, to make it convincing. (BTW--I.J. Parker does this very well). Still, it helps that I'm familiar with the art of the Heian period, have a memory bank of Japanese landscape and architecture from other sources.

Of course publishers will always look for the newest "hot spot," perhaps misinterpreting the desire for a good mystery for the desire to travel vicariously. ;)
Caroline, you're a rarity among readers. Thank you. :)
Yes. Interesting locale but not always satisfying. DEATH OF A RED HEROINE is, I think, the first and best.
If you are looking for an interesting contemporary setting to read, let me recommend Matt Rees' fictional character, Omar Yussef. A Palestinian detective. Just read his 'The Smaritan's Secret' and 'A Grave in Gaza.' Excellent reads, especially in delving into the Palestinian side of the current dilemma.
Thanks very much for the mention, Pat. Unfortunately it is still extremely discouraging how hard it is to get a book set in Canada published in the U.S., so that many, many Canadian writers have to set their books in the U.S. in order to get a publisher. I have heard it said that Americans think every country in the world is exotic except for Canada. The Scandanavian thing is actually not good for us in Canada, in my opinion. Readers continue to skip right over Canada looking for the next big "International" setting. Oh, well. I'm just glad that Poisoned Pen Press thinks Trafalgar, B.C. is an interesting location.
Hi, Vicki. I don't think it's the Scandinavian thing that hurts, but rather the unequal promotion by publishers. If the Scandinavians had not gotten extraordinary exposure, nothing at all would have happened. Larsson came along long after Mankell had already established a profound publisher interest in all things Scandinavian, and in his case, there was a trilogy that was posthumous. His story lent itself to publicity overkill. And as for the reviewers: it's a matter of "nil nisi bonum." Not nice to say negative things about someone who's dead, poor thing. And Mankell, a very good writer, also would not have gotten the attention without an American publisher pushing the books. I would never have picked up the African series by McCall-Smith if his first hadn't been a freebie at Bouchercon. His American publisher paid for that, and probably all sorts of other goodies, too. I'm convinced it's impossible to succeed without a publisher push.

As for exoticism, there is such a thing as being too exotic. If people know nothing whatsoever about your setting, they won't touch it. That's been my problem.
Good points. Yup, the publishers could do a lot more. But, they think Canadian-set books don't sell, ergo they don't pick them up or promote them. Therefore they don't sell. A vicious circle. And somehow the few breakout successes such as Louise Penny can't convince them otherwise.


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