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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Given that Crimespace is, itself, an international space for crime writers and fans - and was started and is still run by an Aussie - in Sydney - I reckon you'll find a host of other writers right here who can help you widen your horizons... right off the North American continent altogether.
We Aussies, and those Brits, don't regard our crime fiction as'international'; any more than we think - from way down here below the equator - that, compared to us, 'American' crime is international.
American crime is American crime. Canadian crime is Canadian crime. Swedish crime is Swedish crime - hopefully translated into English so more of us can read it.
Australia is actually considered quite exotic by most Americans, and I enjoy a lot of their mystery fiction (Gary Disher and Patricia Carlon are just two standout writers that I think deserve a wider audience).

But you make a good point. Americans should simply read a good mystery without regard for its origins.
Patrick thanks for the mention. Good piece in the WSJ and thanks for the discussion. I draw on my experiences and foreign assignments as a wire service reporter for my recent books. While I have not been to every country I visit in my books, I do my best to make things as authentic as possible for crime fiction. There is no subsitute for exotic travel. To know the smells of Doha, Qatar, or the slums of Kingston, Jamaica, or the texture of the interior walls of farmer's hut outside of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia you have to experience it.
Thanks to your books, we can.
Somehow, I think, this doesn't apply to historical mysteries set in other countries. A pity. I have a good mind to take my next crimes to Austria. Hope nobody's done Austria yet. I'm homesick and want to write about food.
I have a good mind to take my next crimes to Austria.

There is a mystery set in Vienna, actually---one featuring Gustave Klimt as a character. It was also a historical mystery. I can't remember the title at the moment---something with a mirror in it. The author had lived for many years in Vienna. But that doesn't mean you couldn't write another. After all, it IS the story we read for, as well as the setting. How many mysteries have been set in Britain? Doesn't mean we tire of them, if they're well done.

I do like featuring food in a mystery, as well as landscape. Not long ago read Pierre Magnan's series---all set in Provence. Some of the best writing I've ever read in its evocation of the Provencal countryside, although the murders were very bizarre, grisly and on the whole improbable, but the quality of the writing, the writer's knowledge of the region and its cuisine, kept me going.

BTW, just finished "The Dragon Scroll" a couple days ago and sent you a note about how much I liked it, but don't know where that comment ended up---on your wall, or somewhere else. I don't see it anywhere, so I hope you got it.
Hi Caroline.

I believe that Vienna was the setting for "The Third Man", Orson Welles' classic tale of post war intrigue. I agree, we can always use another in that setting. I'll look for that note. I've been traveling over the past few days because of the holiday so I may have missed it. What is the cuisine in Provencal like?
I believe that Vienna was the setting for "The Third Man", Orson Welles' classic tale of post war intrigue.

That's right! I'd forgotten about that.
Well, I've never been to Provence.... but in Pierre Magnan's "Death in the Truffle Wood," you can guess what one of the favorite foods was! It's generally hearty, rustic fare. Bread, olive oil, cheeses, blood sausage and other pork products. And plenty of wine!
Food in mysteries is as integral a part of a good story, for me, as the setting--but of course they are often intertwined. However, I can do without the food and with almost any setting as long as the mystery is well-written and engrossing.
But, if you've chosen an "exotic" or well-known setting, then of course, it's a mistake not to detail it.
Since every writer will see a city from a different perspective---- almost anywhere is up for grabs, right? ;)
Didn't Larry Beinhart send his character Tony Cassella to Austria back in the 80s? Or am I thinking of something else?
Personally, I think the WSJ article is a little off-base. What to me seems to be mostly happening is not a globe-spanning search for "the next Stieg Larrson," but a deep scouring of other Scandinavian writers. In this sense, I think the New York Times article on much the same subject is a little more on-point: (

I've read a slew of the Scandinavians--not just Stieg Larrson, but Jo Nesbo and Kjell Erickkson, among others--and personally, I'm not sure what the big fuss is about. Obviously the setting lends itself to hard-boiled tropes handily--barren, snow-covered landscapes, bitter cold, black coffee and heavy drinkers. Many of the novels set in the region are quite good--but just as many are over-rated and structurally puzzling to more than a few readers in the States.

That publishers are all looking for "the next Larrson" by giving a big push to everyone from the region seems narrow-minded to me. I wish things WERE happening a little more like the WSJ article makes it out to be--a global translation phenomenon, not just Scandinavian craze. After all, if the point of reading crime in translation is to broaden one's horizons, you'd think readers WOULD be looking to travel elsewhere in the creation of the next big international phenomenon.

Personally, if I were to recommend international crime to someone who wanted an opinion, I wouldn't go with the Scandinavians--I'd pick Natsuo Kirino, who was a solidly successful international phenomenon well before Larrson, and Roger Smith, whose WAKE UP DEAD was one of my favorites from earlier this year. Anyone else have far-reaching suggestions I should be checking out?
Yes, I agree. Though the Scandinavians have produced a rather large number of very good writers, there have also been those that are merely average (and I'd put Larsson in that category) and even poor (that Yrsa person from Iceland). It's all hype, and all Scandinavians at the moment benefit from it. I'd much rather, they would really turn their attention to all other foreign countries. Italy, for example, has Andrea Camilleri, and Brazil has Garcia-Roza.
Good points being made. The Scandinavians certainly aren't the only ones who should be getting our attention. I think some of the Japanese writers are interesting. Anyone familiar with Miyuki Miyabe? Her 2007 novel, The Devil's Whisper, was a chilling suspense tale that really made me a fan.

As far as food based mysteries, I'm not familiar with Austrian cuisine. But I'd give it a taste. How about an Italian mystery with food? (And I'm not talking pizza, but real Italian recipes).


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