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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most readers prefer Cadfael and its ilk.

The medieval period (in Europe, that is) seems to be very popular. I think it's the costumes. There's that hugely popular Society for Anachronism or something....I think a lot of people "envision" themselves as living in the middle ages, as though it might have been fun. Until you needed a dentist, or got pegged as a witch. And talk about brutality to animals....well.

I don't know why stories set in medieval Japan wouldn't be just as popular, frankly.

One other historical mystery writer I've always liked, who depicts the Victorian period very well, is Anne Perry. And I think what I like about her books is that she is really concerned with the social spectrum, with the social inequalities that lead to murder. She's very good at showing the contrast between the affluent and the poor, and creating engrossing mysteries about people who get trapped in some loop of the social structure. I like her protagonists too, especially Monk and the nurse---forgot the name; it wasn't Charlotte, she was the wife of the other policeman I think. Charlotte is the one who plays sometime sleuth with her sister. Not entirely believable perhaps, but entertaining. :) I'll have to take a look at Lindsey Davis. If Ancient Rome can seem modern, modern Rome can also seem ancient. :) I don't imagine the Italians have changed dramatically since then, except that now they all have cell phones and designer shoes. And Vespas. :D
Funny! I used to read Perry. And I really don't like women sleuths just because it makes women readers feel better about themselves. Have resisted the idea. Tamako is a woman of her times, albeit a bright one. She knows Chinese, for example. :)
I really don't like women sleuths just because it makes women readers feel better about themselves. Have resisted the idea.

Interesting you say that, because although I am a liberal, and a feminist I hope (although I deplore "attitudes" like hating men just because they are men) , I also don't care for female sleuths---although it may damn me to say so. There was one, created by a popular woman mystery writer, who was just appalling, IMH---she and a friend actually beat up on a guy. Or did something to him that seemed completely unethical. Usually, with the female sleuths, it's as though the author is trying just TOO hard. I make an exception for some female police officers---like Kathy Kolla in Barry Maitland's series. She's quite believable, although she does get herself into some scrapes. But she's a subordinate officer, and there's a kind of father-daughter relationship between her and her gov., Brock.
There are always exceptions (I loved Helen Mirren in the Prime Suspect, TV series but couldn't finish the one Linda La Plante mystery I tried to read).
I suppose this issue is another thread....not so much related to setting. But certainly one that mystery writers have to consider! Is my detective a man or a woman? How do I create a convincing detective and still attract women readers? Have a male sleuth and give him a female partner? Or just a sympathetic wife or girlfriend?
Or...make the killer a woman! ;)
Hey you guys. How can you make a blanket statement like you don't like women sleuths? Why is a female detective any different than a male detective? I went out on a ride along on the weekend with a police department with a female chief of police and a female platoon staff sergeant as well as regular female officers. Come on, women in fiction are as varied as women in real life. If you really want a female "sleuth" you could try my Constable Molly Smith series. Molly is young, new, a bit innocent, definately not a sleuth, just a beat cop, and the senior detective is an older male. Are you saying you would not read my WIP which features a very tough woman who goes up against the baddies alone?
Ann Perry should be reasonably good at writing a murder mystery - though not a perfect crime - given she went to jail as a teenager for helping to murder her friend's mother!
given she went to jail as a teenager for helping to murder her friend's mother!

Ooh, didn't know that! It's not on the book jacket bios! :) I'd hate to think that mystery writers would feel they needed to experience murder first hand in order to write a convincing crime story!
How can you make a blanket statement like you don't like women sleuths?

See...I knew I shouldn't have said that. :) It's already coming back to haunt me. But I did make exceptions! I did! Several. Maybe I shoulda said I prefer male private eyes---that's a bit different---although "in the beginning" there was P.D. James' "An Unsuitable Job for a Woman," which was excellent as i recall---and kind of a breakthrough for lady PIs.

I know there are now lots of police WOMEN, and that's a more convincing role. Like your young Constable. Sure, I would certainly give her a try. I'm pretty open minded. My preference for the male detective hasn't actually stopped me reading books with women protagonists----I just don't always find them entirely convincing. It's harder to make them truly believable, like when they have to act real tough just to prove they got the cajones to do a man's job.

OK---she wasn't exactly a sleuth OR a cop, but I really liked early Kay Scarpetta, before she become some kind of superwoman and was just a regular medical examiner.

I kind of like a "cerebral" cop, anyway. Do cops, male or female for that matter, really go around breaking and entering and climbing up on rooftops and into deserted buildings to collect evidence? Off duty? Or On Duty but without their partners in tow? I just now finished a book in which the female lead (a policewoman) did just that---OK, so she's young and athletic. But the risks she took! Sure, it makes for a "good " story if you like that kind of action---
but (since we are on the theme of "ridiculous plots" it just defies common sense. Well, that's my take anyhow/ And this is a series I actually like, by a really gifted mystery writer. (A man, as a matter of fact). But it's always the WOMAN who gets into these life-threatening scrapes. And she never learns to be more careful next time!

Well, except for his age---he must be getting on for 90---Rendell's Inspector Wexford is my "ideal" fictional detective, because he really does solve mysteries with his own intuition and keen observation and memory. His private life is pretty ordinary, but he's literate and compassionate.
I remember enjoying the Judge Dee mysteries by Robert Van Gulik, but I haven't looked at them in a long time. Dee was a historical figure in Tang dynasty China. The books came out in the 50s and early 60s.
Van Gulik is wonderful. He also really knows the period. He started by translating an old Chinese mystery, then got the idea of writing them himself. No women sleuths there. :)
I remember enjoying the Judge Dee mysteries by Robert Van Gulik,

Oh, yes, I also read those years ago, and they were delightful. Serious mysteries, as I recall. I got addicted right away.
Canada is not considered an exotic location, but I think it is fascinating.

Americans might think they know Canada, but we don't.

For instance, how many Americans know that Canada is the second leading source of oil imports into the US, after Saudi Arabia? Or that some of the finest diamonds in the world now come from the YellowKnife region of the Northwest Territories in Canada?

Or that one of Canada's female serial killers is coming up for parole this month???

It's what we don't know that makes it so interesting!
She isn't coming for parole, she's supposedly coming for pardon. She has served her complete sentence and has been out for several years.. There is actually some controversary about whether she really is going to apply for a pardon. Apparently that would involve her revealing her new name and new address which surely she doesn't want. Whereas there are plenty of people with a vested interest in getting the 'tough on crime' people all riled up. Pardon, BTW, doesn' t mean forgiveness, it just means having the offence no longer on your record.


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