- Post by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz
After this 4th of July, I find myself thinking of other places, far from here – and the fantastic crime novels set there. Below, you’ll find a list of recommended summer reads for the international crime fiction enthusiast. This year, I’ve had a historical theme to my reading, although most of the works listed below are in communication with our modern sensibilities as much as they represent a window into the past. Not much else unifies the selections below, and perhaps that’s part of why I love international crime fiction; it celebrates the diversity of world experience in a way impossible to find in a single nation’s literature. All are great crime novels, and each one should make for perfect summer reading for the armchair traveler.
1. The Long Drop by Denise Mina
Denise Mina’s first historical novel is a better than the words I know to describe it – almost impossibly good. Mina bases her latest on the trial of Peter Manuel, a serial killer in midcentury Glasgow, and splits her narrative between the lurid details of the trial and the pub crawl from hell as Peter Manuel and William Watt, the surviving patriarch of a murdered family, go from bar to bar, sinking deeper into the Glasgow underworld and getting closer to admiting their most private truths to one another. The more we get to know Watt and Manuel, the more sinister the trial of Peter Manuel becomes, heightened in tension by the dramatic irony of what we know and what the jury suspects, but can’t quite allow themselves to contemplate…A knowing, mature and sympathetic portrait of a society defined by violence and proud of it, that we may now judge and find wanting. You can find copies of The Long Drop on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
2. Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama
American crime fiction sometimes seemed defined by intentionality – cops are either effective or corrupt, but certainly never incompetent. Not so in Japanese crime fiction, or at least, in this sprawling Ellroy-esque take-down of a vast police conspiracy designed to cover up a single, stupid mistake. After a botched kidnapping rescue resulting in the death of the victim, a department’s urge to prove professional competency plus the need to save face lead to a cover-up that goes all the way up to the top. Years later, a cop transferred to media relations puts aside his former departmental loyalties to continue the kidnapping investigation and discover the shocking truth behind the initial investigation… You can find copies of Six Four on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
3. Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly by Adrian McKinty
When a petty drug dealer gets taken down with a crossbow, Detective Sean Duffy scratches his head, wondering why anyone would bother with such an old-fashioned murder weapon in a region filled to the brim with guns. The seemingly symbolic murder weapon is only the first in a series of strange occurrences, as Duffy’s investigation leads him to uncovering a vast conspiracy. Like the previous installments in McKinty’s Sean Duffy series, his latest continues to illustrate the morally complex landscape of Northern Ireland in the 1980s. You can find copies of Police at the Station & They Don’t Look Friendly on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
4. Among the Ruins by Ausma Zehanat Khan
After the events of The Language of Secrets, Khan’s previous installment of her community policing series, you can’t blame her handsome hero Esa Khattack for wanting a vacation. Off he trots to Esfahan, a historic city in Iran known for its beauty, only to be recruited by the Canadian Secret Service to investigate the murder of a Canadian-Iranian documentary filmmaker. He ropes in his partner Rachel to do a little investigating back home, and together they discover a vast conspiracy. Set against the background of the Iranian Green Movement, Among the Ruins provides some much-needed exploration of an underappreciated historical moment. A timeline provides context, while the driving pace demonstrates Ausma Zehanat Khan’s growing mastery of the mystery and espionage genres. You can find copies of Among the Ruins on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
5. Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
A woman goes out to celebrate her new job, spending part of the evening in the company of a handsome stranger. She’s much surprised to discover the next morning that her companion of the previous evening is her new boss – and he’s married. Things start to get strange when her boss’ wife befriends her, even as she continues to be attracted to her boss. This book has the BEST TWIST ENDING EVER!!!!!!!!!!! You can find signed copies of Behind Her Eyes on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
6. Murder in Saint Germain by Cara Black
Cara Black’s latest takes us into the historic and artistic neighborhood of Saint Germain as she continues her work for l’Ecole des Beaux Artes while raising her new bébé, Chloe. Despite postponing a visit to her now-distant mentor, Morbier, as he lays in the hospital, Aimée’s life is almost too busy for her to handle. To add more to her plate, a friend she owes asks her for help tracking down a Serbian war criminal, previously thought to be dead, after he is spotted in a Paris Cafe. Aimée works to track down the fugitive as her friend’s former peacekeeping squad begins to disappear, one by one. You can find signed copies of Murder in Saint Germain on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
7.He Said, She Said by Erin Kelly
Kelly’s unusual domestic suspense novel tells the story of a relationship, bracketed by eclipses, obscuring truth like sunlight until the final revelations at the end. In the present day, a husband leaves his pregnant wife to go celebrate an eclipse in the Arctic Circle. His wife fears that his trip will trigger a visit by a dangerous woman from their past. Flashbacks take us through the couple’s first celebration of an eclipse together, a perfect vacation marred by their intervention to stop a sexual assault. The victim befriends the couple, with far-reaching consequences. You can find copies of He Said, She Said on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
8. The Girl Before by J. P. Delaney
I love architecture mysteries – that is, when the architecture of the setting steps out of the background to shape the narrative. J. P. Delaney’s book is first about a house, and second about two women who live there at different times, each facing danger. The owner of the modern house at the heart of the story requires tenants to shed all material objects and change their way of living to the minimalism best suited to their new abode. Some tenants thrive under the new restrictions, while others allow their residence to become more and more of a prison, trapping them in their obsessions, to the detriment of those surrounding… You can find copies of The Girl Before on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
9. A Rising Man by Abir Mukherji
A murder investigation opens a window into life in India under British rule. Just after his arrival to his new posting, a shell-shocked veteran of WWI must investigate the murder of a high-ranking British official, found dead in a slum. First in a new series, this one’s a new favorite with staff and regulars alike! You can find copies of A Rising Man on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
10. The State Counsellor by Boris Akunin
Akunin’s late-imperial tales of 19th century Russia, like the game Tetris, represent one of the more popular exports from the frozen north – and both just happen to contain irresistible puzzles. The armchair traveler interested in Russian history, or in the roots of modern-day oligarchy, should enjoy this latest in the series. Inspector Fandorin plays a cat-and-mouse game with a determined revolutionary known only as Green, who’s been working hard to assassinate those deemed guilty of injustice. Spies, revolutionaries, aristocrats, and functionaries fill out the complex landscape of Russian society as the great upheavals of the 20th century loom ahead. You can find copies of The State Counselor on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.