- 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.
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.
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Ausma Zehanat Khan first appeared on our radar with her crime fiction debut, The Unquiet Dead, introducing the handsome Esa Khattak and the sporty Rachel Getty. The two are partners in a special Canadian community policing unit dedicated to sensitive cases involving minority communities. In The Unquiet Dead, they tackle a case involving war criminals, Balkan ghosts, and the intersection of private and public suffering. In The Language of Secrets, Khattak and Getty go undercover in a a mosque controlled by a charismatic leader suspected of planning a violent attack – and engaged to Khattak’s sister. In Khan’s third novel to feature the duo, Among the Ruins, Khattak just wants to enjoy a nice vacation in Iran, but gets recruited by the Canadian secret service to look into the untimely death of a Canadian citizen and activist filmmaker. Ausma was kind enough to let us ask her a few questions about the series.
- Interview by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz
“I have this set of stories I want to tell based on my background in human rights law and my continuing commitment to human rights issues. It’s important to me personally because these are stories that rarely see the light, or that when they do, they’re depicted through a perspective that I don’t recognize as authentic.”
Molly Odintz: Rachel Getty is my favorite contemporary sidekick – she’s practical, sporty, and is always game to help Esa Khattak both with his assigned work and his efforts to outwit his superiors. She seems to be the average joe of the novel, intended to balance out Esa Khattak’s impressively erudite mind. Is she a Watson, to Esa’s Sherlock? Tell us about the dynamics between Rachel and Esa.
Ausma Zehanat Khan: That’s such a lovely compliment, thank you! Rachel is definitely Esa’s counterpoint, and her story is as important to the books as Esa’s is. I try to have these characters draw each other out, and to serve as foils for each other—I think Rachel is braver than Esa when it comes to personal conflicts and entanglements. She doesn’t always get things right, but she’s much more willing to take chances than he is, though both characters will continue to develop as they grow closer over time. I see Rachel as quite independent of Esa, and as an equal contributor to their crime-solving efforts. I think she also helps interpret Esa and humanize him to my readers.
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