Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Supriya's Summer Crime Spree

(Credit: Flappleton)
I can’t get enough of smart page turners that transport me to another time or place, in particular mystery novels that combine adventure, intrigue, international settings, history, cultural issues, and large social and political themes. Yes, I ask for a lot, don’t I? Fortunately, there are a lot of great books out there that fit the bill.

Taking a page from Alli’s post yesterday, I’m sharing some of my favorite novels as well as others whose books are at the top of my reading pile this summer.

I probably picked up my first Arnaldur Indridason book, The Draining Lake, just for the novelty of reading an Icelandic thriller. Now he’s one of my favorite authors and, it turns out, also one of Scandinavia’s – and that’s coming from a region that churns out a ton of stellar mysteries. (And yes, by the way, Iceland is considered part of Scandinavia. Who knew?) In this atmospheric police procedural, Indridason weaves back and forth between the Cold War era and the present, opening the door to everyday life in both Iceland and East Germany with extraordinary suspense. Now I’m on a quest to read all of his other novels.

Bestselling American author Lisa See is well known for her historical novels about women fighting adversity in China, and I’ll be honest – I haven’t read any of these popular novels yet, though one of them (Snow Flower and the Secret Fan) is about to hit the big screen. However, See’s Red Princess mystery trilogy would also make for great cinema. Dubbed as thrillers, the setting of this excellent cross-cultural series alternates between China and the United States and follows a female Chinese investigator and her ex-lover, a U.S. assistant district attorney from Los Angeles. You’ll take away all kinds of insights from See's complex stories and layers of plot and subplot in this series, from international politics to Chinese history and contemporary culture.

Hawaii-based author Rebecca Cantrell wrote A Trace of Smoke, one of the best crime novels of 2010. The first in a historical trilogy set in pre-World War II Berlin, it follows Hannah Vogel, a journalist trying to find out what happened to her murdered brother during Hitler’s rise to power. It’s a page-turner that both informs and surprises. The overall suspense combined with the rich details of the era in this series have put A Game of Lies, the third in Cantrell’s Hannah Vogel series, which came out just last week, at the top of my reading pile.

Also at the top of my reading pile is Irish author Tana French’s latest thriller installment, Faithful Place, the follow-up to her two blockbuster booksIn The Woods and The Likenessthat have swept up every mystery award possible and kept me up many a night. It’s no wonder, as French is a former actress. Each book takes the point of view of a different detective in a Dublin homicide squad, and French tells extremely nuanced, layered stories of characters so realistic and vividly drawn, you’ll miss them when you finish each book.

I’d heard of author Kwei Quartey, who last week released his second novel, Children of the Street – but I learned more about him from his recent guest post on Murder is Everywhere. He sets his mysteries in Ghana of all places. And when I say “of all places,” I mean I know precious little about Ghana. That’s about to change, as I’m off to read Quartey’s critically acclaimed first novel, Wife of the Gods.

Any other international mysteries that should be on my list? Do share. There’s nothing like a vacation within a vacation while lying on a beach and wondering where to next.

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