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Topic: What are your favorite "foreign" mystery series?

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Subject: What are your favorite "foreign" mystery series?
Date Posted: 6/21/2007 7:43 AM ET
Member Since: 8/10/2005
Posts: 4,585
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I have come to really like a number of mystery series set in foreign lands. I love learning about a new country and culture, especially when the book is written by a native of that land and not by an American who is giving things from an American perspective. I have a few other "first in series" on my TBR that I hope to start trying out soon. So far my favorites are:

Dr. Siri Paiboun series by Colin Cotterill. This one takes place in 1970's Laos after the Vietnam War. Dr. Siri is the reluctant national coroner of Laos, 72 years old and a shaman who sees spirits as well. Wonderfully done!

Kurt Wallander series by Henning Mankell. Swedish police procedurals set in a smaller city, Ystad. These can be a little depressing sometimes as Wallander is a rather melancholy character, but I really love them!

Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep by John Burdett in the "Bangkok" series set in Thailand. These are definitely more hard-boiled and gritty novels but very compelling.

Rei Shimura series by Sujata Massey. Rei is an amateur sleuth, half American and half Japanese, living in Tokyo. (I believe later in the series she does live in America at least for awhile--haven't gotten that far yet.) I've enjoyed all of these.

Inspector Montalbano series by Andrea Camilleri. Set in Italy and translated to English, Salvo Montalbono is a sort of "grumplestiltskin" but I've enjoyed every one of these books I've read so far.

Comissario Guido Brunetti series by Donna Leon set in Venice Italy--really brings the city to life and the mysteries are excellent!

I've just read one of the Erlandur Sveinssen series set in Iceland, written by Arnaldur Indridason and really liked that one--looking forward to more.

I don't really count books set in the UK as "foreign" since a great majority of the mysteries I read are based there, but I suppose technically they are...LOL So what are some of your favorite mystery series set in foreign locales?

Cheryl

Date Posted: 6/27/2007 7:35 PM ET
Member Since: 2/11/2007
Posts: 808
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Try the Inpector Ikmen series, set in Istanbul, by Barbara Nadel. I believe the first one is Belshazzar's Daughter. These books are favorably compared with Donna Leon's.

I'm planning on re-reading an older (no longer being written) series by James Melville, featuring Superintendent Otani of the Kobe (Japan) police. I believe the first one was The Wages of Zen.

Date Posted: 6/28/2007 5:33 PM ET
Member Since: 8/10/2005
Posts: 4,585
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Thanks for reminding me about Barbara Nadel's series, John...I have Belshazzar's Daughter on my TBR stack somewhere...now just gotta find it! LOL

Cheryl

Date Posted: 7/2/2007 3:29 AM ET
Member Since: 3/13/2006
Posts: 2,024
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Most of the foreign mysteries I read are from the UK -- LOL!  Those British country house mysteries are my favorites.  :->

I love the Inspector Maigret mysteries, written by Georges Simenon from around the 1930s to the 1960s.  I enjoy having a peek into what life in Paris was like at that time.

Date Posted: 7/2/2007 6:36 AM ET
Member Since: 2/20/2007
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James McClure's series set in South Africa in the 70s and early 80s - I think the first is "The Steam Pig" (aside from a prequel, written later), but I read them partially out of order and I didn't think it mattered too much. There are 7 or 8 and they're quite dark, as you might expect from the setting. The main characters are an Afrikaner cop and his black sergeant - who is also his best friend, but this remains unspoken in public because it would be socially and politically unacceptable. This, and the situation in South Africa at the time, make for an interesting tension built into the series. The books are also very well written, with a quirky sensibility that the Inspector Montalbano books remind me of.  I think the series is mostly or entirely out of print, but there are copies of most of the books in PBS right now. 

Date Posted: 7/5/2007 9:51 AM ET
Member Since: 4/15/2005
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Cara Black's Aimee Leduc mysteries set in Paris.  Murder in the Marais is the first in the series.  I've only read three to date, but I love them.  Actually, I had enjoyed everything from this publisher (Soho Crime) which I've read to date.

Rebecca Pawel's mysteries (dang, I'm forgetting the main character - Tejada, that's it!) set in Spain around the Spanish civil war.

 

Date Posted: 7/5/2007 10:22 AM ET
Member Since: 9/25/2006
Posts: 314
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I'll second Simenon's Maigret mysteries. My only quibble is sometimes the settings are really sleazy.

For the real exotic try mysteries from the 1960s by Gavin Black, especially the ones with his series hero Paul Harris like Suddenly At Singapore and You Want to Die Johnny. The books will bring to mind Eric Ambler: smart, lots of action, not nihilistic but not preachy either with a reliable ethical compass.

Another good writer who sets stories in East Asia in the 1980s is Williiam Marshall. I’ve got the the first one in the Yellowthread Street series on my shelf. Setting is wild and wacky Hong Kong is the last days of the British. Cops are both British and Chinese and the culture clashes are pretty funny.



Last Edited on: 7/6/07 12:30 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 7/5/2007 1:43 PM ET
Member Since: 4/15/2005
Posts: 456
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Cheryl -

I just posted two Martin Limon books - they're mysteries set in South Korea - that you might like.  Jade Lady Burning is the first in the series, and the other is The Door To Bitterness.  They're Soho Crime imprints, which as I noted above, make darn good reads.  :)

Date Posted: 7/7/2007 9:56 AM ET
Member Since: 11/10/2006
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Ian Pears has a series that takes place in Rome dealing with fine art theft. The main characters are an English art dealer and an Italian  female detective.

 

http://www.stopyourekillingme.com/P_Authors/Pears_Iain.html

Date Posted: 7/7/2007 2:15 PM ET
Member Since: 5/29/2007
Posts: 12
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The original Ian Flemming "James Bond" books are pretty good.  They are far better than the movies and not even close to being as cheesy.  Bond doesn't have all the high tech gadgets and he isn't a superman either.

Date Posted: 7/8/2007 1:14 PM ET
Member Since: 8/10/2005
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Marci, thanks for the heads up--I just ordered Jade Lady Burning. We'll see how it goes from there. :)

Cheryl

Date Posted: 7/9/2007 9:09 AM ET
Member Since: 4/15/2005
Posts: 456
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Thanks Cheryl!  I wondered if it was you when I saw the email come through - and it was.  I will get this out ASAP.  I ran out of mailing supplies (read: tape) so have to make a stop at Staples this afternoon. :)

Date Posted: 7/14/2007 12:50 AM ET
Member Since: 5/9/2007
Posts: 6
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I love the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters. The books take place mainly in Egypt starting in the late 1800's and carrying over into the early 1900's.

I also love the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, set in modern day Botswana, by Alexander McCall Smith.

Date Posted: 7/15/2007 7:45 PM ET
Member Since: 9/30/2006
Posts: 6,837
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The Mrs. Polifax series has her going all over the world in her adventures, very interesting with lots of local color.

Ngaio Marsh sends Inspector Alleyn to France, New Zealand and Italy in some of his jaunts.

Date Posted: 8/17/2007 7:56 PM ET
Member Since: 7/3/2006
Posts: 181
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Has anyone read mysteries by Fred Vargas? Vargas is a French woman (it's a pseudonym) and apparently her novels are very popular in France and are slowly making their way to the states. I haven't read any, but my Auntie Jane says they're super. Here's the wikipedia article on her: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Vargas

Date Posted: 8/19/2007 2:21 PM ET
Member Since: 12/9/2006
Posts: 368
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Has anyine read the Boris Akunin books? They are set in Russia. He has a new main character now - Sister Pelagia. At times he's a little difficult to follow because evidently the characters have several nicknames.    M'ann

Date Posted: 8/24/2007 7:23 AM ET
Member Since: 8/10/2005
Posts: 4,585
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I read the first Boris Akunin Russian mystery featuring Erast Fandorin (I think that's the name) and liked the first one, but could not get through the second one--I read about 50 pages and found it extremely boring. I do have the first Sister Pelagia book here to try out.

Ellen, I have the first book in Fred Vargas' series here on my TBR, I do hear good things about her on a couple of mystery groups I'm on.

Also wanted to add that I read the first in a Norwegian series by Karin Fossum featuring Inspector Seijer called Don't Look Back recently and enjoyed that. It's actually the second book in the series, but the very first one hasn't been translated into English yet, though several more of the later books in the series have been.

Cheryl



Last Edited on: 8/24/07 7:30 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 8/26/2007 8:43 PM ET
Member Since: 3/13/2006
Posts: 2,024
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I agree that the first Akunin mystery is very good.  I haven't tried any others by him.

Judith L. (JML) - ,
Date Posted: 9/23/2007 5:48 PM ET
Member Since: 10/28/2005
Posts: 189
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I'm planning on re-reading an older (no longer being written) series by James Melville, featuring Superintendent Otani of the Kobe (Japan) police. I believe the first one was The Wages of Zen.

 

I agree, I've enjoyed this series immensely.  I learned a lot about Japanese customs and attitudes that I wouldn't have with a Japanese writer.  James Melville explains these things so a non-native will understand.  The mysteries are good too, but there were times I would have liked to kick Otani where he'd feel it most, particularly in his dealings with his wife.  Of course, he was just being Japanese.

Date Posted: 9/23/2007 9:31 PM ET
Member Since: 6/28/2007
Posts: 230
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Is it corny to say that I really enjoy English series?  I've been working through P.D. James's Dalgiesh mysteries - most recently the Murder Room.  They've been getting more subtle and nuanced as she goes without losing pace.  And I enjoy Ruth Rendell's Inspector Wexford mysteries.  This is an interesting thread though, I'm going to check out some of the more international ones.

Also, if you're into those sort of culinary mysteries, check out Monsiuer Pamplemousse but Michael Bond.  Sort of like Peter Mayle, but funnier and full of local color.

 



Last Edited on: 9/23/07 9:37 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 9/23/2007 11:28 PM ET
Member Since: 2/11/2007
Posts: 808
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Also, if you're into those sort of culinary mysteries, check out Monsiuer Pamplemousse by Michael Bond.  Sort of like Peter Mayle, but funnier and full of local color.

Who could resist a dog named Pommes Frites (French Fries)?

 

Date Posted: 9/25/2007 7:52 AM ET
Member Since: 8/10/2005
Posts: 4,585
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Jen wrote: Is it corny to say that I really enjoy English series? 

Not at all! Many of the mystery series I read are English series, and I love them too...so much so that I don't even consider them to be "foreign" anymore! In fact, I think I probably read more British series than American ones. Have to get more exotic than England to be foreign...but then, my DH is from England so maybe that's why I am so at home with those mysteries, too. :)

Thanks for all the other great suggestions here, I've got them noted though at the moment I'm on a campaign to stop starting new series until I finish up some of those I'm already in the middle of...I will get to them eventually, so...keep the ideas coming!

Cheryl

Date Posted: 10/6/2007 5:30 PM ET
Member Since: 10/6/2007
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I enjoy the "mr. moto" series - John P. Marquand's spy  novels from the '30s:

John P. Marquand (Mr. Moto)

Also, i really enjoyed the depiction of a totally unfamiliar world to me of seventeenth-century Japanese countryside in Dale Furutani's Samurai trilogy.

Dale Furutani (samurai – Matsuyama Kaze)

  • DEATH AT THE CROSSROADS
  • JADE PALACE VENDETTA
  • KILL THE SHOGUN
 I have not read this set, but he does have another series set in contemporary America (Ken Tanaka is the hero)
  • Death in Little Tokyo
  • Toyotomi Blades
  • Death in Little Tokyo

  And, as others have mentioned, the Amelia Peabody series is quite enjoyable, as is No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, and Mrs. Pollifax is always fun.

Also, since its Scottish, maybe that will count... MC Beaton's Hamish Macbeth series set in the Scottish Highlands is excellent.

Date Posted: 10/6/2007 8:29 PM ET
Member Since: 10/2/2007
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So far, I've liked Akunin's Fandorin series quite a lot.  Too bad only the first four books have thus far been translated.  Has anyone read Robert van Gulik's Judge Dee series?  I've heard it's very good.

 

 



Last Edited on: 10/6/07 8:32 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 10/9/2007 10:08 AM ET
Member Since: 11/8/2006
Posts: 871
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Recently tried:

Aurilio Zen (Italy) Mystery by Michael Dibdin.  I read "Blood Rain" but it ends like a cliff hanger and you need to read the next one as well.  So start earlier in series.  But the main character is good.

Sano Ichiro Mystery by Laura Joh Rowland.  Historical Japan.  Start early in series as well.

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