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May 14, 2016

You could call it The Invasion of the Foreigners.  I recently picked up four books I’d requested at the Needham library, and when I got home I realized that not one was written by an American:  The Lion’s Mouth by Anne Holt and Berit Reiss-Andersen (Norway), The Silence of the Sea by Yrsa Siguardardottir (Iceland), A Midsummer’s Equation by Keigo Higashino (Japan), and Midnight Sun by Jo Nesbø  (Norway).

When I was younger, nearly every mystery was written by an author either from America or the British Isles, or at least every mystery I read.  Dashiell Hammett, Rex Stout, John D. MacDonald, and Mary Roberts Reinhart from the United States; Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Josephine Tey from Great Britain.  There were certainly mystery authors from countries other than the U.S. and the U.K., but most were not widely known in the United States in the fifties and sixties.

However, within the last thirty or forty years, there has been a global explosion of mystery writers.  Novels about South Africa, Denmark, China, Spain, and Mexico, to name a few of the countries now represented by police officers and/or private investigators in suspense literature, are on every library and bookstore shelf.

I think it’s wonderful.  From James McClure and his Kramer and Zondi series I was able to get a glimpse into South Africa during the apartheid period.  From Peter Hoag’s stand-alone mystery, Smilla’s Sense of Snow, the Danish capital came into view for me.  Paco Ignacio Taibo II showed Mexican society up close and personal.  I could go on and on.

I’ve been to some of these countries but probably will never get to visit all the others I’d like to.  Still, I’ve learned so much by reading mysteries set in foreign places, and I imagine the same is true for you.  Aren’t we all lucky?


P.S.  A brief note on another topic.  The 2016 Edgar Awards (the most prestigious in the mystery field) were announced on April 28th.  Two of the books I blogged about last year, The Long Ago and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney and Die In His Footsteps by Lori Roy won in their respective categories, Best Original Paperback and Best Novel.  I loved both books and suggest that if you somehow missed reading them, do yourself a favor and get a copy of each.  You’ll understand why, in a very competitive race, they were the winners.

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