Book reviews: the best murder mysteries set abroad

Murder abroad

Increasingly, detective stories range the world and this allows us to learn about history, geography and current international problems, such as the drug culture and right-wing terrorism. Here is a wide selection of eras and places in order of enjoyment.

An Evil Eye
Jason Goodwin (Faber and Faber, £14.99, *£12.99)

Byzantine in place and byzantine in plot. Jason Goodwin’s Ottoman detective Yashim tackles trouble in the harem in 1840s Istanbul (with added recipes). Mr Goodwin knows his Ottoman empire and his eunuch detective is a most attractive character. You need to be sharp to keep up with the plot.
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Blood Rush
Helen Black (Robinson, £6.99, *£6.64)

Is the drug and gang culture on Britain’s black estates incomprehensible? Read this to see how children are drawn into the violence and addiction and how nothing can be done to stop them. Frightening, depressing and knowledgeable.

Until Thy Wrath Be Past
Asa Larsson (Maclehose, £12.99, *£11.69)

Another Swedish police thriller, this time set in the far north. The action moves from 1943
to the present, bringing up Sweden’s collaboration with the Nazis (all too relevant after the massacre in Norway). ‘You shouldn’t poke around in the past,’ says one of the villains. With ghosts, thinking ravens and action falling over 60 years, it shouldn’t work-but it does.

Crucible of Secrets
Shona MacLean (Quercus, £12.99, *£11.69)

Shona MacLean is an expert on 16th- and 17th-century Scottish history, which she uses for this murder mystery set in 17th-century Aberdeen. Her detective, Alexander Seaton, is as mixed up as all modern detectives seem to need to be. The narrative is complex, but she keeps perfectly to the period without too much obsolete language.

Or The Bull Kills You
Jason Webster (Chatto & Windus, £12.99, *£10.99)

An American author, brought up in England, writes about bullfighting in Spain. Festive Valencia is his chosen city and the murder of a charismatic matador the centre of the plot. Jason Webster is pretty ambi-guous about the morals of the fight, but knows his stuff.

G. W. Kent (Robinson, £7.99, *£7.59)

You don’t get much more remote than this. Devil-Devil is about the Solomon Islands, and brings together a Melanesian detective and an American nun. The author lived for eight years among these diverse peoples and gives you great insight.

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