by Public Service Associate Autumn
Nelson Mandela once remarked that “When we read, we are able to travel to many places, meet many people and understand the world.” While these wise words apply to basically every book, they seem especially true about international mystery novels. Such novels allow readers to explore a culture and a world beyond their own, helpfully with a clear focal point. Not only are these books filled with brilliant crimes and more brilliant detectives, but they show people and societies at the extremes, revealing all the little cracks in characters and in human societies. They can manage to reveal both the fundamental differences between cultures and the universality of human nature.
To help ensure that no one ends up with any nasty surprises, I have separated this list into cozy (i.e. no violence on the page) and non-cozy mysteries.
- The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino; Japan |print / digital
- Lightseekers by Femi Kayode; Nigeria |print
- Thief of souls by Brian Klingborg; China |print / digital
- The Missing American by Kwei Quartey; Ghana |print / digital
While all of the books in this list handle the sting of death and the cultural and political problems of their respective times and countries, these four books do so in a more blunt and graphic way. The Devotion of Suspect X is the story of a devoted neighbor who finds himself locked in a duel with the police to protect his crush. The Lightseekers’ Dr. Philip Taiwo is a psychologist dragged into the public torture and murder of three college students by a powerful political figure. Lu Fei emerges from The Thief of Souls, trying to solve the brutal murder of a young girl in a small town, in a China that cares much more for political image than justice. Emma Djan, in The Missing American, is an ex-police private investigator who goes looking into the disappearance of an American businessman, who at first glance, was scammed into giving money to a Ghanan woman online. These four books, in their own ways, touch on how people are trying to live, grow and deal with the crazy, modern world around them .
- The Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill; 1970s Laos |print / digital
- The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown by Vaseem Khan; India |print
- The Coldest Case by Martin Walker; France |print / digital
- Aunty Lee’s Deadly Specials by Ovidia Yu; 2000s Singapore |print / digital
These four books take a slightly more lighthearted and humorous touch to introduce readers to their respective countries and cultures. In The Coroner’s Lunch, Dr. Siri Paiboun, assigned to be the coroner for the new socialist government, tries to navigate his new position while looking into four suspicious deaths. Ashwin Chopra, the retired inspector always followed by a baby elephant in The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown, tackles solving a jewel robbery that happened just under his nose. In The Coldest Case, the Chief of Police in a small French town decides to apply facial reconstruction techniques to an unidentified body from a decades old cold case, only to learn that finding the corpse’s identity was just the beginning. Finally, spunky restaurateur Aunty Lee of Aunty Lee’s Deadly Specials, assigns herself to discover what really happened when the mother and son who hired her to cater a party drop dead, allegedly from one of Aunty Lee’s own ill-prepared dishes.
So take your pick, learn something new and, at least temporarily, travel beyond cold, wet Ohio.