Sunday Salon: An International Crime Spree

Back in August, I mused about whether it’s more rewarding to read a little of everything or to specialize, even temporarily in one genre, period, or author. In working out my thoughts, I decided that it might be fun to choose a theme a few times a year and focus my reading for a month or so. Jenny agreed with me that this would be fun, so we’ve decided to take our first crack at this in January by going on an international crime spree!

Jenny and I are both big fans of crime novels, but our crime reading has naturally focused on US and UK authors, so this month will be a fun way to explore a favorite genre while expanding our horizons. We’re keeping this casual and not setting any firm rules or restrictions. My plan is to focus entirely on crime novels by authors who are not from the US or the UK.

I’m defining crime novel pretty broadly; basically any novel with a crime—either already committed or about to be committed—at the core would qualify. Some of the books I read might be just as likely to be shelved in the general fiction section of the library as the crime section; I’m not worrying about that. I’m hoping to end up with a mix of detective fiction, psychological crime, noir, thrillers, and more. The international piece will focus on authors from outside the US and UK, so I might read a Georges Simenon novel set in the US, but I wouldn’t choose an Alexander McCall Smith novel set in Africa. Most of the novels will be translations, but that’s not a requirement. I’m not trying to cover a specific number of countries, but I’m hoping to get in a variety. It would be easy enough these days to fill a whole month with Scandinavian fiction, but I’m deliberately not doing that.

At this point, I plan focus exclusively on crime fiction for a month, but if I get tired of it before the month ends, I’ll take a break and read something different or move on to something else entirely. And if at the end of the month, I have a few books I still must read, I’ll extend past January 31. No firm rules, just a general game plan.

So what, specifically, am I planning to read? Here’s my current stack:

International Crime Spree Stack

The stack above is probably more than I have time to read, but just in case a few of these don’t hit the spot, I also have several books on hold at the library and a couple of Netgalley books ready for download onto my ereader. I know Jenny also has an appealing list that overlaps very little with mine. (We both plan to read Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow/Smilla’s Sense of Snow, so you can expect a conversation review on that.)

Since I’m participating in the TBR Double Dare, I’m going to have to make all my selections by December 31. Are there any authors or books I simply must add?

And of course, it goes without saying that anyone else who wants to join in is more than welcome to do so.

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30 Responses to Sunday Salon: An International Crime Spree

  1. Liz says:

    I enjoy mysteries, particularly set in Europe and most particularly Greece. So, I can recommend Jeff Siger, whose books are set there. He splits his time between NY and Mykonos, so you may or may not class him with your Smith example. You can find him here:
    http://murderiseverywhere.blogspot.com/2011/12/penny-here-euro-there.html
    with other authors who also may interest you.

    • Teresa says:

      Ooh, thanks for the link. I’ll have to poke around that blog. It sounds like Siger might be on the fringes of what I’m planning, as I said, I’m not being super-firm about the rules, and there’s no reason I can’t read him at another time instead.

  2. cbjamess says:

    This does sound like a lot of fun. I already read more crime fiction than is good for me, must of it from non-English speaking countries. Have you checked out the blog Detectives Beyond Borders? It’s devoted to international crime fiction and if a very good blog.

    Last year I read The Exception by Christian Jungersen and loved it. It’s the one book I’ll recommend today. My review of it is here:

    http://readywhenyouarecb.blogspot.com/2010/08/exception-by-christian-jungersen.html

    • Teresa says:

      I think a few of my library holds came from your recommendations. I’ve know I’ve added several crime novels to my list based on your reviews since you always seem to find good ones. In fact, I very nearly bought Roseanna recently, thanks to you!

      I’ll take a look at Detectives without Borders and the Jungerson.

  3. Lisa says:

    I have been enjoying I.J. Parker’s mysteries set in medieval Japan. She was born & raised in Germany but now lives in the US – which may disqualify her. I will stockpile at least one of hers for the TBR dare.

    • Teresa says:

      Medieval Japan! That sounds great. Another author who’s on the fringes of what I’m planning, but I’m still going to look into her for the future.

  4. Frances says:

    A premeditated crime spree. Again to those hidden depths in you, Teresa. I am of completely no use to you in this regard. I would take the easy way out and go all Scandinavian since those would be the only fitting titles I already have on my shelves. Can’t wait to see how this turns out for you.

    • Teresa says:

      I’ve been avoiding the Scandinavians altogether because they’re everywhere! It’s almost too daunting to delve in and easier just to say I’ll choose one or two and leave it at that.

  5. Bookish Hobbit says:

    I really liked reading The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte.

  6. gaskella says:

    What fun! I love the sound of this hugely. Of your pile I’ve only read Miss Smila, and the Umberto Eco – I shall look forward to seeing what you think.
    I have several in my pile by the latest crop of Italian crime writers – Massimo Carlotto, Carlo Lucarelli and Marco Vichi.The Italians are becoming the Scandinavians it seems…

    • Teresa says:

      I haven’t noticed an upsurge in Itailian crime writers over here yet, but it’s probably only a matter of time. I wonder if my library has any of the ones you mention.

  7. Rachel K says:

    I’m afraid I am obsessed with crime fiction. Can I make some recommendations too? Gianrico Carofiglio (a former lawyer) writing about a defense lawyer in Bari. At one point his hero goes home to a glass of wine and to bed down with a copy of “My Family and Other Animals” . . . what’s not to like! Teresa Solano has two rather offbeat private detectives in Barcelona. Both authors give a real insight into Italian and Spanish (especially Catalan) society. They tackle serious subjects but can be quite funny too.

    I recently discovered Leonardo Padura, whose detective is a book-loving, wannabe writer who is actually a police officer in Havana. They are wonderful. Funny, sad, evocative and an amazing description of “Stalinism with palm trees” and the wasted hopes of an entire generation. I read the first book and had finished all five within a fortnight, they were wonderful. I wish he’d hurry up and get some more translated into English!

  8. Tiina says:

    The Name of the Rose is the only book I’ve read from your list. It’s simply wonderful, especially if you like historical fiction. I’ve also heard a lot of good things about Smilla’s Sense of Snow.

  9. Vasilly says:

    Starting January with a theme month sounds great. It’s good that you’re staying flexible with it too. I’ve signed up for the TBR Dare challenge but I’m starting now. I have a ton of unread books on my shelves that I’m tired of. I want them read and out of the way before school starts in January. I don’t read crime novels but I look forward to your reviews.

  10. Richard says:

    I think a month of crime reading will be fun for you, and I enjoyed both The Name of the Rose and Petals of Blood from the selections in your stack. Just finished Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow and was very disappointed in it, though–thought it was laughably bad at the end, in fact, so hope you two have a better time with it than I did! For international crime fiction that plays with genre more intelligently and interestingly, I’d recommend Carlo Emilio Gadda’s That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana (Italy) and Antonio Muñoz Molina’s Winter in Lisbon (Spain). Leonardo Sciascia, another Italian, has written a number of novellas and short nonfiction crime works that I’ve enjoyed as well. Anyway, look forward to your reviews in the new year!

    • Teresa says:

      I think I got Petals of Blood after reading your review about it, and it looks great. I was sad to see your review of Miss Smilla, but it’s been on my list forever, and I intend to give it a full open-minded try anyway, with my expectations adjusted!

  11. Gavin says:

    May I suggest “A Beautiful Place To Die” by Malla Nunn. It is set in South Africa in 1952. I really enjoyed it and plan to read the second book in this series.

  12. Danielle says:

    This sounds like fun–I often do similar reading myself–focusing on one genre for a while. There are loads of great Italian crime novels out there–I was on a binge this past summer (don’t forget Andrea Camilleri or Niccolo Ammaniti–both available in the US) and hope to get back to my unread books that I accumulated from then. I sort of liked Miss Smilla’s Sense of Snow and read it twice though it’s been quite a while ago. I have started Petra Hammesfahr’s The Lie and will be very curious to hear what you think if you pick that one up. I made it about halfway through–not sure if it is the plotting or maybe the translation? I’d still like to finish it but I seem to be stuck at the midway point. However the Pineiro was one of my very favorite reads from last year and I have her new (well new English translation) on my pile to read soon.

    • Teresa says:

      I’m pretty sure it was your review that caused me to get the Pineiro, so I’m really hoping I get to that one. I was just thinking of Ammaniti today. I have his upcoming book from Netgalley, but it doesn’t look like a crime novel.

  13. I would concur with the last comment, don’t forget Andrea Camilleri – brilliantly evocative, light, fun, mouth-watering (in the food-sense, the descriptions of Italian cuisine are fabulous) detective novels. These are definitely curl up with a glass of wine and indulge books, really easy to read.

  14. Rebecca H. says:

    This sounds like a lot of fun! I really enjoyed The Shadow of the Shadow by Paco Ignacio Taibo, and also The Laughing Policeman by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo. I’m looking forward to seeing what you discover.

    • Teresa says:

      I really want to read the Sjowall and Wahloo books someday, although I probably won’t start them soon. Both CB James and Rohan Maitzen have been reading them this year, and they sound terrific.

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