Friday, September 30, 2011

The Mysterious East

It may be time for mystery lovers to turn from the snowy landscapes and misanthropic characters of Scandinavian writers such as Stieg Larsson, Jo Nesbo and Henning Mankell to less icy climates and warmer personalities. Mysteries set in the Far East give readers the experience of cultures and characters very different from those depicted by the somber Scandinavians.

Out-of-the-ordinary characters seem to be a specialty of author Colin Cotterill. For a series set in 1970s Laos he chose a 70-something coroner, Dr. Siri Paiboun, as his main character. In a stand-alone book titled Killed at the Whim of a Hat, Cotterill sets in the present-day Thai countryside the investigations of Jimm Juree, female crime reporter and friend of the local police.

John Burdett also writes a series set in Thailand. Its main character is police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep who is of mixed race and a devout Buddhist. Burdett sets this series under the harsh neon lights of the drug- and crime-infested streets of Bangkok.

Many authors find Japan a perfect setting for their mysteries or crime thrillers. There is The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino or Out by Natsuo Kirino for modern-day suspense. For readers who like historical mysteries there is the Sano Ichiro series by Laura Joh Rowland or the Sugawara Akitada series by I.J. Parker.

Modern China is becoming increasingly popular as the setting for suspense writers. Qiu Xiaolong has created the character of Chen, a police inspector in Shanghai. Diane Wei Liang pens the adventures of Mei Wang, a modern woman and the first successful female private investigator in Beijing. Eliot Pattison writes a series featuring Shan Tao Yun, an exiled Chinese national and former Beijing investigator.

Even Mongolia is not too distant a setting for a thriller writer, as evidenced by The Shadow Walker written by Michael Walters. So, if you’re ready for a change from Scandinavian thrillers, try one of these, set in the mysterious East.


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