Literary fiction’s not considered a genre, but that’s what I’ve read most of my life, particularly literary novels set in exotic locales. Starting with The Good Earth back in middle school, I’ve always been drawn to intricate, elegant stories filled with poetic descriptions, faraway locations, and rich doses of history, drama, and social themes that make me think.
A few years ago, I got hooked on mystery novels, which offer many of those same elements along with a faster pace, higher stakes, and challenging puzzles that often force me to keep turning the pages way past my bed time. Not just following clues to solving crimes and other unusual circumstances but also to figuring out people and what motivates us. All the same stuff I love about literary novels, just presented in a different way.
So as I wrote my first mystery, Breathing in Bombay, I had to figure out what subgenre it fell into within the category. That’s when I realized there are quite a few of them: traditional (also known as cozies), suspense, and thriller; historical and futuristic; police procedural versus amateur sleuth; and so on. The choices seemed endless.
Of course, while I was figuring out my subgenre, I stayed on the lookout for good mystery novels with an international flair. I came across many excellent authors who’ve transported me to fascinating places: Tana French to Ireland, Karin Fossum to Norway, Stieg Larsson to Sweden, and my latest addiction, Arnaldur Indridason, who opened the door to both Iceland and East Germany with his stellar book, The Draining Lake.
I also began reading a new breed of American authors that includes Sujata Massey, S.J. Rozan, and Lisa See, whose main characters straddle two cultures. That’s a concept my series is based on as well, and how I discovered the multicultural mystery subgenre. I was thrilled to find a niche that combines adventure, intrigue, international settings, cultural issues and social themes. A niche where my own book belongs. It’s been loads of fun to write—and hopefully readers will enjoy it too.
What about you? Have you read any good international or multicultural mysteries lately? I’m always looking for recommendations!