Monday, August 18, 2014

A Mediterranean Tour of Mystery

No time or budget for a Mediterranean cruise?  Why not try a great mystery that whisks you away to a faraway vacation spot? Spending time with these books that perfectly immerse you in their sense of place – the buttery taste of a croissant, the sound of footsteps crossing St. Mark’s Square as church bells ring, the heady scent of Istanbul’s spice markets - will be a mini vacation without leaving home. Pack your bags with one of these exciting reads by writers who have mastered the art of setting.

Cara Black’s series set in Paris shows us a modern City of Light from the vantage point of Franco-American PI Aimee LeDuc. If your taste leans to the classic, try Georges Simeon’s tales of Inspector Maigret. Simenon wrote over 200 Maigret stories, so you have many choices.

In the mood for something more romantic? Try Arturo Perez-Reverte’s stories of retired soldier Diego Alatriste. Seventeenth century Spain comes alive in these tales of the adventures of a swordsman for hire in Madrid during the Inquisition. The first book of the series is Captain Alatriste.

Italy is represented by American expat Donna Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti in Venice, where the romance of the setting presents shadowy contrasts to murder, crime, and the corruption of the local police. Leon makes her home in Venice and it shows.

With Egypt, it’s best to slip into the past, when heat stroke and tomb curses were the biggest problems for a visitor. Spend time with the irrepressible adventurer and archaeologist Amelia Peabody. The first in the nineteen book series is The Crocodile on the Sandbank.

Can the impossibly serene Greek islands harbor a murderer? Beautiful Mykonos is terrorized by a serial killer in Jeffrey Siger’s Murder in Mykonos, starring hot shot former Athens police chief Andreas Kaldis.

A Coffin for Dimitrios by thriller writer extraordinaire Eric Ambler always makes the best mystery of all time lists with its combination of mystery, spy craft, and intrigue in Istanbul and the Balkans. Set in the years between the world wars, mystery writer Charles Latimer’s interest in master spy Dimitrios entangles him in a web of danger.

Do you have a favorite book set in another place or time? What book did you take on vacation?


  1. Of course you could also decided to venture into the past with or without leaving the country. Walter Mosley will take you on a journey into a time when relationships between the races was tense or if you really want to explore a time when race was was complicated you might try Barbra Hambly's A FREE MAN OF COLOR.

  2. I thought about this while eating breakfast and came to the conclusion that if the author did a good job of it I didn't care whether the story was in the past, present or future or whether it occurred in a place I was intimately familiar with or one beyond my ken.

    Maybe that gray statement is a reflection of Monday morning on a gray, drizzly day?

    ~ Jim

  3. Shari, I enjoy reading books that take me other places, but then like Jim, it's more important that the writer tells a good story. The place in the world I most enjoy visiting through the printed page is any place in Great Britain, especially England.I love British mysteries whether they're books or movies, past or present. I've been there twice and plan on going again.

  4. Hi Warren,
    Walter Mosley is one talented writer. I haven't read Barbra Hambly, so I will have to check her out.
    Time travel is always an option!

    Hi Jim,
    An author must nail setting to keep the reader in the story. I'm just in the mood for a story that takes me away from my every day, fighting the traffic, three hour meeting real life.

    Sounds to me like maybe you guys are in need of some Mediterranean sunshine, too!

  5. Hi Gloria,
    There is something about the British mystery - the contrast between the proper surface and the dark heart underneath - that makes them so appealing.
    I've been to England only once and I would love to go back. The history and the beautiful landscape are an unbeatable combination.

  6. It's wonderful to be able to "travel" anywhere in the world without standing in airport lines or going through TSA.

    Currently, I'm traveling back in time and reading Silver Lies by Ann Parker set in Leadville, Colorado in December 1879.

  7. Oooh, a favorite? That's difficult. I love Alex Grecian's take on post-Ripper England. And, though, they aren't mysteries, but I've really enjoyed Stephanie Perkins' series, that includes books set in Paris and San Francisco, which are two places I haven't been.

  8. Kara, you're right! Anything to avoid TSA!

    Sarah, I am a sucker for anything San Francisco. I've only been there twice and relish the chance to visit, even if it is only in the pages of a book. I hope you get there soon.