GREAT BOOK FOR YOUR NEXT TRIP
GREAT BOOK FOR YOUR NEXT TRIP
LEARN MORE ABOUT GREAT BOOK FOR YOUR NEXT TRIP AND EXPLORE THIS SURPRISING BOOK GENRE THAT COULD SPARK YOUR NEXT TRIP
GREAT BOOK FOR YOUR NEXT TRIP
Author Jo Nesbø enticed me to visit Oslo before the city became popular among foodies and saw a boom in the opening of new art museums. I spent a summer morning immersed in the Norway Resistance Museum, a new addition to the 14th-century Akershus Fortress, while other visitors strolled along the harbor, admired the dramatic Snøhetta-designed opera building, or wandered around the sculptures in Frogner Park created by Gustav Vigeland. That historical museum is improbable to be a traveler’s first, or even fourth, destination in Oslo. However, it was a mystery novel by Nesbø named The Redbreast that drew me in.
A lifelong love of reading mysteries has influenced my travels. One of the most popular fiction genres, mysteries cover the world and offer an entertaining and accessible introduction to foreign locales. They invite participation—you’re trying to solve the crime, too—in a way literary fiction rarely does.
Nesbø’s breakout 2006 mystery, The Redbreast, had impressed me with its daring, which included doing something verboten in the genre. (No spoilers here; to find out, read the book.) An investigation of neo-Nazi activities in the capital sparks the story; its backdrop is Norway during World War II. When I first saw the central Oslo map that opens the book, nothing was familiar. But after reading more of Nesbø’s mysteries, I wanted to see the city myself.
Similarly, mysteries tipped the scale when I was weighing a trip to Montreal or Québec City. What I’d read of Québec City in Louise Penny’s Inspector Armand Gamache series (particularly the sixth book, Bury Your Dead) led me to pick the smaller, less famous place. And Québec City, especially the Vieux-Québec, did not disappoint.
The following mysteries are by local writers who know their settings well and use them as characters to enrich the stories. Here are a few exceptional tales to launch your next journey.
Historic squares and glass skyscrapers fill central Warsaw in Zygmunt Miłoszewski’s Entanglement (2007), in which State Prosecutor Teodor Szacki must solve a bizarre murder. The solution leads back to the days of the Communist secret police. Sardonic humor underscores an appreciation of the Polish as tough survivors.
As with the other mysteries cited here, through reading I met local characters, people often mired in boring jobs or poverty and molded by their location. I got the nontourist news, not the glossy brochure where it never rains, not the city-as-theme-park approach. Walking to avoid traffic and a metro strike, Szacki notes that if he led a foreigner along his route, blindfolded at times, “The tourist might go away with the impression that Warsaw was a very pretty city. Especially the section along Swiętokryska Street, Mazowieck and Kredytowa Streets with their beautiful tenement buildings, art supply shops (as if Warsaw were a city of artists), . . . the Zachęta Gallery (as if it were a city of art) . . . and Norman Foster’s Metropolitan building (city of fine architecture, ha ha ha).”
In Entanglement, Warsaw sounds intriguing. A place worth investigating and visiting. With clues to unravel—like a good mystery.
Plan your trip with AFAR’s Guide to Poland
The Lost Man
Melbourne-based author Jane Harper explores rural Australia in all of her mysteries. In her latest, The Lost Man (2019), the remote Australian Outback is the main character. The harsh climate and isolation of this sparsely populated territory shape the family this story focuses on. One brother is found dead from dehydration in the desert. Why did he abandon his water-stocked car? Harper’s description of his last desperate effort to find shade is a searing example of her keen use of locale.
Plan your trip with AFAR’s Guide to Australia
In her debut, Garnethill (1997), Denise Mina draws from her diverse background—from factory worker to criminology teacher—to create convincing, flawed characters in desperate situations while maintaining a wry sense of humor in her sharp observations.
For tourists, Garnethill is the location of the famed art school designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. But in Mina’s story, this rundown district near Glasgow’s center is a murder scene. Maureen, from a dysfunctional family with a capital D, must prove she did not kill her boyfriend. As damaged as the characters, Glasgow has its moments: “The light in Scotland is low in the autumn, gracing even the most mundane objects with dramatic chiaroscuro. Deep hard shadows from the tall buildings fell across the streets, litter bins stood on the pavement like war monuments, and pedestrians cast John Wayne show-down shadows as they stood at the traffic lights.”
Reader’s tip: Mina’s Garnethill is the first of a compelling trilogy, and her recent The Long Drop relates the true-crime story of a killer in 1950s Glasgow.
Plan your trip with AFAR’s Guide to Glasgow
The world of Hello Kitty is absent in Out, a 1997 pitch-black mystery by Natsuo Kirino. Instead of pop culture or scenic relics, this is behind-the-scenes industrial Japan, land of mass production. Its characters work the night shift at a suburban Tokyo factory, filling bento boxes with lunches. Tokyo may boast the most Michelin-starred restaurants, but grabbing a prepared lunch from a convenience shop is more in line with real life for its residents. Protagonist Masako Katori, a middle-aged, unhappily married woman, and three female co-workers team up to solve a murder. Readers favoring cozy tales with twinkle-eyed amateur sleuths should look elsewhere. This is feminist noir. When Out was nominated for the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Allan Poe award for Best Novel, it was a first for a Japanese writer.
Plan your trip with AFAR’s Guide to Tokyo
The Ghosts of Belfast
The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville (2009) is set in Northern Ireland’s capital; the mystery’s original U.K. title, The Twelve, refers to the victims killed by Gerry Fegan, an IRA foot soldier. After prison, they still haunt him. When he can’t drink memories away, he goes after the men who ordered their deaths. Neville explores lingering effects of the Troubles and questions what decades of violence achieved. Here’s Lisburn Road, part of the city’s “Golden Mile”: “Designer boutiques, restaurants and wine bars passed on either side. Students and young professionals crossed at the lights. They think the city belongs to them now, Fegan thought. If the peace process meant they could buy overpriced coffee without fear, then perhaps they were right.”
Reader’s tip: Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe, a new true-crime/history book, explores the Troubles and is a perfect companion to Neville’s book.