19 International Mysteries and Thrillers with a Strong Sense of Place

19 International Mysteries and Thrillers with a Strong Sense of Place

Tuesday, 23 March, 2021

Murder, intrigue, espionage, secrets, vengeance, and redemption. These are the attributes of mysteries and thrillers that make it impossible to stop turning the pages. The stories become even more irresistible when they’re set in evocative destinations around the world.

The novels we’ve collected here represent different genres — cozy murders, procedural mysteries, historical novels, spy thrillers, domestic noir, and family crime. What they all have in common are page-turning plots populated by people worth your time, even when you don’t particularly like them. And the settings — villages, towns, and cities around the world — are central characters in the stories.

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Australia

Cocaine Blues - Kerry Greenwood

Cocaine Blues
> Kerry Greenwood

The Honorable Miss Phryne Fisher (that’s FRY-nee to rhyme with briny) is stubborn, witty, true of heart, an unapologetic feminist, and able to shoot a villain at 30 paces while dancing the tango. She stands for all that is good — and controversial — in 1920s Australia.

Rather than dither away her days in her luxurious Melbourne manor, Miss Fisher has succumbed to her natural curiosity and fashioned herself a lady detective. With a loving wink to golden-age mysteries, the crimes in these novels tend to be bloodless, with twists and turns of plot to keep you guessing. But unlike a traditional cozy, there’s plenty of sex, sarcasm, and sass as Miss Phryne tackles each caper with aplomb.

In this novel — the first installment in the 20-book series (no need to read in order), Phryne is bored with the London season, all those dull dances and blathering colonels. When she’s invited — by one of the aforementioned blatherers — to poke her elegant nose into a mystery in Melbourne, she can’t resist. Soon, she’s uncovered a plot that includes, in no particular order, Turkish baths, twin Russian ballet dancers, smuggled cocaine, a prostitution ring, corrupt cops, socialist wharfies, and an illegal abortion racket. {more}

A young man in one’s hotel bedroom is capable of being explained, but a corpse is always a hindrance. — Kerry Greenwood

Canada

The Beautiful Mystery - Louise Penny

The Beautiful Mystery
> Louise Penny

Who wouldn’t want to team up with a man like Armand Gamache? He’s intelligent, kind, a devoted husband, and driven to succeed but without excessive ambition. He’s also the Chief Inspector of the Sûreté du Québec. If you commit a crime, he will hunt you down with ruthlessness unmatched by any villain.

This eighth installment in the 16-book series; the series will reward you if you read in order, but this one works great as a stand-alone if you want to dip your toe in the Gamache waters.

Gamache lives in the fictional village of Three Pines, a bucolic spot located in the wilds of Quebec, but in this one, Gamache and his number-two Jean-Guy reluctantly leave Three Pines to travel to an extraordinary place: the 200-year old monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups. The cloistered monks within its walls have taken a vow of silence but have become world-famous for recordings of their glorious Gregorian chants. Their home is a sanctuary of beauty and peace — until their choir director Frère Mathieu is found in the garden with his head bashed in.

As Gamache investigates the darkness in the brotherhood, he’s forced to confront the devastating secrets and conflicts in his own life. {more}

Not for the first time that day, the Chief Inspector wondered why this monastery had been built so far from civilization. And why it had such thick walls. And such high walls. And locked doors. Was it to keep the sins of the world out? Or to keep something worse in? — Louise Penny

Cuba

Havana Fever - Leonardo Padura

Havana Fever
> Leonardo Padura

Our hero Mario Conde is a retired policeman and now makes his living in the much more civilized world of antiquarian books. He spends his days ferreting out fine book collections, paying a fair price to people who desperately need it, and then reselling the books for a tidy profit.

One day, as Mario flips through a volume in a vast library of valuable books, he finds a faded newspaper clipping about a 1950s bolero singer, the alluringly named Violeta del Rio. She disappeared under mysterious circumstances decades ago, and, against all reason, Mario becomes obsessed with finding the truth. What happened to her? What’s her connection to this library? And just how was Mario’s father involved? ‘I won’t fail to find out what happened to Violeta del Rio,’ he tells his friends. ‘I want to find out why history swallowed her up.’

Author Leonardo Padura was born in Havana and was an investigative journalist before turning his talent to fiction. His Cuba pulses on the page; you’ll hear the music, taste the rum on your tongue, and feel that seductive tingle of danger up the back of your neck. {more}

As soon as the doors to the library slid open, the smell of old paper and hallowed places floating in that mind-blowing room overwhelmed him. In his far-off years as a police detective, Mario Conde had learnt to recognize the physical signs of his situation-saving hunches: he must have been wondering if he’d ever experienced such a powerful flood of sensations. Initially, he was all set to be ruthlessly logical, and tried to persuade himself that it was pure chance he’d come across that shadowy, decaying mansion in El Vedado: an unusual stroke of good fortune for once had deigned to come his way. — Leonardo Padura

Czech Republic

Prague Fatale - Philip Kerr

Prague Fatale
> Philip Kerr

Philip Kerr is one of the masters of the noir thriller, and in his antihero Bernie Gunther, he created a character with his own code of ethics. The series spans the years leading up to WWII, the war, and the post-war period. Throughout, homicide detective Bernie struggles with his internal conflict: He’s a native Berliner who hates the Nazis, but he’s very fond of breathing.

In this installment, it’s 1941, and Bernie has just returned from the Eastern Front. His experiences in Russian almost broke him — physically and mentally — and his self-effacing wise-cracks come a little slower now.

Back in Berlin, he’s been assigned against his will to the homicide department of the Berlin police. He’ll be working under Reinhard Heydrich, one of the worst of the worst of the Nazis. (For more on the man known as the Butcher of Prague, see our write-up of the novel HHhH.)

Back-stabbing, double-crossing, cold-blooded murder, the heartbreak of love in wartime… Bernie suffers it all, desperately trying to keep a grip on his humanity and his life. {more}

Bernie can think of better ways to spend a beautiful autumn weekend, but, as he says, ‘You don’t say no to Heydrich and live.’ — Philip Kerr

Denmark

Smilla’s Sense of Snow - Peter Høeg

Smilla's Sense of Snow
> Peter Høeg

Grab a blanket and add a slug of whiskey to your tea: This immigrant story — masquerading as a breathless thriller — is set in the bone-chilling cold of Copenhagen and Greenland.

Our (anti)hero Smilla Jasperson is an Inuit who spent her childhood in Greenland, and she possesses an innate ‘feeling for snow.’ A little prickly and a lot introverted, she’s much more comfortable with mathematics and solitude than she is with people and feelings.

But her 6-year-old neighbor has made small cracks in her icy resolve, beginning to thaw her defenses and create fissures in her heart that she thought were permanently closed. When the boy is found dead — presumably from a fall from the roof of their Copenhagen apartment building — she’s convinced that something more sinister is going on.

This black-as-pitch mystery moves at a good clip, and its atmosphere seeps into your bones like an imperceptible draft under the door. The foreboding location is another character in the story, reflecting both Smilla’s peril and the ache she carries alongside her fortitude. {more}

Do you know what the mathematical expression is for longing? … The negative numbers. The formalization of the feeling that you are missing something. — Peter Høeg

England

A Great Deliverance - Elizabeth George

A Great Deliverance
> Elizabeth George

This is the first book in the stunningly good Inspector Lynley Series by American author Elizabeth George. Rich with unforgettable characters and meticulously plotted murders, these British-style mysteries are emotionally engaging and impossible to put down.

Scotland Yard Inspector Thomas Lynley (Eton educated, wealthy, and titled; he’s an Earl, for goodness’ sake) and his partner Barbara Havers (street smart, unpolished, relentless) are an unlikely pair. Their differences make them an unstoppable force when it comes to solving crimes, but their personal interactions are another matter entirely, ranging from prickly to heated to frigidly silent.

This first novel in the 20-book series is set on the Yorkshire moors, in a village that’s haunted by a 300-year-old legend. The ghostly wail of an infant can be still be heard in Keldale Abbey, a tiny victim of a deadly raid so long ago.

However, Lynley and Havers are on the scene to solve a modern crime: A young girl is accused of killing her religiously devout father with an axe. After admitting to the crime — I did it. And I’m not sorry. — she has refused to utter another word. But the Scotland Yard detectives are not convinced she’s the culprit. It soon becomes clear that everyone in the village is connected in some way to the gruesome murder and simmering fury that precipitated it. {more}

He had never thought of himself as much of a praying man, but as he sat in the car in the growing darkness and the minutes passed, he knew what it was to pray. It was to will goodness out of evil, hope out of despair, life out of death. It was to will dreams into existence and spectres into reality. It was to will an end to anguish and a beginning to joy. — Elizabeth George

France

The Vacation - T.M. Logan

The Vacation
> T.M. Logan

What better way to celebrate summer than a luxurious villa in the south of France. In a vineyard. With your three best friends in the world. And all of your families. It’s a sun-drenched paradise — except when it’s not. And in this case, it’s really, really not.

Kate and her three best girlfriends have spent a weekend away together for decades. But this year, they’ve extended their holiday to a full week and included their spouses and kids.

But after a long drive through the French countryside, Kate makes a chilling discovery: Her husband is having an affair, and one of her trusted friends is the other woman. This story is a layer cake of secrets and suspicions, and it is delicious. T.M. Logan’s lush descriptions of the Mediterranean setting — green vineyards, sweltering sun, cobbled alleys, and the straight-from-Architectural-Digest villa — make for a satisfying contrast with the ugly goings-on among the characters.

The plot is as twisty as the streets in the nearby village. Just when the action — and relentless sunshine — are about to push everyone over the edge: a roaring thunderstorm.

Note: This novel is called The Holiday in the U.K. because British English is fancy like that. {more}

I opened my door and stepped out, stretching my arms after the journey, the air-conditioned chill vanishing instantly as the late July heat enveloped me like a blanket. The air smelled of olives and pine and summer heat baked into the dark earth. There was no sound – no traffic, no people – except for the gentle swishing of the breeze high up in the cypress trees, the car engine ticking quietly as it cooled. We stood there, stretching and blinking in the dazzling sun, taking in the villa… three wide storeys of whitewashed stone and terracotta tiles, the parking circle shaded by olive trees, broad stone steps leading up to a double front door in dark, studded oak. — T.M. Logan

India

The Widows of Malabar Hill - Sujata Massey

The Widows of Malabar Hill
> Sujata Massey

In any other time and place, men and women alike would laud our heroine Perveen Mistry for her intelligence, grit, mastery of languages, and analytical mind. But in 1921 Bombay, India, she’s an affront to propriety. She’s also a pariah at her law school, where she’s bullied every day by boys with half her brains and drive.

Happily, her father is a more modern thinker. After a stint at Oxford to earn her degree, she’s soon working on her first case at her father’s law firm: the last will and testament of a man with three wives, all of whom are listed as beneficiaries.

These widows are Perveen’s polar opposite. They live in strict seclusion — known as purdah — never speaking to men or venturing out into the city. They’ve formed an uneasy sisterhood, but resentment stirs under the surface of their cordial daily lives. When tensions in the household eventually lead to murder, Perveen is forced to overcome the terrors of her past and go beyond the gates — and betrayals — of the house on Malabar Hill to reveal the culprit. {more}

‘Razia, it seems that you are chained to some people and a large old house that you cannot fully enjoy,’ said Perveen. Razia looked warily at Perveen. ‘Is that not the meaning of family?’ — Sujata Massey

Ireland

The Guest List - Lucy Foley

The Guest List
> Lucy Foley

What’s more fun than a destination wedding? A destination wedding on a rocky Irish island where everyone has secrets. Sure, it all looks like glossy perfection on the surface, but soon, a storm will break, and the possibility of happily ever after will disappear into the mist.

All of the elements are in place for a perfect day: a beautiful bride and her handsome groom, their old friends and closest family, a fairytale setting that includes a miniature castle ‘perched over a few shelves of rocks and the crashing sea below.’ This event was custom-made for a glossy magazine spread. Except that, in addition to traditional fish chowder and small-batch whisky, jealousy and betrayal are on the menu.

The large cast of suspects — the soon-to-be-marrieds, old school chums, troubled siblings, a wedding planner who’s wound just a bit too tight, and the island itself — are vividly drawn. And the desolate atmosphere of the island — craggy, isolated, foggy — is a marked contrast to the bubbly anticipation of the guests arriving by boat.

And then, of course, someone turns up dead. Hooray! Let’s dance! {more}

I look up and see it there: a big cormorant perched on the highest part of the ruined chapel, its crooked black wings hung open to dry like a broken umbrella. A cormorant on a steeple: that’s an ill omen. The devil’s bird, they call it in these parts. The cailleach dhubh, the black hag, the bringer of death. Here’s hoping that the bride and groom don’t know this… or that they aren’t the superstitious sort. — Lucy Foley

Japan

The Devotion of Suspect X - Keigo Higashino, Alexander O. Smith (translator)

The Devotion of Suspect X
> Keigo Higashino, Alexander O. Smith

In this super-twisty thriller set in Tokyo, a mild-mannered math teacher might be a criminal mastermind. There’s no doubt who committed the crime; the suspense is in watching the police and their consultant, known as Professor Galileo, try to unravel the knot of the crime.

The story begins with a seemingly average woman. Yasuko is a single mom who works at a bento shop and lives a quiet life in a Tokyo apartment building. But when her violent ex-husband shows up unexpectedly one day, circumstances spiral way, way out of control. He’s dead, and she’s falling to pieces.

Her neighbor Ishigami — the unassuming teacher who’s literally just on the other side of the wall — comes to her rescue. As Ishigami schemes to outsmart the police, we slowly learn more about him — and we get a more complete picture of Yasuko and the circumstances that lead to her ex knocking on the door. Suffice it to say everything is much more complicated than it seems. {more}

Kusanagi had met plenty of good, admirable people who’d been turned into murderers by circumstance. There was something about them he always seemed to sense, an aura that they shared. Somehow, their transgression freed them from the confines of a mortal existence, allowing them to perceive the great truths of the universe. At the same time, it meant they had one foot in forbidden territory. They straddled the line between sanity and madness. — Keigo Higashino

Mexico

Girls’ Night Out - Liz Fenton, Lisa Steinke

Girls' Night Out
> Liz Fenton, Lisa Steinke

The story begins with the introduction of three women: Ashley, Natalie, and Lauren. They’ve been friends for 20 years, and though their friendship is cemented with shared memories, it’s also infected with past grievances. The three of them hold fast to their resentments and have forgotten how to be vulnerable with each other — if they ever really knew.

They decide that a boozy trip to Cancun might be just the thing to heal the wounds in their relationships. Spoiler: It is not.

They drink. They fight. And one night, during a painfully determined girls’ night out, Ashley goes missing. Natalie wakes up on the beach the next morning, just a few yards from her hotel room, soaking wet and unable to remember anything from the night before. As she tries to piece together what happened, we see the girls’ relationship in all its damaged glory.

This is a tense story about mildly terrible people making epically bad decisions. Like a perfectly salted tortilla chip with a tequila chaser, it’s irresistible. {more}

Waves lapped against the shore. It sounded as if the sea were breathing. In and out. In and out. — Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke

Morocco

Tangerine - Christine Mangan

Tangerine
> Christine Mangan

Set in the twisty alleys of a medina in 1950s Tangier, this novel is like a Hitchcock film translated to the page. With taut, evocative prose, it tells the story of two elusive heroines trapped in a complex relationship of love, jealousy, and betrayal.

Our two protagonists — the always audacious Lucy and the painfully diffident Alice — are former best friends who met at Bennington College. They’ve had a mysterious falling out, and that conflict drives everything that befalls them.

Alice has moved to Tangier with her new husband, and she’s not adjusted well to her new life. As she struggles with anxiety, Lucy (Alice’s old frenemy) shows up unexpectedly. As the women fall into old patterns, a new mystery surfaces, and the knots of tension twist tighter and tighter.

The evocative descriptions of the city and its sweltering, breathless atmosphere will transport you to mid-century Tangier — while the spiraling plot draws you into the stark shadows of a place that’s both threatening and enticing. {more}

It is in these moments — when the air is thick and hot, threatening — that I can close my eyes and inhale, when I can smell Tangier again. It is the smell of a kiln, of something warm, but not burning, almost like marshmallows, but not as sweet. There is a touch of spice, something vaguely familiar, like cinnamon, cloves, cardamom even, and then something else entirely unfamiliar. — Christine Mangan

New Zealand

Colour Scheme - Ngaio Marsh

Colour Scheme
> Ngaio Marsh

Ah, the resort area of Wai-ata-tapu in New Zealand. Mud baths, hot springs, the majesty of volcanic Rangi’s Peak, a Māori village, and… oops! murder. Welcome to the irresistibly sinister world of Ngaio Marsh, the Kiwi Queen of Crime.

It’s 1942, and the War has made its way south to the waters around New Zealand. Retired Colonel Claire, a nice fellow (and terrible businessman), runs a hot springs spa with his wife with little enthusiasm and not much more success. The resort is on the verge of being taken over by Maurice Questing, a pushy gasbag who offends just about everyone he meets — and who may or may not be a Nazi spy.

Between soaks in the mud baths and uncomfortable family meals, we get to know the characters in all their flawed and suspicious glory. Because this is a Golden Age crime story, it’s not long before there are mysterious happenings in this previously soothing patch of New Zealand real estate, including a ship torpedoed in the bay, mysterious flashing lights, unexplained absences, a disagreement about sacred Māori artifacts, and a dead body in the boiling mud bath of Taupo-tapu. {more}

The road corkscrewed its way in and out of a gully and along a barren stretch of downland. On its left, the coast ran freely northwards in a chain of scrolls, last interruptions in its firm line before it tightened into the Ninety Mile Beach. The thunder of the Tasman Sea hung like a vast rumour on the freshening air, and above the margin of the downs Rangi’s Peak was slowly erected. ‘That’s an ominous-looking affair,’ said Gaunt. ‘What is it about these hills that gives them an air of the fabulous? They are not so very odd in shape, not incredible like the Dolomites or imposing like the Rockies — not, as you point out in your superior way, Dikon, really mountains at all. Yet they seem to be pregnant with some tiresome secret. What is it?’ — Ngaio Marsh

France

The Godmother - Hannelore Cayre, Stephanie Smee (translator)

The Godmother
> Hannelore Cayre

Say bonjour to Patience Portefeux, the 53-year-old heroine of this punchy contemporary crime novel set in the North African community of Paris. She’s bilingual, a good listener, and probably really sick of your sh*t.

Working for the Ministry of Justice as a translator isn’t the job of Patience’s dreams. Her specialty is translating wiretap recordings — most of which are conversations between drug dealers — from Arabic to French. As time passes, she’s no longer sure that her sympathies lie with the police. Hours of the suspects’ conversations have humanized them in her ears — and she knows what it’s like to be in tight spots.

All of this leads Patience to make a shocking, life-changing decision.

Dressed in fake black-and-gold Chanel sunglasses, a leopard print hijab, black eyeliner, and stacks of gold bracelets, Patience could be the best friend you never knew you needed. She struts into what’s a man’s world and takes charge of the circumstances — ensuring her success not by acting like a man but by embodying the strong, practical woman that she is.

Paris is the City of Lights, but bright lights also cast dark shadows, especially for women of a certain age and citizens from somewhere else. {more}

I had been planning to get rid of that revolver – not only because I find weapons hideously ugly, but because this particular one had killed people whose bodies had been buried on The Estate. After all, if one day somebody stumbled upon those remains, it would inevitably lead back to me; and then if they were to find the weapon that had been used to bump off all those people, I would find myself having to offer all sorts of exhausting explanations. But getting rid of a gun is the sort of job you never get around to doing, always putting it off to tomorrow. — Hannelore Cayre

Philippines (and Japan, San Francisco, Bletchley Park)

Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson

Cryptonomicon
> Neal Stephenson

This Dickensian novel weaves two timelines — one in WWII, the other in the 1990s — to tell a tale of adventure, intrigue, the Enigma code, technology, and the search for lost gold.

The story opens with a haiku-writing U.S. Marine and continues to blast preconceptions and clichés for the following 900+ pages. In the WWII storyline, a determined group of cryptographers is desperate to break Germany’s enigma code without letting the Germans find out. In the ’90s thread, the descendants of those WWII heroes are at work on an underground data haven to protect encrypted data and, ultimately, to prevent the horrors of the Holocaust from ever being repeated.

But that’s only partially what this expansive story is about.

At its core, it’s a high-stakes adventure and a tale of family, both biological and found. It fluidly incorporates intrigue and double-crosses; bracing battle scenes; jungle adventure; tenderly and humorously wrought romance; a hidden cache of war gold; and a whiz-bang ending. {more}

I had been planning to get rid of that revolver – not only because I find weapons hideously ugly, but because this particular one had killed people whose bodies had been buried on The Estate. After all, if one day somebody stumbled upon those remains, it would inevitably lead back to me; and then if they were to find the weapon that had been used to bump off all those people, I would find myself having to offer all sorts of exhausting explanations. But getting rid of a gun is the sort of job you never get around to doing, always putting it off to tomorrow. — Hannelore Cayre

Russia

Lights All Night Long - Lydia Fitzpatrick

Lights All Night Long
> Lydia Fitzpatrick

A coming-of-age character study and a legit murder mystery, this novel is as entertaining as it is emotionally charged. It will leave you feeling bruised and a bit breathless.

Our hero is 15-year-old Ilya, a gifted student whose aptitude for the English language is about to change his life. His perpetual companion is his brother Vladimir, a few years older and a troubled young man whose love for his brother is as damaging as it is pure.

The brothers divide their time between going online at the Internet Kebab and watching bootleg VHS tapes of American films. Their (fictional) hometown of Berlozhniki in northwestern Russia would be unremarkable were it not for two factors: the shocking, brutal murders of three young women and the oil refinery that dominates the landscape and the lives of the townspeople.

When Ilya is chosen for an exchange program in Louisiana, it seems that the boys’ American dream will come true. But then Vladimir confesses to the girls’ murders and is thrown in jail. Convinced of his brother’s innocence, Ilya commits himself to finding the real murderer. {more}

Ilya had never had faith in anything except that knowledge could be gained. Numbers in a column added up to something. If you stared at a word, if you sounded out the letters and visualized its meaning, it could be learned. And there was Vladimir. Vladimir, who could not be counted on for anything, who was untrustworthy in a million little ways, but who had still managed to inspire Ilya’s faith. — Lydia Fitzpatrick

Scotland

The Black House - Peter May

The Blackhouse
> Peter May

This murder mystery — set in the outer Hebrides — turns into a psychological character study as the crime is being solved. It’s filled with messy people you’ll grow to care about, and it delves into fascinating local history. Plus, it’s darker than the bottom of a cup of espresso.

The action kicks off with a gruesome murder on the remote Isle of Lewis, just off the northwestern coast of Scotland. The crime is similar to a killing in Edinburgh, so detective Fin Macleod, a Lewis native, is dispatched back to the island to investigate. No one is happy about it: not Fin, not his disappointed wife, not the commander on the island, and not the native islanders who are wholly justified in their grudges, resentments, and tender feelings when Fin resurfaces.

As he digs into the details of the crime, Fin is immersed in the dark events of his childhood in this unforgiving landscape. The island’s terrain and raw, primal weather shape the narrative as much as the people who populate it.

This is a riveting look at the damage secrets can do to the living and the dead. It’s dark, moving, and sometimes upsetting, but Fin’s humanity keeps it from falling into despair. {more}

Just beyond our landing point, the rock folded away into one of its cathedral caves. It was dark and creepy, with the eerie sound of water sucking on rock echoing from somewhere deep within its blackness like the rasping breath of some living creature. It was easy to imagine how legends of sea monsters and dragons had grown out of such places. — Peter May

Sweden

Black River - Will Dean

Black River
> Will Dean

Intrepid reporter Tuva Moodyson has been living in southern Sweden for four months, far away from her dark past in the forests and secrets of northern Gavrik. Then she receives shocking news that shakes her new and tremulous foundation: her best friend Tammy is missing.

Tuva rushes back to the place she definitely doesn’t want to be — at the height of Midsommar celebrations — to help lead the search for her lost friend. But it seems that someone else doesn’t want Tammy to be found; the search effort is routinely, cruelly sabotaged. And thanks to the bright light of the longest day of the year, day and night blend into one long, surreal horror.

While Midsommar revelers celebrate around her — with food and maypoles and aquavit and life — Tuva is trapped in her feelings of fear and regret as Tammy’s whereabouts remain unknown. As she gets closer to the truth of her friend’s disappearance, she also circles closer to what could become her demise. {more}

Utgard forest is overwhelming. Bigger than ever. Dark and summer-full; undergrowth exploding outward and upward, brambles and nettles creeping out from the forest fringes. I drive for fifteen minutes, and Utgard forest is the constant shade on the right-hand side of the road. I pass the narrow entrance to Mossen village — nothing good’s ever come out of that place — and I drive on. — Will Dean

United States

Celine - Peter Heller

Celine
> Peter Heller

Our heroine Celine defies every expectation of the private eye, and we dare you to not be entirely infatuated by her. Elegant, aristocratic, and a woman of a certain age, she’s also an outsider artist, wildly empathetic, skilled in surprising ways, and ridiculously good at her job of reuniting damaged families.

But she’s not the only remarkable woman in this story.

There’s also Gabriela, a young woman with a Past and Baggage, who needs Celine’s help. Decades ago — after a gut-wrenching family tragedy — her father went missing under suspicious circumstances on the Wyoming-Montana border. To move on with her life, Gabriela needs answers, and she pleads with Celine to take on the cold case. Soon the PI is on an epic (and dangerous) road trip west to unravel the mystery and bring her client peace.

This is a page-turner with taut suspense and action-packed set pieces that demonstrate Celine is a force as powerful as the mountain wind. It’s also a non-judgmental look at people who choose to live a different kind of life, and it grapples with the often painful sacrifices that must be made for freedom and family. {more}

The leaves stuck to the windshield and they drove with the windows open and the smell of sage and grass pouring in with the cold. They saw a grizzly bear running flat out across a meadow. He was huge and humped and he more flowed than ran, and the long sun rippled over his sleek fur like water and changed his colors. He stopped at the edge of the spruce and began digging…. They drove over a wooded rise and when they came out of the spruce they could see a hundred bison grazing in grass in a bow of the river and white trumpeter swans on the slate-blue water. — Peter Heller

Do you have a favorite globe-trotting mystery or thriller?

Top image courtesy of Tai's Captures/Unsplash.

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