In the Woods
Tana French’s interlinked mysteries are so full of emotional twists and turns that they pick up a new main character with each new installment. Cassie Maddox, a modern-day Dublin detective who plays backup to her partner Rob for In the Woods, becomes the lead player in The Likeness, the next thriller in the series, and so on. See the rougher side of modern Ireland through Rob’s eyes, then Cassie’s, then…well, we won’t spoil the surprise.
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
Stay up all night watching futuristic movies on the Syfy channel, stand on your head, then chug a bottle of soda so sugary it makes your teeth vibrate, and you’ll be in the right frame of mind for Murakami’s novel. In alternating chapters, his two-headed tale follows both a data processor as he navigates a noirish version of Tokyo’s sewer system and a mythical “dream reader” who may or may not be in the data processor’s head.
Longtime McEwan fans love his knack for hiding dramatic plot developments in complex emotional environments. Like Atonement’s Briony Tallis, McEwan’s narrator, a Cambridge graduate who is recruited by British military intelligence in the ‘70s, tells her story in language that’s precise and sophisticated. As with Briony, the reader comes to suspect there’s a great deal she isn’t telling.
Mukoma Wa Ngugi
Though it begins in the US, Nairobi Heat is a thoroughly international tale: After a young woman is found murdered on an African peace activist’s doorstep in Wisconsin, the African-American detective Ishmael Fofona pursues the case to the slums and streets of Nairobi. Raised in Kenya and now a columnist for the BBC Focus on Africa Magazine, Ngugi “rips away images of the Sahara and safaris and goes beyond nightly news pictures of deprivation;” this Kenya is one he knows intimately.
Winner of the Edgar Award, The Expats tells the story of Kate Moore, a woman living in Luxembourg and seemingly enjoying an effortlessly happy life as a young mom. But Kate has a secret that’s deep, dark, and bubbling to the surface. It’s clear that her hidden past is finally catching up to her. Now, her life hangs in the balance.
Reading a decent international crime novel is a passable way to spend the blank hours between wandering around the “NEW PAPERBACK FICTION!” section in an airport kiosk and performing reverse origami on yourself when your plane’s tires hit the tarmac in another city. Reading a great international crime novel, on the other hand, thrusts you in the middle of another place’s personality and priorities—and offers many of the benefits of travel itself, minus the indignity of removing one’s shoes or paying nine dollars for a tepid bottle of water. These writers and their thrillers share no borders with “tepid.”
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