European Murder Mysteries

Much hoopla has been made since last thursday about Brexit and it looks like it will go on and on until the whole process is finalised. But writers on both sides have been well integrated for a long time in the books that they write. Even before the EU came into existence, many British novelists based their books and characters on the continent, Evelyn Waugh, Mary Shelley and E.M. Forster to name a very few and of course Bram Stoker. One mustn’t forget him as he managed to nicely demonise what came out of continental Europe.

But we find it intriguing that it is the mystery writing that is in many ways truly integrated. Or perhaps it is not so surprising considering human nature, when it comes to crime, is the same across the world. The three main reasons for murder are money, love and pride and all three exist in abundance no matter what society a person is from. So with murder mysteries only the setting changes, human inclination and behaviour remain the same.

Because of all the news in the last few days, we started thinking of whether economic policy and immigration matter to novelists and readers. Pro Brexiters probably enjoyed watching Wallander as much as anyone else. This prompted us to draw up two lists. One of British Writers who have based their mystery series in continental Europe and gone beyond their geographical boundaries. The other is of European mystery writers whose books have been translated into English and been hugely popular with the readers. The second is really a readers’ list as the readers are only bothered about the style and substance of storytelling; they are willing, through the book, to transport themselves to the culture or country in which the story is set.

British novelists (or novelists British origin)

  1. Martin Walker has written novels about Inspector Bruno set in the rural French town of St. Denis.
  2. David Hewson has written a series about his detective, Nic Costa, with all the splendour of Rome in the backdrop.
  3. Magdalen Nabb has a series set in Florence about her detective, Salvatore Guranaccia of the Florence Carabinieri.
  4. Michael Dibdin whose series features the Italian police Commissario -Aurelio Zen.

Mystery Novelists whose works have been translated into English

  1. Georges Simenone’s books about Inspector Maigret set in France
  2. Fred Vargas, an archaeologist and mystery writer has been shortlisted for the Gold dagger and won the International dagger Award.
  3. Jo Nesbo , the Norwegian writer who is all over the mystery shelves these day
  4. Stieg Larsson, the Swedish writer, does not even need an introduction. His Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a huge international bestseller and was made into a movie starring Daniel Craig
  5. Equally, Henning Mankell is a household name because of the Wallander books and TV series.

Of course, we must not forget that one of the most famous detectives in British crime fiction is a Belgian and possibly has more grey cells than all the other detectives combined. We are not including Sherlock Holmes, as his powers of deduction would beat any of the above hollow. But, even he has an European connection in the form of the Reichenbach Falls which, for a while at least, became his nemesis.

 

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