Police Detectives in Other Countries

Here the reader must step into another culture and style of mystery writing. Enjoy.

Boris Akunin – One of his series features Erast Fandorin, of the Moscow police in 19th century St Petersburg, Russia. He began this series in 1998, with The Winter Queen, but it wasn’t translated into English until 2003, when it was a finalist for the Golden Dagger Award. It is beautifully written, has brilliant characterizations and simply oozes a Russian atmosphere.  No wonder over three million copies of this series have sold in Russia.

Andrea Camilleri – Police Inspector Salvo Mantalbano, in Sicily, is one of the best-selling mystery series in Europe. The plots and even the minor characters are unique. The Shape of Water is the first in the series. I probably wouldn’t recommend the series to those who only like the “cozy” mystery (his language is graphic), but for everyone else Camilleri is a gem.

Michael Dibdin – Aurelio Zen is a police inspector in Rome. His appearance won the Gold Dagger Award in 1998. As the series develops; his characterizations and plots get better and better. I would recommend starting with the first novel, Ratking, as later books often refer to cases in earlier books.

Nicholas Freeling – Police Inspector Piet Van Der Valk, in Amsterdam, is a complex character.  P. D.  James called Freeling one of her favorite writers. Van Der Valk is fashioned after Simenon’s Maigret, but perhaps is more introspective. Begin with the first, Love in Amsterdam.

Robert L. Fish – Fish began writing at age 47 and published the first Capt. Jose Da Silva novel two years later winning his first EDGAR award. The Captain is a liaison officer between Interpol and the Brazilian police. The series, which takes place in Rio de Janeiro, has a sense of humor and might be best described as adventures with a smattering of detection. Fish, under the name of Robert Pike, is the originator of the character in the novel Mute Witness which was made into the movie Bullitt, starring Steve McQueen.

Donna Leon – Her series features Guido Brunetti, a Venetian police commissioner.  This wonderful series is continuously a best seller in Europe. Leon was described by one critic as probably one of the best “procedural” authors of this century.  High praise for a delightful series. Death at La Fenice is the first.

Henning Mankell – Mankell takes us to Sweden to meet Inspector Kurt Wallender. Wallender is middle-aged, tired, aware of corruption, full of doubts and yet a real bulldog that won’t give up until the case is solved. He is a man you want to read more of.  Faceless Killers is the one to begin with.

Georges Simenon – France’s entry to the list qualifies to be on the “classics” list. Police Inspector Maigret is Sherlock Holmes and Poirot all rolled into one. Simenon is one of the most prolific writers ever and a joy for the careful reader.

Maj Sjawall & Per Wahloo – This husband and wife writing team brings us Police Inspector Martin Beck of Stockholm, Sweden. Beck’s political and cultural critiques are clothed (almost disguised) in humor. Per Wahloo once said the novels were written to poke at the sacred cows of Swedish society. Roseanna is the first in the series.


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