A few days ago, the omnipresent Dave Lull sent me a link to an article in the Independent newspaper, Around the World in 80 Sleuths. (If you would like to see the articles at the link Dave sends me on a regular basis, as I don’t post here about them all, please join our OWL FriendFeed group. I also posted this link in our Crime and Mystery fiction FriendFeed group, which you are also welcome to join.) I didn’t have time to read the article until today, but I have seen a few reactions to it on blogs, for example AustCrime (Karen C) and Mysteries in Paradise (Kerrie).
Anyway, back to the Independent article. It starts well, with Greenland and Iceland, but skips Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland before arriving at the Shetland Islands (the excellent novels by Ann Cleeves). Don’t worry, though, although the geography is a bit odd, the rest of Scandinavia is included much further down the list (Sweden represented by Mankell, omitting Sjowall/Wahloo, Tursten, Jungstedt, Theorin, Lackberg… and Norway captured by Fossum, which omits Nesbo). There are, as might be imagined, lots of British examples and a controversial Irish choice of “Benjamin Black”. Wilkie Collins is assigned to Yorkshire, but perhaps more appropriate might be Peter Robinson. Surely Martin Edwards should also have been included, for the Lake District? And I’d have gone for Brian McGilloway for Ireland — conveniently, he can cover Northern Ireland as well as Eire. Lots of my favourites are included, for example Michael Walters (Mongolia), Colin Cotterill (Laos), Peter Temple (Melbourne) and Andrea Camilleri (Sicily) (but not, sadly, Bari’s Gianrico Carofiglio) as well as several I am intending to read, such as Paulus Hochgatterer. Authors are sometimes chosen who aren’t from the region about which they are writing. Fair enough, but in this case, Catherine Sampson (Beijing) and Donna Leon (Venice) justify inclusion. Los Angeles apparently features more than 80 famous fictional sleuths, represented here by James Ellroy (Robert Crais and Michael Connelly surely deserve a mention). London probably has about the same number, but the only mentions here are Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Derek Raymond’s factory novels.
None of these lists is ever going to satisfy everyone, but this one is not bad at all. LA and London are probably the two towns in the world whose detectives don’t need advertising, as you can’t move for tripping over them. It’s a good approach to draw attention to some of these less-well-known regions. In the words of a friend of mine, books of this quality save one from having to actually visit all of these places.