Planet Mystery

December 7, 2009

My new box of books arrived from BookPage today (these will be set for review in February, 2010), and with them, the germ of an idea for Mysterious Orientations. Every once in a while, a group of books shows up exhibiting some central theme (i.e., they all take place in the British Isles; all are debut novels; all are set in times other than the here and now, etc.). Regular readers of BookPage’s Whodunit column will know that this sort of propinquity is a rare thing indeed; most months feature books from across the broad spectrum of mystery and suspense, varying by age, gender and ethnicity both of author and protagonist, and set in locations as close as your back yard and as distant as, say, Botswana. So I got to thinking: if I cannot always group similar books together in my monthly column (I mean, what are the chances of finding four suspense novels set in, say, pre-revolution St. Petersburg, all due for release in the same month?), there is really nothing to stop me from doing that very thing in Mysterious Orientations.

My plan is to break it down by country, for my first pass at it. For the time being, I will leave out England and the US, as the overwhelming majority of mysteries available in English take place in one or the other of those countries, and/or the authors are from one of the two. So it seems only fair to give some less mainstream countries (and by extrapolation, the authors therein) their day in the sun. That will not be a rule set in stone; I might make exceptions for outposts and colonies, for example: Scotland, The Channel Islands, Alaska, Puerto Rico and Santa Monica. I won’t be terribly fussy about when the books were written, as long as they are reasonably available nowadays at bookstores or online.

You would perhaps be surprised at some of the far-flung countries able to field an Olympic team of mystery writers: Norway, Thailand, China, Brazil, Spain, India, Korea, Finland, Turkey, South Africa, the aforementioned Russia and Botswana, and Austria, just to name a few. Some countries will be a cakewalk: there are so many good writers in the Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy, Sweden and Japan (once again, just off the top of my head) to fill several blog entries each. Some places may require a bit of gerrymandering: if I cannot find a sufficient number of, say, Burmese suspense novels (and there is a good chance of that being the case), I may have to do a “Mekong Delta” entry, and include mysteries from Laos, Cambodia and Viet Nam as well. I guess I will cross that river when I come to it.

Check back soon. First up: Norway.