Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Celebrating Mysteries: Africa and Australasia


We share a lot of reading DNA, so I know that many of you also love reading mysteries with a strong sense of place. You may enjoy reading such books because you're reminded of a place you visited and loved, or you may enjoy reading them because it's a place you've never been and you want to learn more about it. For whatever reason, books with a strong sense of place can really take us out of our daily grind.

I've decided to write a series of posts that shine a spotlight on mysteries that exhibit such a strong sense of place that you almost feel as though you're there as you turn the pages. This week, I'll be focusing on Africa and Australasia. Clicking on the link in the book title will take you to my review of that book.

Let's get started!


If you're interested in excellent mysteries and strong characters-- as well as learning about the landscape, customs, and food of Botswana, you can't beat reading Michael Stanley's Detective Kubu mysteries. 

A Carrion Death, the first Detective Kubu mystery
The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu, the second in the series
Death of the Mantis, the third book

This series currently has seven books.


Kwei Quartey is another author I've been following since his first book. I first got hooked on his police procedural series featuring Darko Dawson, and now he's begun a new series with a female private investigator named Emma Djann.

Wife of the Gods, the first Darko Dawson mystery
Children of the Street, the second in the series
The Missing American, the first Emma Djann mystery

The Darko Dawson series has five books.
The Emma Djann series currently has two books.

South Africa

Sally Andrew has a marvelous series featuring Tannie Marie, who lives in the Klein Karoo of South Africa... and she certainly knows how to cook! 

Recipes for Love and Murder is the first book in the series.
The Satanic Mechanic is the second book.

There is a third book in the series, Death on the Limpopo, but it only seems to be available in South Africa, which does not make me happy.

American Samoa

John Enright introduced me to American Samoa, and I was hooked. His Detective Sergeant Apelu Soifua is an excellent guide to the area, and I love Enright's poetic descriptions of the landscape.

There are four books in the Jungle Beat series:

I wish he had written more!

the Solomon Islands

Graeme Kent's Native police sergeant Ben Kella and American nun Sister Conchita had me living in the Solomon Islands during the 1960s as I read the books.

Devil-Devil is the first book in the series
One Blood is the second book

In researching this post, I was thrilled to discover that there's a third book in the series, Killman, and I immediately bought it.


When it comes to the crime fiction of Australia, there are several wonderful authors, but Adrian Hyland and Jane Harper are two of my particular favorites. 
Adrian Hyland wrote a much too brief  two-book series featuring part-white, part-aborigine Emily Tempest who lives in the Outback. These two books give a very different perspective of the Land Down Under.

Moonlight Downs is the first book (APA Diamond Dove)
Gunshot Road is the second

Jane Harper has written a (so far) two-book series featuring Federal police officer Aaron Falk and a couple of standalone thrillers. All of them take you right to the heart of Australia.

The Dry is the first Aaron Falk mystery
The Lost Man is a standalone thriller

I hope I've piqued your interest in these books and authors and that I've added to your Need to Read lists. But this is a two-way street. As far as Africa and Australasia are concerned, which mysteries do you turn to that have not only excellent stories but a strong sense of place as well? Inquiring minds would love to know!

Next up at a future date: Europe!


  1. What a great idea for a post. So many excellent books set in Africa and Oceania. And this post reminds me that I miss Emily Tempest; a gret series, as you mention.

    I add for South Africa, a four-book series set in 1950s apartheid South Africa, featuring Detective Emmanuel Cooper. The author is Malla Nunn, whose family fled Swaziland because of apartheid and moved to Australia. The books are: A Beautiful Place to Die, es
    Let the Dead Lie, Blessed are the Dead and Present Darkness.

    I love Alexander McCall Smith's series set in Botswana, featuring Mma Precious Ramotswe, who founded the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. There are too many titles to list here, but it is a relaxing, light series with wonderful characters and a view of life in Botswana.

    Australia: I concur on the two books mentioned above by Jane Harper. They are both excellent.

    Also, set in Australia are Garry Disher's books. I particularly like the books in one series: Bitter Wash Road, Peace and Consolation.

    Emma Viskic's series feature Caleb Zelic, who is deaf and a detective. Titles are: Resurrection Bay, And Fire Came Down and Darkness for Light.

    There are so many other books set in Africa and more and more are being published.

    1. You mentioned some excellent series, Kathy, most of which I thought about including on my list. James McClure also wrote a very good series about apartheid South Africa.

  2. What a great idea, Cathy! I love it! And you've chosen some great authors to start with, too. I think Quartey really does evoke a sense of what Ghana is like. And the 'Michael Stanley' team shows Botswana, too. And yes (!), Adrian Hyland portrays Australia brilliantly. I wish he'd written more Emily Tempest novels. There are some excellent, excellent novels that give a real sense of New Zealand, too. For anyone wanting to get a sense of that country, Vanda Symon, Ray Berard, Becky Manawatu, and Paul Thomas are just a few places to start. I got more, too, if anyone's interested...

    1. Of course we're interested, Margot! And thank you so much for those authors writing about New Zealand!

  3. Thanks, Cathy! So many interesting places to explore! I haven't read any of these authors except for Jane Harper. Emma Viskic is also great for Australia, but I need to check out some from the African continent.

    1. I'm glad I could bring some new authors to your attention.

  4. Thanks, Cathy! Some great books and places to explore.

    I second the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency Series by Alexander McCall Smith for a view of life in Botswana.

  5. I love how you grouped these books by country! Great post. :D

  6. What a great primer that is. I immediately wanted to explore some of these titles and authors even knowing that my lack of self-restraint when it comes to piling up books is worse than ever. So, I'll take it slowly...easy for me to say. :-)

    1. I know what you mean. Oh boy, do I know what you mean!

  7. What a great idea for a series of posts! I love books with a strong sense of place. I've read the Harper books, but that's it on this list. And, I totally agree, she does a great job bringing Australia to life for her readers.

    1. Susan, I hope you get a chance to read some of the other books I mentioned here.

  8. Thanks for alerting readers to the world of Sunshine Noir! Adrian Hyland has been a long favourite of mine - I wish he'd write more Emily Tempest books.

    1. There are so many wonderful books in he lands of Sunshine Noir, and I know I'll be featuring more of them in future posts.

      As long as the decision to stop writing about Emily was his, I guess we'll have to respect Hyland's decision... but I certainly wish he'd change his mind!

  9. Maybe we could start a petition for Emily Tempest to return?

    1. As I said to Stan, as long as the decision to stop writing about Emily was his, I'm not going to try to persuade him otherwise.

  10. And this is reminding me about Ashakic books.

  11. Australia
    Arthur W. Upfield's Inspector Bonaparte (Bony) series is still very readable in spite of starting in 1929. It features an aboriginal police officer. I'd say it has a very strong sense of place. These books are now available on Amazon Kindle. The Barrakee Mystery (also known as The Lure of the Bush) is the first.

    South Africa has many very good crime writers.
    Mike Nicol — start with the Revenge trilogy (Payback, Killer Country, Black Heart). He does a lot with government corruption.

    Jassy Mackenzie — she's stopped writing but her Jade de Jong series starting with Random Violence

    Margie Orford — has also stopped writing as far as I can tell but has written an excellent series featuring police profiler Clare Hart, starting with Like Clockwork. Very inexpensive on Kindle.

    Karin Brynard — has an active series featuring Inspector Beeslar starting with Weeping Waters. This series is set out in the country and has a very good sense of place.

    South African writing is kind of my speciality and I about 6 shelves of book by SA authors.

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this all down! You've certainly added to my Need to Read list. There were only two authors on it that I was already familiar with-- Upfield and Mackenzie.


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