Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Celebrating Mysteries: Europe


First of all, I just want to say Thank You to everyone for their response to last week's first post in this series, Celebrating Mysteries: Africa & Australasia. Reading your tweets, emails, and comments added to my own Need to Read list just as I hoped it would, and it was gratifying to see how many readers love books with a strong sense of place.

Last year when the pandemic was raging, reading books set in far-off places kept my mind off the fact that I was a gnat's eyelash from going stir crazy. Reading mysteries set in places I knew well made me vigilant in checking the author's facts. Did they get everything right? Reading books set in places I've never been to helped satiate my wanderlust-- especially if they were set in places I never intend to travel to. 

I love learning about the landscape, the culture, and the food of other places. This world and the people in it are so diverse that the more I learn, the more connected I feel to others. There's no way I can express how much I appreciate authors who can bring another place, another culture to life for me. The only way I can try is to list some of my favorites. 

This week, I'm concentrating on the countries in Europe. There are big gaps in my list, and I'm hoping that you can fill in some of them with your comments. I found that, although I do have many favorite authors whose books are set in Europe, their emphasis seems to be more on character and story rather than putting much emphasis on place. The following authors are my favorite exceptions to that. Clicking on the link in the book's title will take you to my review.


William Shaw, compared to many others on my favorites list, is a relative newcomer, but I've been recommending his Alexandra Cupidi series to anyone who will listen. The setting of the marshlands of southeastern England plays a large role in these books. It's a haunting landscape, an elemental landscape, one that reminds me of watching Patrick McGoohan as The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh as a child. It's the perfect setting for Shaw's marvelous characters and stories.

The Birdwatcher is the first book in the series (although it's not always listed as such)
Salt Lane is book two
Deadland is book three
Grave's End is the fourth book

There are currently five books in this series.

I've been a fan of Kate Ellis's Wesley Peterson mysteries for years. She writes a marvelous series with two timelines. One set in the past and one in the present day. The area around Dartmouth plays a role in these books in both the present and the past. I can't begin to tell you how much I've learned about England's past by reading these enjoyable stories.

The Merchant's House is the first book
The Armada Boy is the second
An Unhallowed Grave is the third
The Funeral Boat is the fourth

This series currently has twenty-four books. There are no links to reviews for the first four because I started reading them long before I began blogging, but you can check out my review for the later Dead Man's Lane to get an idea of what I'm talking about.


James Thompson wrote a police procedural series set in Finland featuring Kari Vaara, who began as a police chief in Lapland and later moved to Helsinki as a detective. The series was cut short by Thompson's untimely death. This American-Finnish writer taught me a lot about the people and landscape of Finland in his hard-hitting mysteries.

Snow Angels is the first book
Lucifer's Tears is the second
Helsinki White is the third
Helsinki Blood is the fourth
There are only four books in this series.
It's a little-known fact that I began my college career as a French major; therefore, when I read mysteries set in France where the setting is so good that I begin thinking in French, I know they're good. There are two series set in France that have that effect on me.
If you want to feel as though you're in Paris, all you have to do is read Cara Black's Aimée Leduc series. Aimée is a private investigator who knows how to accessorize, and she'll take you through the mean streets of Paris, one arrondissement at a time. 

Murder in the Marais is the first book
Murder in Belleville is the second
Murder in the Sentier is the third
Murder in the Bastille is the fourth

There are currently nineteen books in this series. I've jumped around in my reading which is why there are no links to reviews for Sentier and Bastille.

Anyone who's been reading my blog for a long time knew that Martin Walker's Bruno Chief of Police series would definitely be on this list. I fell completely in love with the very first book. Of all the mysteries with a strong sense of place, I think Walker takes the cake. I've learned so much about the Périgord, its history, its people, the culture, and the food! I've learned the hard way that it's not a good idea to be hungry when I pick up a Bruno mystery. Yikes!

Bruno Chief of Police is the first book
The Dark Vineyard is the second
Black Diamond the third
The Crowded Grave is the fourth

There are currently thirteen books in the series.


When I think of mysteries set in Greece, two authors immediately spring to mind. If I want to be transported to ancient Greece, I definitely want Australian author Gary Corby to be my tour guide. I've had a front-row seat at the Olympic Games, and I've narrowly escaped death at sea in a trireme. Not only does Corby have me walking the mean streets with his two sleuths, his sense of humor can keep me laughing, too.

The Pericles Commission is the first book
The Ionia Sanction is the second
Number three is Sacred Games

There are currently seven books in the series, and I hope there will be more.

When I want to travel to modern Greece, the silver-tongued devil himself, Jeffrey Siger, is my preferred guide. From politics to food to history to gorgeous landscapes to the merest facial expressions, I've learned so much about the Greece of today while enjoying the investigations conducted by Andreas Kaldis and his crack team.

 Murder in Mykonos is the first book
Assassins of Athens is the second
Prey on Patmos is the third
Target: Tinos is the fourth

There are currently eleven books in the series.


Longtime readers will also know that I sing the praises of Ragnar Jónasson regularly. Jónasson has taught me quite a bit about that amazing country, especially the remoter regions, and-- you know me-- the remoter the better I always say. Jónasson has written some standalones as well as a fantastic trilogy, but it's the series featuring Ari Thór Arason, the young police officer in the far north of Iceland who's probably taught me the most about his country: food customs, landscape, weather, winter darkness... It's an alien place to me which makes it all the more special to learn about it in this series.

Snowblind is the first book
Blackout is the second
The third is Rupture
The fourth is Whiteout

There are six books in the series.


Andrea Camilleri's long-running series featuring irascible Inspector Salvo Montalbano has been a favorite of mine since the first book. This series is more than a police procedural. The humor is often laugh-out-loud funny, and Camilleri-- through Stephen Sartarelli's masterful translations-- has taught me so much about the landscape, food, customs, and politics of Sicily. 
The last book in this series, Riccardino, will be published in September, and it will be sad to see the series end. These books are treasures.

 The Shape of Water is the first book
The Terra-Cotta Dog is the second
Third is The Snack Thief
There are thirty books in this series, and how I wish there could be more. Thank you for so much enjoyment, Mr. Camilleri.
My blog was just four months old when I posted the review for Voice of the Violin. You can also read my review of a much later book, A Beam of Light, if you are so inclined.

My ancestral roots run deep in the mountains and glens of the Scottish Highlands, so it's no surprise that I'm partial to a well-written Scottish mystery series or two (or three or...) When I think of mysteries with a strong sense of place that are set in Scotland, two authors spring automatically to mind.

Author Peter May has written a fantastic trilogy set on the islands of the Outer Hebrides, and he brings that stunning, brooding landscape to life.

The Blackhouse is the first book
The Lewis Man is the second
The Chessmen is the third

Aline Templeton is the second author who springs immediately to mind when I think of mysteries set in Scotland. Let's face it, the big cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow get most of the crime fiction attention, but authors like Peter May and Aline Templeton know that the lesser known corners of the country are no strangers to criminal deeds. Indeed, Val McDermid refers to Templeton as "the crime czar of the Scottish small town." 

One of my favorite series is Templeton's police procedural featuring Marjory "Big Marge" Fleming who is a detective inspector in Galloway, which is in southwestern Scotland. If you want to get a feel for that part of the country, you'll get it in these books, and from different perspectives, for example, as Marjory's husband is a farmer who lost most of his animals to mad cow disease.

Cold in the Earth is the first book
The Darkness and the Deep is the second
The third is Lying Dead
Number four is Lamb to the Slaughter
There are nine books in this series.

Templeton also writes a series featuring Kelso Strang, a detective inspector who finds himself traveling from one Scottish village to another solving crimes. The first book in this (currently) three-book series is Human Face.

Thus endeth my list of European mystery series that have a strong sense of place. Now it's your turn. When it comes to Europe, which mystery series transport you to another country-- its landscape, its customs, its food? You added to my Need to Read list last time, and I'm counting on you to do it again this time. Inquiring minds need to know!

Next up at a future date: Asia!


  1. These are fantastic choices, Cathy! I'd have named a lot of those authors, myself, and the ones whose work I don't know are now on my 'I ought to investigate this' list. When I read your suggestions for Greece, I was also thinking of Anne Zouroudi. I think she gives a really strong sense of location in her work. That may just be me, though.

    1. No, it's not just you, Margot. I enjoy her series and have a couple of them sitting on my TBR shelves.

  2. Love these posts you do! I'm most intrigued by those mysteries set in Scotland, Iceland and Finland. I will definitely be checking them out. :)

    1. I'm glad you like these posts, Lark. I hope you can find some good reading in them!

  3. What a great list you have! Many of these series are ones that I still have to explore, but I will add my praise for Peter May's trilogy you mentioned. One of my very favorites.

  4. Some favorite authors and a few new ones!

  5. These all look so great. Can hardly believe that I've only read two of them...both thanks to you: Shaw and Jonasson. Speaking of Shaw...finally bought Deadland from Amazon for $15, assuming I would be getting an American paperback. Turns out that they sent me the British paperback marked as eight pounds for sale in the UK. First time that's ever happened, and I found it interesting.

    1. Yes, that is interesting, and I would imagine that you might be one of the folks who'll be interested in my giveaway this coming Monday. (The Trawlerman)

  6. Well, you have once again added to my TBR 🙂. Unfortunately, I have nothing to add to yours.

  7. Omigosh. So many books. I have read several books in these series, and others set in Europe. I like French writer, Fred Vargas' books. Also, Donna Leon, whose Guido Brunetti books are set in Venice. And I agree on Peter May's trilogy. I loved it and was going to write to him to implore him to continue Finley MacLeod's adventures. I didn't.
    I like Val McDermid's Karen Pirie books, set in Scotland. But I also like Denise Mina's 3 series set in Glasgow, and a few of her standalones. And Kate Atkin's Jackson Brodie series.
    I've read a lot of Nordic noir and liked most of it, including the Irene Huss books.
    I also loved Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad books, and her standalone, The Searcher. Brought tears to my eyes.
    Over the pandemic, I read a lot of new to me Scottish, English and Irish crime writers. Liked many.
    So many good English writers, too, and particularly love Elly Griffiths's Ruth Galloway books, as I know many of this blog's fans do, too.
    So much to list. And there are so many more to read.

  8. Just to add that I also like William Shaw's books. And to add to England, Susie Steiner's Manon Bradshaw's series of three books, a disorganized, but heartwarming police detective, Manon Bradshaw.

    1. I've got her second and third books in the series waiting on my Kindle.

  9. And to add one of my favorite series starring a woman police detective: writer is Kati Heikkapelto. She wrote a three-book series about Anna Fegete, an immigrant to Finland who is Hungarian.
    She solves some interesting cases with social issues. The third book is set in the Hungarian part of Serbia.

    1. I've got two of the books waiting for me on my Kindle because of what you've said about them.

    2. I was disappointed when the three-book series was over.


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