Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Celebrating Mysteries: Asia


Thank you for being patient with me. I had no idea it would take me so long to write the next post in this series! Hopefully, it was worth waiting for.

I love learning about the landscape, the culture, and the food of other places-- even simple everyday things. Does water come out every time the faucet is turned on? If you flip a switch, do the lights come on? How's the traffic? If you walk into a building, are you on the ground floor or the first floor? This world and the people in it are so diverse that the more I learn, the more connected I feel to others. 
This week, I'm concentrating on the countries in Asia. There are big gaps in my list, and I'm hoping that you can fill in some of them with your own recommendations.
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, so let's get started. By the way, clicking on any links in the book titles will take you to my review of that particular book. (Some books were read pre-blog; therefore, the links will take you to Amazon US.)

I absolutely adore (and I don't throw that word around lightly) Tarquin Hall's Vish Puri series of five books. Oh, how I wish there were more! Wonderful characters and mysteries, gentle humor...and the setting!  This woman who grew up in the middle of the corn and soybean fields of central Illinois felt so immersed in the New Delhi setting that I now consider Indian cuisine among my favorites. (It was unheard of in central Illinois way back then.) Hall weaves in so many small details about life there as well as family dynamics. If you want to know more about India, make the acquaintance of private investigator Vish Puri.

The Case of the Missing Servant is the first book in the series.

There are currently five books in the series.

Vaseem Khan is another favorite author who is adept at showing readers the depth and diversity of Indian culture, and he does so with two series. His Baby Ganesh series featuring a retired police detective and the baby elephant he inherited gives us a wonderful picture of modern Mumbai, while his new Persis Wadia series immerses readers in 1950s India. I highly recommend both series.

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra is the first book in the Baby Ganesh series.
The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown is the second book in the same series.
There are currently five books in this series.
Midnight at Malabar House is the first book in the Persis Wadia series.
This series currently has two books.

For whatever reason, India has become a "flavor of the month" in crime fiction, and I couldn't be happier. There is so much to learn about this amazing country, and solving mysteries set there is one of the best ways to do it. 

Sujata Massey is writing a wonderful series featuring female lawyer Perveen Mistry that's set in 1920s Bombay (Mumbai). Her main character is based on the first female lawyer in India, and the series shows us how carefully Perveen has to negotiate all the various factions in India from British Colonial to religious as she solves crimes. It's not easy!

The Widows of Malabar Hill is the first book in the series.
The Bombay Prince is book three.
There are currently three books in this series.
Sujata Massey has also written another very enjoyable series in which I learned a lot about Japan. Rei Shimura is a Japanese-American working to become an antiques dealer. The series is set in Tokyo, and Massey weaves all sorts of facets of Japanese culture into the mysteries.

I read these listed books before I ever had this blog, so the links in the titles will send you to Amazon US so you can learn more about them.

The Salaryman's Wife is the first book in the series.
Zen Attitude is book two.
The Flower Master is book three.

There are currently eleven books in this series.

Saudi Arabia

Zoë Ferraris wrote a trilogy of mysteries set in Saudi Arabia that simply blew me away for the strength of their setting alone (and they're strong mysteries, too). I came to these books late because Finding Nouf had received so much hype that I was apprehensive, but I soon learned that the hype was well-deserved. Wow! Readers get to see life in Saudi Arabia from the eyes of both outsiders and natives as Katya Hijazi, a forensic scientist, and Nayir Sharqi, a Palestinian desert guide, solve crimes.

Finding Nouf is the first book in the trilogy.
City of Veils is book two.
Kingdom of Strangers is the final book in the trilogy.


Ovidia Yu writes an historical mystery series set in 1930s Singapore that really captured my imagination. Su Lin is a young local girl who has more than a touch of Sherlock Holmes and has a chance to use her talents while working at the house of the Acting Governor of the Crown Colony of Singapore. I love the botanical titles-- yet another way to get my armchair traveling motor running!

The Frangipani Tree Mystery is the first book in the series.
The Betel Nut Mystery is the second.

There are currently four books in this series.

Sri Lanka

Harriet Steel, like Ovidia Yu, writes an excellent historical series-- Steel's set in 1930s Ceylon (Sri Lanka). The series features Inspector Shanti de Silva and his English wife.

Trouble in Nuala is the first book in the series.
Dark Clouds Over Nuala is the second book.
Offstage in Nuala is book three.

There are currently nine books in the series.


Tim Hallinan is one of those talented writers who imparts a strong sense of place to his readers no matter where he's writing about. I fell in love with his Poke Rafferty series set in Thailand when the first book, A Nail Through the Heart, blew me away. We do see Thailand through outsider Poke's eyes, but we also get to see it through the eyes of his Thai family.

A Nail Through the Heart is the first book in the series.
The Fourth Watcher is the second.
Breathing Water is the third.
There are nine books in the series. 


Eliot Pattison brings readers right into a prison camp high in the Himalaya Mountains in his series featuring imprisoned Chinese bureaucrat Shan Tao Yun. He may be nothing but a worthless bureaucrat, but the Communist government always seems to need him to solve their crimes. Funny that...

The Skull Mantra is the first book in the series.
Bone Mountain is book three.

There are currently ten books in the series.


Barbara Nadel's Inspector Çetin Ikmen series sets readers down in Istanbul and makes them feel welcome. Her settings are so vivid that I can even believe I'm inhaling the smells. Now... how many writers get that specific?

Belshazzar's Daughter is the first book in the series.
The Ottoman Cage is book two.
Arabesk is book three.

There are seventeen books in the series.

Well, those are the authors I wanted to bring to your attention the most. I hope that they've turned out to be a combination of well-loved and brand-new. I know that I've left plenty of gaps, and I need to add to my Need-To-Read list. Which authors would you recommend whose books are not only good but have an exceptionally strong sense of Asian place? Inquiring minds would love to know!


  1. What a great collection here, Cathy! And I'm happy to say I see a lot of authors (Hall, Khan, Massey, Steel, etc.) whose work I really like. I haven't been reading them lately, and I should! I also like Shamini Flint's Inspector Singh novels (this detective is based in Singapore). If you haven't tried them, I recommend them.

    1. I've read all of them and wish she would write more!

  2. I love this feature of your blog. I am reading several of the series you listed and have some on my TBR list on my Kindle. I was somewhat surprised that Colin Cotterill's Dr. Siri series didn't make your list. Perhaps it is more character driven than sense of location and that is why. I just added a new favorite author to Goodreads. It is Alka Joshi. She wrote The Henna Artist and The Secret Keeper of Jaipur. It is unusual for me as I read almost all mysteries. This is definitely a series that should be read in order. The Secret Keeper is one of my best 2021 reads. They are historical novels that take place in India. I have some new look ups from this blog to check on and add to my TBR. Thanks for doing this.

    1. You're welcome, Lynn. Thanks for adding Alka Joshi to my Need-to-Read list!

  3. I believe I could pick any of these up and be very happy! I came across The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken at the library and was intrigued, but realized it wasn't the first book in the series and I am a stickler for reading a series in order. I am glad to hear you recommend the series.

    I have read a couple of books by Japanese author Keigo Higashino. One was in his Detective Galileo series. This was a case where I read the second book in the series first not realizing it was part of a series. I need to go back and start at the beginning. I also read Malice, which is the first in the Kyoichiro Kaga series. Both series are police procedurals. I enjoy his writing and the look at Japanese culture.

    1. Thanks so much for your recommendations, Gretchen. I've added them to my Need-to-Read list!

  4. So much to choose from, Cathy...this is going to take some time. These aren't all set somewhere in Asia, but I wanted to share a few of my favorites of the last few years that I found so good:
    Cutting for Stone - Abraham Vershese - Ethiopia
    The Samaritan's Secret, A Grave in Gaza - Matt Beynon Rees - Israel
    Finding Nouf - Zoe Ferraris - Saudi Arabia
    Harbor - Lorraine Adams - Algeria
    The Writing on My Forehead - Nafisa Haji - India & Pakistan

    I learned so much about the cultures in which these novels were set that I still compare them to other books that I read - and, mostly, the others come up short.

    1. Thank you so much for these recommendations, Sam! It's good to see that we agree on Finding Nouf.

  5. I'm so glad to see another fan of Shan Tao Yun! I recommend that series to people as often as I can, because I don't think it gets enough attention.

    And I'm another fan of Finding Nouf also. My book club read it several years ago, and had a lively discussion.

    1. I have to admit that if I think my list is too long for a post like this, I will purposely leave out a more well-known series for one I think doesn't get enough attention. I agree with you, this series of Pattison's does not get enough attention.


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