Sunday, October 10, 2021

Celebrating Mysteries: the Americas


It's time for me to share the latest addition to my series that celebrates mysteries with a strong sense of place. For one reason or another, I haven't done nearly as much traveling as I'd like, so I've been forced to do the next best thing: read books set in the countries I'm curious about. I love finding authors who can seamlessly weave an area's landscape and culture into their stories to give me a deeper understanding of the world around me. 

This installment will list some of the mystery series I enjoy that are set in the Americas-- excluding the United States, which will have a chapter all its own. Of them all, I need the most help in gathering new authors to read from Canada and Central and South America, so if you have any recommendations, please leave a comment! I do admit that I like to add to your reading lists, but I also look forward to your help in increasing mine. Turnabout's fair play, eh?

Oh! Before I head off into my list, I'll include links to the other posts in this series just in case you missed one... Africa & Australasia, Europe, and Asia. If I missed any good ones in any of those posts, your additions are very much appreciated. 
The links will take you to authors' websites, to my reviews of the books, or to Amazon if my review isn't available. Now it's time to get down to work!

City of Silver is a standalone historical mystery by Annamaria Alfieri that absolutely knocked my socks off. 
I will be the first to admit that my knowledge of South American is woefully inadequate, but I'm taking up some of the slack by reading marvelous books like this. 
The setting is Potosí in what is now Bolivia in the 1650s. At the time, it was the largest city in the Western Hemisphere (comparable in size to London), and-- at an altitude of 14,000 feet-- it's the highest city in the world. Add its fabled silver mines to the mix, and you have a place that was the world's richest city for well over a century.
The way Alfieri created an intriguing mystery and then seamlessly wove in all the details of the setting still makes me drool. This is the sort of book that I love, and I'm so glad I had the good fortune to find a copy and read it.

Pancreatic cancer took Leighton Gage away from us much, much too soon. I absolutely love his Inspector Mario Silva series and have lost track of the number of times I've recommended it to someone. The seven-book series takes readers to various locations throughout Brazil, and I came to a much better understanding of the country through reading them. 
The first three books in the series are:
The British Virgin Islands 

John Keyse-Walker writes a series featuring Constable Teddy Creque, the sole police officer on the remote island of Anegada. Not only are the mysteries good, I've learned a lot about Caribbean island life and the British Virgin Islands. i was so happy to see that the third book in the series, Palms, Paradise, Poison will be available in the UK at the end of this month and in the US at the beginning of January.
Barbara Fradkin has written a series with a main character who eventually annoyed me so much that I don't intend to read any further, but I have to admit that I will miss the series because I loved how much I learned about various areas in Canada. If you are much more tolerant of a "squeaky wheel" than I am, chances are you'll really enjoy Fradkin's Amanda Doucette series for more than the landscapes.
There are currently four books in the series:

M.J. McGrath wrote a trilogy about Edie Kiglatuk, a former polar bear hunter and the best guide in her isolated Inuit community in the Canadian Arctic. Not only did I enjoy following force-of-nature Edie around while she solved mysteries, I enjoyed learning about the Inuit culture of Canada.

Simon Levack wrote a series of historical mysteries set in Precolumbian Mexico on the eve of the Spanish colonization of the Americas and feature as the protagonist Yaotl, a fictitious slave to the chief minister in the Aztec state of Tenochtitlan under Emperor Moctezuma II. Demon of the Air, the first book in the series, won the Debut Dagger Award, given by the UK Crime Writers' Association, in 2000.
Besides the amount of fascinating historical research that brought these mysteries to life, I enjoy the mysteries, the humor, and the help it's given me with pronunciation of what look like tongue-twisting names. I've been hanging on to the fourth book-- saving it for just the right time, I suppose-- but I really think I need to read it soon.
There you have it-- my list of mysteries from the Americas that have such a strong sense of place that you feel as though you're living with the characters as you read.
Did I leave anyone out? Please let me know!


  1. I do like the M.J. McGrath series, Cathy - I'm glad you included that. And thank you for adding some from South America, too. There's a lot there, and I don't think it always gets the attention it deserves.

    1. I don't think it does either. I'd like to find more-- I know they're out there!-- but I've been having trouble finding ones I enjoy. I don't know if it's the translation, or what.

  2. I love this series you do, Cathy. And I'll admit that I haven't tried any of these series, though I think I might have a book or two of the McGrath trilogy. And I've certainly known of Leighton Gage. More to add to my list. I did like the setting of Vicky Delany's British Columbia series. Think I've said more than once that I wish she was still writing it. LOL

    1. I wish she was, too, but I think she's having too much fun writing cozies!

  3. Several of these sound good, but the pre-Columbian mysteries really appeal to me.

    1. It's an amazing series that I wish was better known.

  4. City of Silver is wonderful! She wrote two more in the region. Blood Tango and Invisible Country. Also excellent.

    1. I have Invisible Country waiting for me on my TBR shelves, and Blood Tango is definitely on my radar!

  5. Don't really have anything to add, but boy, several of these look so good! And definitely new to me. Thanks for sharing.

  6. City of Silver definitely sounds good; it's going on The List. I'll also check out pre-Columbian Mexico and the BVI. I've had to do far too much vicarious traveling over the past couple of years, so I'm glad to add more 'destinations'.


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