Cover of The CrocodileI’ve been feeling like a bit of travel lately. Alas my wallet is empty. So instead I decided to travel virtually by reading detective novels set in other countries. I find it a particularly interesting way of travelling because of the glimpses I get into another society.

I went to Italy via The  Crocodile by Maurizio de Giovanni, a bestselling whodunnit recently translated from Italian. A Sicilian detective finds himself exiled to Naples after being named as a Mafia informer. He is of course innocent. He’s supposed to spend the day pretending to work but gets himself involved in the investigation of a series of murders. It’s a book full of very Italian preoccupations and attitudes.

Then I was off to China with Don’t Cry, Lake Tai part of an excellent and evocative series written by a former resident of Shanghai. They feature Inspector Chen, poet and policeman. Being a police officer in China it seems, is as much a political job as a police job. Guessing how much of the truth your superiors will tolerate you finding and who you can arrest without losing you job, is as big a part of the investigation as finding the culprit.

Cover of DeadlineFurther west I alighted in Istanbul with Deadline by Barbara Nadel. I always enjoy my visits to Istanbul with Nadel, feeling convinced I have just gotten off the plane when I finish the book. In this case she sets her story in the historic Pera Palas Hotel. This sumptuously decorated hotel really exists and was built in 1892 to host passengers from the Orient Express. The narrative unfolds during a charity fundraising banquet in the newly renovated building.

Then 1222 by Anne Holt took me to an old hotel in the wintery high mountains of Norway. Stranded after a train crash and huge snow storm, the train passengers make the perfect “country house murder” participants. In a very Scandinavian way of course.