Book in to European crime spots

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Jo Graham, leadbookseller at Waterstones, Morpeth, reviews some favourite crime novels.

The world of crime fiction has never seemed larger, with many readers discovering writers from around Europe and further afield. There are some excellent authors out there and I would like to introduce some of my favourites.

France

Fred Vargas is one of France’s biggest selling crime writers, and her creation Commissaire Adamsberg is one of the most unorthodox policemen you will meet. He often works on ‘gut’ feelings, doesn’t appear to take notice of the case, is a dreamer, and yet he always solves the case.

The mysteries have a hint of local myths and legends, but are firmly set in the real world.

The first novel is The Chalk Man. I was hooked immediately. All I will say is ‘expect the unexpected’.

Italy

Marco Vichi is a new discovery for me, yet his first novel Death in August came out in 2011.

The series is set in Florence and the first takes place in summer 1963, the Second World War is still fresh in many minds and this works well as a backdrop.

Inspector Bordelli is a classic detective, a chain smoking man who prefers the company of small time thieves and prostitutes.

His experiences of the war (he fought against the Nazis and fascists) have impacted hugely upon his life. This is a great series for anyone who loves slow-burn, atmospheric crime with a sardonic, world-weary leading man.

Spain

Jason Webster was born in California, but has spent most of his life in Spain.

His novels revolve around Chief Inspector Max Camara, a man who has been brought up by his anarchist grandfather Hilario, who fought against Franco and now secretly grows marihuana.

The first in this excellent series is Or the Bull Kills and each successive novel just gets stronger. At its heart is the city of Valencia, its history and its people.

Sweden

Sweden is probably the reason why many of us have dipped our toes into Eurocrime, its most famous sons being Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson. However, I would like to champion one of my favourite crime writers, Hakan Nesser. His Van Veeteren series is located in the fictitious city of Maardam, however the location isn’t important, the strength lies in the superb character of Van Veeteren and his team.

Van Veeteren is near to retirement, to say he’s cantankerous is an understatement, he is cynical, a thinker, can read people really well, and most importantly loves his beer. His character is ably supported by his second in command Munster – their relationship reminds me of Morse and Lewis.

This series is an absolute joy to read. They are skillfully written, tightly plotted and darkly funny. The first is The Mind’s Eye and once read you will want more.

I hope I’ve inspired you to browse your bookshop’s crime section and visit some European crime hotspots without having to leave your armchair.