Welcome to the first of four themed posts about Mystery Thriller Week, an annual event celebrating the Mystery and Thriller genres!
Over two-hundred authors are participating in this global event. To help readers and authors better connect, a variety of themed lists – sub-categories of both genres – have been created.
Today I’m thrilled to share with you fourteen books from the Mystery and Thriller Passport Theme, mysteries and thrillers set outside of the United States. Authors Anne C. Carmichael, Tomasz Chrusciel, Colin Garrow, Jane Jordan, Sarah Key, Paul Russell Parker III, Phil Philips, Nick Rippington, Leta Serafim, Marie Silk, Judy Sheluk, Michael Smorenburg, and Zaheera Walker have kindly provided a description of their setting and story. I’ve also included information about my own travel fiction thrillers. Click on the book cover to link to Amazon, where you can read an excerpt and learn more about the author.
I love to read books that transport me to other cities and countries. If you love to travel by fiction as well, pick up one of these titles today and take a trip to Nepal, Thailand, the Netherlands, England, Italy, Wales, Kuwait, Greece, Canada, South America, Guyana, South Africa, or the Caribbean from the comfort of your armchair.
These are but a few of the 40+ books currently listed in the Mystery and Thriller Passport category. This list will be updated with new titles through January 9th. You can see the complete list here.
Be sure to sign up as a reviewer or Super Fan on the MysteryThrillerWeek website to be kept up-to-date of all the fun games, prizes and giveaways taking place during the event, February 12 – 22, 2017.
I look forward to seeing you there!
But first, let’s take a closer look at some of the exciting reads in this category…
Down and Out in Kathmandu: Adventures in Backpacking by Jennifer S. Alderson
Nepal, Thailand and the Netherlands feature prominently in the first two books of my on-going stand-alone series, the Adventures of Zelda Richardson. To bring these settings to life, I’ve drawn on my own experiences gained while traveling through these countries as a volunteer, backpacker and student. My novels will whisk you off to exotic destinations and let you experience the sights, smells and sounds of some of my favorite places in the world.
Down and Out in Kathmandu: Adventures in Backpacking is a travel thriller set in Nepal and Thailand. In Book One of the series, Zelda goes to Nepal to volunteer as an English teacher where she gets entangled with a gang of Thai smugglers who suspect she’s stolen their diamonds.
Join Zelda and a cast of misfits as they immerse themselves in the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu’s touristy Thamel district, discover the holy temples and stupas of the Kathmandu Valley, trek through the mountains of Eastern Nepal, explore the beaches and caves of Koh Tao, snorkel in the Gulf of Thailand and rock climb in Krabi, to name a few.
The cities, villages, temples, monuments, trekking trails and beaches described in this novel are all real places I visited while volunteering in Kathmandu or during my later travels around Nepal and Thailand. This book offers a peek into the backpacker culture of Southeast Asia, and insight into what life can be like for a Westerner volunteering in a developing country. I hope you enjoy traveling through Nepal and Thailand with Zelda!
The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery by Jennifer S. Alderson
Set in the Netherlands, The Lover’s Portrait is the story of American art history student Zelda Richardson, who finds clues to the whereabouts of a collection of masterpieces hidden somewhere in Amsterdam, secreted away in 1942 by a homosexual art dealer who’d rather die than turn his collection over to his Nazi blackmailer.
I was inspired to write this book while studying art history in the Netherlands and used my adopted hometown of Amsterdam as the setting. Visit world class museums, bike through the narrow bridges and streets of the capitol, meander through the quaint fishing village of Urk, clambor up the IAmsterdam logo on the Museumplein, attempt to break-in to the exclusive Amstel Hotel, and fly remote-controlled airplanes in Vondelpark with Zelda and her friends.
I hope you enjoy your trip to the Netherlands and wish you luck in solving this art mystery!
Elderhaus by Anne C. Carmichael
Elderhaus is the story of the Klingenfelters, a Jewish family who originally settled the fictional town of Pitch Pine, PA, having escaped Nazi Germany after WWII. Gertrude Klingenfelter is the daughter of Anyaleise and Helmut, who were brought together by her father in an arranged and loveless marriage.
Helmut gets Anyaleise pregnant when he comes home drunk one night and vows never to touch her again. When Gertie is five years old, he leaves Pitch Pine and never returns. Gertie spends the years after college until middle aged scouring Europe for her father, but her search proves fruitless, so she buys a dilapidated house (Elderhaus) in her hometown and plans to spend her remaining years remodeling it.
Gertie falls for handsome contractor/playboy Trey Haskell, who has an agenda of his own and many skeletons in his family closet. Even Elderhaus has secrets of its own.
Fast Track to Glory by Tomasz Chrusciel
Nina Monte has worked hard to achieve her dreams. At thirty-six she’s one of Italy’s youngest professors, and renowned for her knowledge of the ancient world. Old religious texts might make for lonely companions at night, but that’s nothing a bottle of fine wine can’t fix.
When a mysterious summons presents a career-making opportunity, Nina can’t resist. A relic has been found in a 15th Century galley and it’s the kind of discovery encountered once in a lifetime. But floating atop the depths of Lake Garda at the recovery site, Nina senses something is amiss. With local hotelier, Alessandro Pini at her side, she begins to unravel the truth surrounding the relic. She soon realizes that questions of the past pale in comparison to the dangers looming in the present.
The mystical object in Nina’s hands is no trinket; it has the power to change humanity’s perception of existence. And many believe a gift like that is worthy dying—or killing—for.
Don’t forget to check back here on February 21st to read my review of Fast Track to Glory.
Death on a Dirty Afternoon by Colin Garrow
Death on a Dirty Afternoon is set in a mostly-fictitious version of a northeast seaside town in England, where I lived for a while after finishing university. The story was inspired by my own experiences as a taxi-driver in the early Nineties (in a different seaside town), though the novel is set in the present. Creating my protagonist, I never liked the idea of trying to represent police officers in a realistic way, so I made my hero an ordinary guy with ordinary problems and tried to think how ‘normal’ people might deal with discovering a dead body in their house:
When he learns of the death of taxi-driver pal Frank, ex-cabbie Terry Bell assumes it’s natural causes, but when he finds a note pinned to his front door and a corpse on the living room floor, things start to look suspicious – and not just because the murder weapon has Terry’s prints all over it. As if that wasn’t enough, old school friend Charis is in charge of the police investigation, and her elfin-like smile may not be enough to keep Terry off the list of suspects.
Launching his own investigation, the canny cabbie sets out to retrace Frank’s movements, tracking down anyone who might be able to shed light on the driver’s final hours. A taxi job leads to Swedish building contractor Elise Andersson, who could well be involved, but the tight-lipped lady poses more questions than answers.
Teaming up with Carol from the taxi firm, Terry meets a bald-headed man who knows a little too much about Terry’s recent activities. Then, finding himself unwittingly recruited into what could well be a Geordie crime family, it looks like the part-time sleuth is caught between one bunch of villains and another. In any case, when a third body turns up, Terry and Carol realise they need to stay out of sight. Only trouble is, their choice of hideout is a little too susceptible to arson…
Don’t forget to check back here on February 1st to read Colin’s interesting take on Amateur Sleuths.
The Beekeeper’s Daughter by Jane Jordan
The Beekeeper’s Daughter is a historical thriller set in Exmoor in the South West of England.
Exmoor is an inspirational place for writers. The landscape is dramatic with great cliffs that plummet into the sea, deep wooded verdant valleys and large expanses of purple clad moorland. A place where thick creeping mists can quickly roll in from the sea, and turn the beautiful countryside into a hauntingly eerie landscape. Add to this an ancient castle, a preserved medieval village and a myriad of folklore and legends that intrigue locals and tourists alike.
The first time I visited Exmoor I fell in love with the romance of the place. As a writer, I have attempted to capture the emotional experiences of living and working there. In parts, it still is an untamed place that still retains an air of a much slower and bygone era.
I also write about the city of Bath, famous for its Georgian architecture at a time when it was fashionable to take the waters at the highly-regarded Pump room, or to be driven in horse drawn carriage to an elaborate ball.
Annabel Taylor is the beekeeper’s daughter, and this is a story of her unwavering love for Jevan, the Blacksmith’s son. Her connection to Jevan is sensual and dangerous, but her ability to charm bees is the dark undercurrent that weaves throughout this thriller.
After Jevan shatters her world by leaving Exmoor, Annabel forms a friendship Alex, the heir to the foreboding Gothelstone mansion. She is oddly drawn to Alex despite their social divide, she knows his attention is merely a distraction from her true love. Alex has other ideas.
When Jevan returns, a destructive love triangle follows. Annabel is ensnared into the dark legacy of the Saltonstall family, and when the lives of those she loves most are threatened, she must use her inherent power and destroy a powerful witch.
The Dandelion Clock by Sarah Key
Silent Helene Van den Bergh has wandered the city since her release from a psychiatric hospital fifteen years earlier. Horrified when her friend is murdered, she knows the bullet was meant for her ‒ but why?
On Devil’s Peak, on the spring equinox, Helene waits for the gibbous moon to rise, unaware that two killers stalk her. The Dark Man, and Etienne Craig, The Diabolical Creation, a depraved lunatic whose lust for violence has reached its zenith. But something infinitely more evil tracks the hunters on the charred mountainside. Its depravity knows no bounds and its form cannot be predicted. Evil men set on slaughter may themselves become its prey.
Flash Peterson, Honey Esack and Petra Montgomery, the Sisters of Light, unite in a desperate scramble against the clock. Can they conquer the darkness in time to save their friend?
In this gripping psychological thriller, Sarah Key, author of Tangled Weeds, weaves the supernatural with crime to stunning effect.
Don’t forget to check back here on January 9th to read a electrifying article by Sarah Key about the setting in her books, Setting as Viewfinder for African Thrillers.
Mona Lisa’s Secret by Phil Philips
Joey is the great-grandson of Vincenzo Peruggia, the man who stole the original Mona Lisa in 1911. Along with his girlfriend, Marie, an art connoisseur, he stumbles across his father’s secret room, and finds himself staring at what he thinks is a replica of da Vinci’s most famous masterpiece.
BUT IT IS NO FAKE
The Louvre has kept this secret for over one hundred years, waiting for the original to come to light, and now they want it back at any cost.
With Marie held hostage and the Louvre curator and his men hot on his trail, Joey is left to run for his life in an unfamiliar city, with the priceless Mona Lisa his only bargaining chip. While formulating a plan to get Marie back with the help from an unexpected quarter, Joey discovers hidden secrets within the painting, secrets which, if made public, could change the world forever.
All In: The Globe Trot Shuffle by Paul Russell Parker III
All In: The Globe Trot Shuffle, takes place all over the world. It’s set in several countries, and even on the high seas. The first half of the story takes place all over Iraq, from Diwaniyah to Tikrit. You see the characters in the military or as civilian contractor’s years later. They’re on FOB’s or sleeping in holes. Then it moves to Kuwait. You get to see a border crossing station, and a swanky 5-star hotel. The characters then move onto a container ship that’s traveling from Kuwait to South America. You get to see how life on a ship transiting pirate infested waters around the Horn of Africa, is. The characters make landfall in Guyana, and explore hotels and bars. From the port in South America, they travel the Caribbean on a private yacht to Roseau and Portsmouth, Dominica.
The story is about four US Marines who make an amazing discovery in a mansion during the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. This discovery will force them to cross a line that there’s no turning back from. The line between good guys and bad guys are now blurred. The group soon finds that making their dreams come true isn’t as easy as flying home and making a deposit. They need to safeguard their discovery during a shooting war, and keep it hidden from locals as well as their fellow Marines. They decide to stash it for the lack of a better idea. Years later, the group of Marines are now civilians working in Iraq on a contract to the military. They must find their way past Iraqi Police checkpoints as well as insurgents to secure their discovery. After that, they must get home to make good on it. The only way to do that while carrying something highly illegal is to travel as low key as possible. They embark on a dangerous journey with Bedouins, on a shipping container ship, and on private boats to see their plan to the very end.
Don’t forget to check back here on January 16th when Paul will share more about the looting of Saddam’s palaces he witnessed while on a tour of duty in Iraq.
Crossing The Whitewash by Nick Rippington
Crossing The Whitewash switches from the inner city bustle of London to the wide open countryside of the Welsh valleys.
It tells the story of Gary Marshall, a talented teenage sportsman, who grows up in a hi-rise tower block on a rundown housing estate where he has to battle adversity both on the streets and closer to home.
In one particular incident he is accosted by a gang when he returns from school, only to be saved by another boy on the estate, the worldly-wise Arnie Dolan. As their relationship develops Gary’s dreams fade and he begins to realise that many of his problems can be traced back to the time when the two boys met.
After a dramatic series of events tear them apart, Gary is forced to give up on his football dream and takes the drastic step of moving away to start a new life in Wales, under a new name. The aim is to put as much distance between himself and Arnie.
In doing so he has to adapt to a completely different pace of life in an environment totally alien to him. He joins a newspaper in the Welsh capital city, Cardiff, and lodges with a work experience lad and his dad in the valleys.
As he acclimatises he begins to realise that there can be more to life than battling every day for survival, embedding himself in the local community and learning about their love of rugby – a sport completely foreign to him.
With one of the world’s greatest sporting events, the Rugby World Cup, about to descend on Wales he adapts to his new role as a sports reporter, little knowing that Arnie has embarked on a mission to track him down.
When the Devil’s Idle by Leta Serafim
In the Book of Revelation, written by St. John on the Greek island of Patmos, it was said a pale horse would appear whose rider was death, others would cry out for vengeance, and the stars of heaven would fall to the earth. Death does indeed come to Patmos when a German tourist is found murdered in the garden of one of the island’s fabled estates. Yiannis Patronas, Chief Officer of the Chios police, is called in to investigate. He summons his top detective, Giorgos Tembelos, and his friend and amateur sleuth, Papa Michalis, to assist him.
What the policemen discover will disturb them long after the conclusion of the case. Only six people were at the house at the time of the murder—the gardener and housekeeper, the victim’s son and his wife and their two children, a boy of seven and a teenage girl of sixteen. All appear to be innocent. But access to the isolated estate is severely restricted. Surrounded by high walls, it has only one entrance: a metal gate that was bolted at the time of the crime. Patronas can only conclude that one of the six is a killer. He continues to probe, uncovering the family’s many secrets. Some are very old, others more recent. All are horrifying. But which of these secrets led to murder? Book 2 of the Greek Islands Mystery series, which began with The Devil Takes Half.
Don’t forget to check back here on February 19th to read my review of When the Devil’s Idle and an interview with Leta Serafim.
Davenport House 4: Heiress Interrupted by Marie Silk
More to the story is revealed in this fourth book to Davenport House. Nellie Whitmore is accustomed to life as a carefree heiress, but her claim to the family fortune is at risk because of a new heir. Nellie is sent to Britain to be married before word spreads of her changing circumstances. What begins as a luxurious voyage becomes a fight for survival when the ship is caught in the midst of the War, forever changing the people who live to tell about it.
Friendship is kept afloat by telegrams between London and Davenport House. Mary Davenport announces exciting news, and the servants prepare for more changes downstairs. Ethan is anxious to move to Philadelphia, but becomes overworked while the estate is in search of a new groundskeeper. Relationships become strained when the unthinkable shakes the foundation of the house, and the ladies are left to evaluate the risks of keeping secrets.
Don’t forget to check back here on January 23rd when Marie will share more about sailing the Atlantic for research.
Skeletons in the Attic by Judy Penz Sheluk
Skeletons in the Attic is set in the fictional town of Marketville, which is located about an hour north of Toronto, Canada. My protagonist, Calamity (Callie) Barnstable, a single city girl forced to move to Marketville, describes it as a commuter town where folks with two kids, a cat, and a collie moved to looking for a bigger house, a better school, and soccer fields.
It is loosely based (and very much fictionalized) version of Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, where I lived for several years.
Callie Barnstable inherits a house in Marketville – a house she knew nothing about — from her father, who died in an “unfortunate” occupational accident. The catch: she must move into the house and find out who murdered her mother thirty years before. A mother Callie believed had left “for the milkman or some other male equivalent” when she was just six-years-old.
Don’t forget to check back here on February 20th to read my review of Skeletons in the Attic and an interview with Judy Penz Sheluk.
The Praying Nun: A True Story by Michael Smorenburg
At the southern tip of Africa lies a ship graveyard.
The reason is obvious: Before Suez, much of the world’s trade had to round the perilous waters where Africa interferes with ill-tempered southern ocean. Here you will find Cape Town, one of the world’s most majestic cities built around Table Bay, a bay that forms a funnel with its mouth yawning wide open to swallow the winter onslaughts. The result of wind-driven ships and treacherous weather is predictable; the highest density of shipwrecks anywhere on the planet.
Indeed, Cape Town’s city center is built on a mile of reclaimed land pushed out over what used to be the ancient anchorage a century and more ago. So that, when today’s civil engineers build our skyscrapers and burrow down to the bedrock of that foreshore to sink their anchorage, they find the sites of tragedy and shipwrecks in their foundations.
Let’s give this some context: Take a globe of the world and check out the distance Spain, Greece and Southern California are from the Equator – now look at the tip of Africa… we are the same distance south of the Equator as those great regions are north of it.
Around a headland from the city is another smaller bay, just a mile wide. That headland soars to 3,000-feet in towering height; it is the fabled Table Mountain. At three-times the age of the Himalaya it is one of the world’s oldest mountains and a World Heritage Site.
This smaller bay is called Clifton, and it surely is the most comely and magnificent setting for a suburb on this planet. Fingers of reef stretch from the beach seaward, lying eternally in wait to snag the keel of any unsuspecting ship’s captain. And, in 1794, one of these reefs got lucky, tearing the hull out of a slaver with 400 unfortunates chained in her holds.
The bones of that tragedy lay undetected until a friend and I found them nearly thirty years ago; in 2015 the Smithsonian identified them as the wreck of the São José Paquete Africa.
Don’t forget to check back here on February 4th when Michael will share more about his exciting find in the post, A Graveyard for Ships.
DEADLINE by Zaheera Walker
DEADLINE is set in Durban, South Africa. It tells the story of Feriyal Adam, an emerging journalist who has her sights set on the coveted prize, but… the universe has other plans for her – she loses her job, her mother succumbs to cancer and life has no meaning until the desirable Shane Black resurfaces.
Feriyal takes on a dangerous assignment to prove her mettle. Determined, stubborn and foolhardy, she breaks rules to get what she wants until the moment when she stares death in the face.
Held against her will by a notorious serial killer, she realises she might be living on borrowed time. He has lured women to their deaths and chances are he is set on doing it again….
Don’t forget to check back here on January 6th to read a fascinating article by Zaheera about her use of Durban, South Africa as the setting for her debut novel.
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