By Heather Pisani-Kristl | La Mesa Reads
In American fiction, colorful police investigators, detectives, forensic pathologists and lawyers ply their trade against the backdrop of our diverse countryside.
There’s a certain coziness as we picture our favorite investigator staking out Times Square, walking the lakefront in Chicago, or working in other places we’ve visited. But everyone needs a change of scene occasionally. Here we introduce fictitious investigators around the world, in settings ranging from Goteborg to Delhi.
Expat writer Colin Cotterill was born in England but lives and works in Southeast Asia, writing mysteries about Dr. Paiboun, the only pathologist working under the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party. Siri is a grimly practical old man, having loyally staffed jungle hideouts during the party’s early days, only to become disillusioned by layers of government bureaucracy. He communicates with the spirit world around the edges of the murders he investigates, keeping one foot in his rural upbringing and the other in Laos’ glorious Communist future. The first title in this series is “The Coroner’s Lunch.”
Author Cotterill’s female sleuth is young and sarcastic, forsaking the urban newspaper career she loved to keep the family business afloat. While helping run her mom’s shabby seaside hotel in Maprao, Thailand, Jimm encounters an entire Volkswagen van buried beneath a local farmer’s field. How did it get there, and who are the people inside? Find out in the first book of the Jimm Juree series, “Killed at the Whim of a Hat.”
Author Tarquin Hall’s gourmandizing gumshoe gains most of his salary from performing background checks on prospective brides and grooms. But this bread-and-butter job leads to more exciting fare as Vish becomes an expert in vanishing housemaids, killings by goddesses, and other hazards occurring in the Punjab. “The Case of the Missing Servant” launched Vish Puri’s fictional career.
The Leduc mysteries by Cara Black take place in the 20 arrondissements, or municipal districts, of Paris. Aimée is a Sorbonne graduate with a Parisian sense of style who is mentored by her godfather, a police commissaire. In the course of the first novel, Aimée switches from white-collar forensics to murder investigation when a client becomes the victim of a hate crime. Fifty years of wartime secrets will come to light in “Murder in the Marais.”
Author Martin Walker immerses the reader in the little rituals of rural life in Southern France, from daily market visits to nightly wine-drinking, but picks up the pace when an elderly man’s murder points to anti-immigrant sentiment. Solo policeman Bruno will have to holster his unused gun, rub elbows with the National Front, and find the real perpetrator of the crime. You can meet “Bruno, Chief of Police” in his eponymous fictional debut.
Irene Huss, 40-something detective inspector and Swedish feminist:
Readers familiar with Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander series will find more to like in Helene Tursten’s DI Huss, who balances the demands of work and home in surroundings that aren’t exactly female-friendly. “Detective Inspector Huss” launched this ongoing series and features the investigation of a reputed suicide club taking the lives of wealthy businessmen.
Second Saturday Performance Series: The Shirthouse Band, Saturday, May 12, at 1 p.m. Enjoy bluegrass with mandolin performed by this local favorite. Sponsored by the Friends of La Mesa Library.
Travel Adventures with Road Scholar, Saturday, May 26, at 1 p.m. Do you love to travel, learn new things, explore interesting places and meet people who share a love of adventure? Learn about Road Scholar, America’s first and the world’s largest educational travel organization for adults. Road Scholar offers nearly 8,000 affordable programs each year in about 90 countries worldwide.
— Heather Pisani-Kristl is managing librarian of the La Mesa branch of the San Diego County Library. Call the library at 619-469-2151, visit in person at 8074 Allison Ave., or get information online at sdcl.org.