These mysteries evoke such a strong sense of place, you will feel like you have been there.
While traveling to a new destination by train or plane, pick up one of these mystery novels and feel like you’ve been transported to a new place before you even arrive. These authors deliver taut, suspenseful plotlines in settings that are an integral part of the story, from the steamy Louisiana bayou to an icy and isolated Siberian outpost.
In The Electric Mist With Confederate Dead
James Lee Burke
“The sky had gone black at sunset, and the storm had churned inland from the Gulf had drenched New Iberia and littered East Main with leaves and tree branches from the long canopy of oaks that covered the street from the old brick post office to the drawbridge over Bayou Teche at the edge of town. The air was cool now, laced with light rain, heavy with the fecund smell of wet humus, night-blooming jasmine, roses, and new bamboo.”
A movie about the Confederate army, backed by mob money, is being shot in Dave Robicheaux’ hometown. Robicheaux is a Vietnam veteran, recovering alcoholic, and former New Orleans homicide cop, now working for the local sheriff’s department. The brutal murder of a young prostitute, the discovery of a 35-year old skeleton in the Atchafalaya Basin, and visions (or hallucinations) of a Confederate General may, or may not, be connected.
Burke’s hero is struggling with demons, a short fuse, and a complicated sense of honor. However it’s Burke’s Gulf Coast Louisiana that is really at the heart of this story. It is more than lush scenery, jazz and blues, and spicy and deep fried food washed down with Dr. Pepper and Jax. It is rich with natural beauty that is constantly threatened by greed, corruption and “progress,” and inextricably bound to a history that is both proud and shameful.
“At the head of the double-sided table were bowls of additional sauce labeled HOT, HOTTER and THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT. There were huge platters of deep-fried onion-flavored hush puppies, bowls of coleslaw, and more bowls of Brunswick stew. A dozen or more round tables, each with ten chairs, dotted the grass, but many people either sat in lawn chairs they’d thought to bring or perched on a low stone wall that had defined my mother’s iris border.”
A young mother disappears with her baby daughter. Three days later the baby is found alive in an abandoned mill, next to her dead mother. Janie Whitehead was killed by a single gunshot to the head. Eighteen years later, the baby is grown up and asks local attorney – and former babysitter – Deborah Knott to look in to her mother’s unsolved murder.
If you like your southern charm with a little less edge and angst than Burke’s, Margaret Maron’s Colleton County, North Carolina may be more your speed. Murder is still afoot, but Deborah Knott is as smart and capable as they come and she knows (or is related to) just about everyone in town. Her father is a somewhat legendary local bootlegger who raised eleven boys along with his only daughter. Fishing on family land, an old fashioned pig picking and the fellowship and gossip of a small southern town are the steady and comforting backdrop to the darker side of human nature.
A Cold Red Sunrise
Stuart M. Kaminsky
“There were many things Porfiry Petrovich Rostnikov would have liked. He would have liked a real lifting bench like the Americans made. He would have liked a small room where he could go to lift weights instead of a corner of his living-dining room. He would have liked more room to store his weights instead of having to place them neatly inside the cabinet in the corner where the good dishes would be kept if he and Sarah had good dishes.”
The young daughter of a high-profile dissident, exiled to Siberia, has died in a fall. Her distraught father, with expectations of soon being allowed to leave Russia for the West, believes his daughter’s death was no accident. When the Commissar investigating her death is murdered, Inspector Porfiry Rostnikov is sent from Moscow to Tumsk, Siberia to investigate. However, his instructions are to investigate only the Commissar’s death, not the child’s, and in Russia there are consequences to stepping outside one’s authority.
Kaminsky’s Inspector Rostnikov is part relentless, gifted detective and part everyman. He is fond of weightlifting, American novels and his wife’s chicken tabaka, but he struggles against bureaucracy and leaders he can’t fully trust or respect. He is tasked with solving a closed room-style mystery, but in this case it is the surrounding taiga (forest), bitter cold and snow, and the sparse population of a dying Siberian town that limit the suspects. Kaminsky packs roughly 200 pages with bits of Russian history and touches of wry humor, but it’s the detailed sketches of his characters and their circumstances that ultimately paint a compelling picture of life in Moscow and Siberia.
If your travel destination is NYC and The Benjamin, pamper yourself while you finish the last few chapters of your travel read. Pick a supportive pillow from our pillow menu, order a sleep-friendly snack from our “bedtime bites” room service menu, and settle in. What could be better than finishing Stuart Kaminsky’s A Cold Red Sunrise while experiencing all the luxuries definitely not offered in Siberia?