At its best, a detective novel set in a foreign country does more than meet a mystery fan's need for a crime, an investigation, and (hopefully) a comeuppance. The top international mysteries transport us across the globe, serving both as travelogues and explorations of how the world beyond us copes with issues of law, order, and justice. Here are four of the year's best foreign mysteries.
The Place: Suburban Oslo, Norway
The Time: Present day
The Victims: Multiple
The Detective: Inspector Sejer
"The Caller," relentlessly grim and relentlessly fascinating, introduces readers to a suburb in Norway near Oslo. It's home to SUVs, tidy newish homes with two-car garages and a baby alive and healthy but drenched in blood.
More despicable but not deadly deeds follow.
This is a psychological thriller rather than a whodunit, an analysis of a community's reactions to a criminal, but not a murderer – at least, not yet – in their midst. The author masterfully portrays how the loss of security disrupts lives and ravages the way we see those around us.
Every major character is vividly portrayed, and many of the smallest moments hold hints of menace. Meanwhile, life in Norway reveals itself in little tidbits, from the influence of American culture to the wonderful insult ("Lingonberry head!") that a girl yells to a boy with a red motorcycle helmet.
There are heroes amid the darkness, along with good people and even justice. But the shocker of an ending, a Hitchcockian twist that will stick with readers, may indicate otherwise.
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