It’s a Mystery! – again…

September 17, 2009 at 10:28 pm (books, Local interest (Baltimore-Washington), Mystery fiction, Travel)

This past July, I had the pleasure of presenting The Art of the Mystery at the Glenwood Branch of the Howard County Library. Next month, I’ll be presenting It’s A Mystery! at The Bain Center in Columbia. This too is a library program.

This time I am going to emphasis the function of setting in crime fiction. My efforts have been greatly aided by G.J. Demko’s thoughts on the subject. Demko, an emeritus professor at Dartmouth, has posted his highly engaging essays on a site called Landscapes of Crime.

Many of us crime fiction fans consider the selection of books to be an essential part of travel preparations. Getting ready for my trip to Italy last May, I did quite  a bit of reading in advance of the journey. I read portions of these three titles:

beard herculaneum pompeii1 And I read Shirley Hazzard’s wonderful memoircapri I was  about half way through Jordan Lancaster’s fascinating history of Naples when we took off: jordanl. It was one of the two “perfect books” that came with me on this memorable journey, the other being – and you were wondering when I’d get to this! – a mystery: tutti. Michael Dibdin, whom we lost most prematurely in 2007, wrote the Aurelio Zen series, which I always enjoyed. Zen turns up in various Italian locales; in Cosi Fan Tutti, he is smack in the middle of Naples and engaged in a hilarious Keystone cops type of scenario involving organized crime, jealous lovers, covetous older women, and lots more. The proceedings are all the more entertaining for Zen’s deep knowledge of the Neapolitan landscape – and the Neapolitan underworld.

But what if you’re not going to Italy? Well, then I have only two words for you: Why not?? Just kidding ( sort of) – there are ways to find mysteries set just about anywhere. Wheredunnit is one of the most comprehensive sources; Eurocrime also does a great job. I’m partial to the “Location Index” on Stop You’re Killing Me because of its precise breakdown of places within the United Kingdom (click on “British Isles;” select “England – excluding London”).

There are sites and blogs dedicated to mysteries set in a particular country or region. One that I recently discovered that’s devoted to Scottish crime fiction is Big Beat from Badsville. There’s also a Scandinavian Crime Fiction Blog and a site devoted to Italian Mysteries. I also recommend  Detectives Without Borders: A Forum for International Crime Fiction.

So – with regard to the October 20th presentation, have I given the game away? By no means! There will be a new book list, new titles to talk about, and yet another chance to exchange views and recommendations with fellow mystery lovers.

Here are  the particulars:It's a Mystery with watermark

[ Click on the link to the Bain Center at the top of this post for directions.]

Here are just a few of the titles I’ll be bringing:  judge-dee maigret thunder black1 dakar girl2

franchise dissloution

Hope to see you there!


  1. Meredith said,

    ARGGGHHHH–Can’t make Tuesday mornings. Any chance you could do an encore presentation at a library branch in the evening, or on a weekend? You should always announce the day and time before you specify the program so I’m not so bummed when I realize I can’t make the program–and I’ve already got my heart set on it . . .

    Consolation prize–I know you’ll write about it here, though it’s not the same.

    • Roberta Rood said,

      Alas, you will be missed! Thing is, this is already an encore of sorts, for the July program which you so graciously attended.
      But yes, I’ll be writing about it – and I’ll keep you up to date on any further developments…

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