George Demko, a geographer from Darmouth University in the US, argues that a literary sense of place is essential to good crime fiction and one of the key ingredients in the genre’s success. Readers not only get an entertaining story, they get to know about a place and what its like to live and work there. The Irish Times this weekend carried a double-page spread of crime fiction book reviews set in different places around the world. If you want to get a sense of a place before you travel there, you might want to forsake your Lonely Planet guide for a murder mystery. Off to Oxford, try Colin Dextor’s Inspector Morse novels; travelling to Los Angeles, while away the flight reading Michael Connelly or James Ellroy; back-packing in Australia, then lose yourself in a Peter Temple novel; staying nearer to home, then Brian McGilloway’s Inspector Devlin novels are set in Donegal and along the border. Whatever the destination, crime writers will give a fascinating insight into the local landscape and often the complex social, economic and political relations that shape its production; they’re also a damn sight more entertaining than your usual, dry travel guide!
The maps here are by George Demko and show the number of mystery novels for US and European cities, and also the distribution globally.