3 Crackling Mysteries with an International Flavor

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This week we’re looking for some crackling good mysteries with an international flavor as we turn to Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City. After opening their doors in 1978, the staff and customers tended the books with care much like a garden and the business quickly grew. They now fill three-and-a-half floors and the latter half is an 1,100 square-foot coffee house, located in the same place where the local literary society met in the 1930s. Did you know it’s the same society that saw the likes of Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg and E.E. Cummings?

Buyer Paul Ingram, a confirmed fan of all kinds of mysteries, has supplied us with three mysteries for this week’s Shelfie picks. The timing is perfect because if you head into the store this month, you’ll find great mystery books discounted 20 percent!

Here’s what Ingram had to say:

 Dragonfish by Vu Tran (W.W. Norton & Company, August 3)

Dragonfish“This is Vu Tran’s first novel after several award-winning stories. It is essentially a refugee novel featuring Robert, an Oakland cop, who’s in love with a mysterious Vietnamese woman who leaves him for a dangerous life among a family of Vietnamese criminal types in Las Vegas. Still in love with her and desperate to know what has become of her, Robert heads for America’s fun capital; he’s a man on a mission.

“Tran, intimate with both American and Vietnamese cultures, weaves a beautiful tale, filled with danger and mystery. Like Patricia Highsmith, Tran has his readers shouting ‘NO!  NO! Don’t do that!’ time and time again. I haven’t been moved this deeply by a genre novel in a long time.”

 The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter, Glasgow Series by Malcolm Mackay (Mulholland Books, 2015)

lewis-winter-malcolm-mackay “I love Scottish crime novelists. Denise Mina, Louise Welsh, William McIlvanney, Ian Rankin. Hachette has come out with a delicious trilogy by Malcolm Mackay about low-end Glasgow hit men, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The first one is called The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter. The scene is one of competing drug honchos; paranoid, ruthless, and willing to erase any threat to their territory. Calum, a confident young hit man, gets the call and his careful preparation is fascinating to watch. Things should go perfectly, but of course, they don’t.

“Mackay is a master of character description and the pathetic criminal hangers on are beautifully given life and suffering. The other two books of the Glasgow Trilogy pick up where the first leaves off, and a reader of the first will slide easily into them. Mackay is a terrific young writer.”

The Bangkok Asset by John Burdett (Knopf, August 4)

bangkok asset“I’m a huge fan of John Burdett, long-time Bangkok journalist and brilliant author of the Sonchai Jitpleecheep series of humorous, dark and exotic mysteries. One of the things that make these mysteries so interesting is the fact that Sonchai is a devout Buddhist and his stories art told through a Buddhist eye. Thoughts of karma and reincarnation are ever-present as are the consequences of the messy police work he must do.

“Burdett’s newest book is called The Bangkok Asset and features an all too believable CIA plot which MUST BE KEPT SECRET along with an amazing Super Villain character who will scare you plenty. Burdett’s subtle attachment to Thai culture, along with his deep understanding of where power lies in the jungles of Southeast Asia, gives his readers a marvelous education as well as serious tingle up the spine.”

A hearty thanks to Prairie Lights Bookstore and Paul Ingram for delivering this week’s selections and for more picks, visit Paul’s Corner.


figured it all out too late. He got his degree in Psychology and realized years later that he wanted to write for a living. He now has 16+ years of digital and print journalism experience and currently entertains an ongoing love affair with the greatest literary classics (he savored every page of "War and Peace" and thought it could've been longer, and he will finish Proust's "In Search of Lost Time"). He also loves crossword puzzles, tennis, the outdoors, and working on numerous novels. One of these days, one will get picked up...and when it does, the world will make a little more sense.

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