Feel like a fresh start? Perhaps you’ve gotten tired of long-running series which seem to go in circles. Maybe you’re so familiar with established authors that you know exactly which rabbit they’re going to pull out of a pork-pie hat. Or perhaps you’ve read enough domestic noir right now, and would like to try a crime-thriller that’ll transport you to an entirely different place or time. No problem…
Welcome to Indie Week on MMM, an exploration of new talent and great storytelling from independent authors and small publishers. We’ve chosen an eclectic selection from writers whose work we’ve never read before – and here are the first five titles to make our TBR list. We can’t travel right now but we can explore exotic vistas thanks to these murder-mysteries and spy stories, where the sights and sounds of international settings provide an atmospheric backdrop to the evil that men do. So let’s read on – and remember to leave a review when you finish these books to reward the author’s efforts!
TOKYO TRAFFIC by Michael Pronko
Immerse yourself in Japanese customs and culture with this character-driven mystery. It’s the third in the Detective Hiroshi series, set in modern-day Tokyo, and can be easily enjoyed as a standalone thriller. A pair of teenage girls hide from human traffickers, trying to evade deadly pursuit and past transgressions in the city’s backstreets. Detective Hiroshi tracks the killers through Tokyo’s teen hangouts and deserted docks, straight into the underbelly of the global economy and the highest reaches of the power elite.
The author has lived in Tokyo for two decades so his writing is wonderfully authentic and richly detailed in its societal observations. Yet he’s also a natural English speaker, which makes the Hiroshi series more accessible than many books translated from Japanese. Recommended for readers who enjoy the Montalbano books or Nicolás Obregón’s international noir.
GHOSTS OF GUATEMALA by Collin Glavac
Start a new trilogy with this cinematic spy thriller, a fast-paced speed-read stacked with snappy dialogue. Desperate measures are needed to deal with a Latin American drug lord who’s blackmailing the CIA. Enter John Carpenter, black-ops fixer and cold-blooded professional. But the narcotics kingpin has a disastrous kill switch in place – and Carpenter can’t trust his handler or his partner.
Back at the agency, tensions run hot as corruption runs rife. If things aren’t put to rights – and soon – the entire mission will go up in flames and take the CIA down with it.
VAPOUR TRAILS by Abdul Qadir
Journey to an unusual setting seldom visited by crime fiction – the unscrupulous side of Islamabad in Pakistan, for a unique interpretation of hardboiled crime. The author takes inspiration from writers like Hunter Thompson, Ed McBain and Joseph Wambaugh, weaving moral ambiguity and dark humour into every aspect of his narrative. The pair of flawed protagonists in this tale attempt to leave behind the legally questionable aspects of their lives. But getting out is always much harder than getting in…
In the finest traditions of crime fiction, it all starts with a dead body – prompting Ahmad and Ali to turn over a new leaf. But they’re trapped between a determined lawman and his criminal counterpart. As they struggle to make sense of the grey zones in between truth and brutal consequences, we’re taken on a transgressive tour of modern day Pakistan. Vapour Trails describes a world painted in peculiar hues by the colourfulness of its characters.
SWORD by Bogdan Teodorescu
This political thriller comes recommended for folk who enjoy the back-stabbing partisan machinations of series like Borgen. Set in contemporary Romania, it examines the ethnic divisions of this troubled society where corruption and self-interest infect the highest levels of the justice system and government itself. A murderer is systematically targeting the Roma minority, despatching them with brutal efficiency and a honed blade. For many, the sword-wielding killer is seen as a vigilante, ridding society of criminal gypsies. Does anyone have the will and the resources to see justice done?
Particularly relevant at a time when ‘all live matter’, Sword offers a piercing commentary on Romania’s complicated society, where the political classes, police and intelligence agencies vie for influence and outright power.
THE ONLY CHILD by Mi-ae Seo
Delivered in candid, matter of fact language, this Korean psychological thriller treads the same territory that spawned Mindhunter and The Silence of the Lambs. Creepy and compelling with an unusual ability to suddenly shock, the story follows a criminal psychologist who has discovered a dangerous connection between a serial killer and her stepdaughter. The incarcerated murderer – whose gruesome killings shocked the world – has refused to speak to anyone. Until now, when he requests an interview with Seonkyeong…
She rapidly uncovers unsettling parallels between the vicious monster and the seemingly-innocent teenage girl. Both are deeply troubled. And both seem to want something from her. Can Seonkyeong understand how a serial killer is created, before history repeats itself?
Looking for more international thrillers?
Find the KILLING SISTERS trilogy at Amazon