Wednesday, October 8, 2014


I just finished reading Harry Dolan's Bad Things Happen, a murder mystery set in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was fantastic - well paced, realistic, and complex.

Mostly irrelevant Ann Arbor photo
It was also set in a town I deeply love, which made it that much more fun to read. I could picture the spot on Main Street where characters met for coffee. I could pick out actual houses for the various characters' homes. I could imagine the trails in the Arboretum where they walked.

I would have loved this book even if it was set somewhere else, but the location does have an effect. As I've mentioned before, if a book is set in a small British village, Paris, or the Greek islands, I will read it. (Happily, there are multiple series that fit these options.) In the mystery section of our local bookstore, I'll often interrupt Eric to point out, "Oooh! This one is set in Istanbul! This one is set in Bangkok!" Half of my excitement is for the plot, half is for the setting.

Gratuitous photo from Penang, Malaysia
I could totally see a great detective sitting there with a cocktail,
thinking through clues.
A lot of my stories are about places I love. They aren't necessarily good stories. Mostly they end with, "So it was really wonderful and you should absolutely go when you have a chance." Just talking about sitting by the fireplace at the Turl Street Kitchen in Oxford isn't enough. Trying to describe the fog in Brasov, Romania doesn't capture exactly how spooky it looked in the moment. A story is more engaging when it has a plot beyond my description of the roasted chicken and potatoes smell on the Rue Mouffetard.

Gratuitous photo from the grounds of Blenheim Palace in England
This may be part of my constant desire to be exploring somewhere new, camera in one hand, novel in the other. If I can't actually get to Bangkok right now, I can at least read a mystery set there and imagine the smell of the fried noodle carts and the feel of the humidity on my skin. It's a dose of adventure. I can indulge my nostalgia without boring my friends with meandering descriptions of my favorite coffee shop in Siem Reap.

Pad Thai on our first night in Bangkok
But seriously, you should go there when you have a chance (and bring me back a novel).

No comments:

Post a Comment