In the world of crime fiction, location is everything. From the seedy underbelly of the city to the unpredictable countryside, our favourite crime writers create places of intrigue and suspense, where danger lurks around every corner. Here we select our favourite five crime fiction locations.
Ystad is depicted as a sleepy old location, despite it being such a tourist draw that Mankell has authorised an iPhone app that guides people around many of his most famous character’s favourite haunts and hang-outs. Mankell’s juxtaposition of this nowhere town with some of the trickiest and most gruesome murders in popular crime fiction gifts the southern Swedish coastal town a chilling dark side that’s impossible not to scratch at.
Many of Wallander’s most chest-thumping scenes take place on Ystad’s medieval streets and coastline, but Mankell never forgets to remind us of the barrenness and potential danger found in the countryside that skirts the town.
Recommended Read: Sidetracked
Rankin’s love for his city and its history is a cornerstone of his Rebus novels, even though the detective takes time out in London during the series. It is the Edinburgh of Burke and Hare that Rankin so loves, with his depictions of the backstreets, the castle, the University, sub-city catacombs and of course the Oxford Bar. Yet Rankin never forgets the modern Edinburgh, of shops and tourism, of an underbelly of drugs, murder and organised crime, and of impoverished outer city communities left to the elements. A dark and always fascinating place, and a core part of Rebus’ success.
Recommended read: The Naming Of The Dead
There are as many Morse tours of Oxford as there are novels, which says something for the popularity of the city’s most famous detective and his love-hate relationship with the place. As a St John’s College drop-out himself, Morse sums up perfectly the conflict between ‘town and gown’ that causes so much mayhem in the city. The University buildings themselves will be more familiar to viewers of the ITV adaptation, with several fictional colleges invented for the books, but the city’s streets and suburbs, and let’s not forget pubs, all play a major role in the life of Colin Dexter’s great creation.
Recommended Read: The Daughters of Cain
James Ellroy’s Los Angeles
There’s little doubt that LA is a special place for Ellroy – his Discovery Channel documentary is a case in point. The city he calls “my smog-bound fatherland…. the film noir epicenter” is a place of grim extortion, exploitation and demonic killers. In his most famous works, The LA Quartet, he takes the hardboiled template first set out by Chandler and ramps the sin levels up to ten, leaving a city corrupt and unloved by its politicians and wracked with iniquity by its criminal elements. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the two factions apart, and Ellroy clearly delights in applying his complex characters and spiraling mysteries upon the City of Angles.
Recommended read: The Black Dahlia
Carl Hiaassen’s Miami
As an archetypal muck-racking reporter for the Miami Herald, Hiaasen has 35 years of experience to draw his native South Florida from. His novels poke at serious issues. Or rather issues that would be serious if they weren’t offset by such brilliant farce. His characters – from the ruddy PI Brian Keyes, to Chemo, the disfigured heavy with a garden strimmer stuffed into the stump of his arm – couldn’t exist anywhere but Hiasson’s Miami.
Hiasson is capable of writing absurd crime fiction that questions and thrills, and is gifted enough to do so for children as well as adults. And at the beating heart of all he pokes fun at is Miami, with all of its plastic and politics.
Recommended read: Skin Tight
Add your own favourite crime, thriller and mystery book settings below.