Mystery: UK vs US

The UK writers are still doing mystery enormously better than their US counterparts.

I read two new mysteries recently. John Lescroart’s The Rule of Law is part of a long-standing series set in San Francisco. I mentioned this novel here a few days back but it took me forever to finish it. In the novel, a Trump-like DA elected in San Francisco on an anti-immigrant platform (yeah, right) is doing horrible Trump-like things and good, progressive lawyers and secretaries resist his evil Trump-like agenda. The twists in the plot are as forced as the premise. And the denouement is simply ridiculous. You can’t write a good novel (even in the low-standard entertainment industry) to make an inane political point.

Then I read The Hiding Place by CJ Tudor, a beginning mystery writer from the UK. It has a slight touch of the supernatural, which I usually hate, but it was quite imperceptible and didn’t bother me. The novel is not a masterpiece of literary creation, to put it mildly, but there is a million twists, and the author is great at creating an atmosphere of dread. And there are no condemnations (or exaltations) of the Brexit, which is something you can’t count on any longer. The novel is delightfully apolitical.

11 thoughts on “Mystery: UK vs US”

  1. For whatever reason, I recently realized the Alex Delaware series by Jonathan Keller has become one of my go to travel series. I’m not especially invested in the series and the ones I’ve read have been out of order but they’re compulsively easy to read and enjoyable on airplane or train trips… On my recent trip to Malta I took one and got through almost 150 pages on the flight there (aisle seat so nothing else to look at) and got through another 150 or so on the flight back.


      1. I made the comment above, but forgot to sign in.

        I’ve really enjoyed “Wire in the Blood,” “Luther,” “Inspector Lynley Mysteries,” “Inspector Morse,” “Midsomer Murders,” “Wallander,” and “Inspector Lewis.”

        Once you see shows like these, it’s hard to watch “Law & Order” or any other U.S. cop show again.


          1. I loved the BBC (?) Wallander in English. The problem that many Americans have with British/BBC/European mysteries is that they’re too “slow” (generally no shooting or car chases), but I find them very intriguing.


    1. “the UK does television mystery ”

      I dunno, my favorite mystery shows in the last several years have been from elsewhere, Trapped (icelandic), La Treve (French Belgian) and Wasteland (Czech) are head and shoulders above anything else I’ve seen in years.
      I’ve started a Turkish show (Masum, not sure of the English title) that’s also very good so far.


  2. The issue may be less with the writers than with the publishers. US publishers have taken a position of “what’s going to sell the most this month”. Some retailers (airport stands, for example) will retire a book from the shelves if it fails to sell a copy in as little as four hours. Even if the book is hokie or poorly written (think of “Shades of Gray” series), it’s about profits, not quality. Of course, the subtext is that there may be more integrity in book publishing in Europe than in the US. Would that be a surprise?


  3. Regarding tv mysteries, the Norwegian Grenseland (Borderliner) is worth a look less for the mystery and more for the study of how one small… lapse in judgement can balloon completely out of control, a bit strained at times but always watchable.


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