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The Lure of Faraway Places in Crime Fiction

The Lure of Faraway Places in Crime Fiction

I was barely out of college when I packed my bags and moved to the other side of the planet for the first time. I was young, of course, and madly in love, and as I boarded that plane, life felt like one great adventure. It still does, actually. Those early travels set the tone for the way I live my life today, bouncing between the two cities that I call home. Atlanta or Amsterdam, depending on the weather.

And so it’s probably not a surprise that I’m drawn to books featuring Americans in foreign lands, finding their way among people speaking in strange and unfamiliar tongues. Especially when you throw in an element of suspense. There’s just something so deeply unsettling about being far from home when Very Bad Things start to happen. Then the international setting really cranks up the suspense, adds an extra layer of intrigue. For the reader it’s a second-hand thrill, one with no passport necessary. 

Want to get swept away from the comfort of your own couch? Here are some of my favorites:

If Something Happens to Me by Alex Finlay

While this story starts out stateside, with a car pulled from a Kansas lake with two bodies inside along with a note in a missing girl’s handwriting, the action moves quickly abroad. Alex hits the ground running, taking the reader on a whirlwind trip through the rolling hills of Tuscany, a rural village in the UK, and finally, Paris. Hands down my favorite Alex Finlay novel, and with one of the best twists I’ve read in a while, this is armchair travel at its best. 

The Expats by Chris Pavone

A married American couple moves abroad for a job that’s not entirely legit, but they’re not alone. Danger is tracking them through the cobblestoned streets of Luxembourg and Paris in a story that’s one part spy fiction, another part travelogue. Chris peppers the pages with the most gorgeous descriptions and spot-on accounts of expat life, the glamour but also the struggles of building a new life in a strange and foreign place. According to his author’s note, Chris wrote the book while living in Luxembourg as a…wait for it…expat.

The Banker’s Wife by Christina Alger

The Banker’s Wife begins with a literal bang, a plane explosion that takes an expat’s husband, leaving the new widow to sort through the conflicting stories around her husband’s death. London, Paris, Geneva, the South of France…they all get plenty of page time, and Christina captures the glamour of the settings perfectly, contrasting them with the dark underbelly of billionaire banking. 

Who Is Maud Dixon by Alexandra Andrews

A woman sets off for Morocco with her new boss, a celebrated but reclusive author, but the trip takes a devastating turn when she wakes up in the hospital with no memory of the terrible car accident that landed her there. From there we trek through the colorful streets of Marrakesh and the wind-swept beaches of the coast. A whip-smart and darkly funny story that will have you bumping Morocco up on your bucket list. 

Ladykiller by Katherine Wood

When a woman vanishes from her remote Greek island estate, her best friend from childhood races to find her thanks to clues in the manuscript she left behind. Katherine loads up the suspense with the sun-soaked backdrop of gorgeous Greece and the glamorously decadent world of the uber-rich. It’s a story that will have you longing for a vacation under the hot Mediterranean sun…but maybe with a little less murder.


The Paris Widow

A dream vacation turns deadly when secrets from the past catch up to a married couple in Paris in this new edge-of-your-seat thriller from USA Today bestselling author, Kimberly Belle.

When Stella met Adam, she thought she had finally found a nice, normal guy—a welcome change from her previous boyfriend and her precarious jetsetter lifestyle with him. But her secure world comes crashing down when Adam goes missing after an explosion in the city square. Unable to reach him, she panics. 

As the French police investigate, it’s revealed that Adam was on their radar as a dealer of rare and stolen antiquities with a long roster of criminal clients. Reeling from this news, Stella is determined not to leave Paris until she has the full story. Was Adam a random victim or the target of the explosion? And why is someone following her through the streets of Paris?