Whether it’s the long shadows cast by Sherlock Holmes and Philip Marlowe or some other factor, most U.S. mystery fans are more familiar with American and European sleuths than they are the gumshoes of other continents. But readers looking to broaden their horizons should consider a journey to Asia—literarily if not literally. These three titles prove we’ve come a long way since Fu Manchu and Charlie Chan.
The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall
Get ready to laugh and gasp with a team of most unlikely investigators. Vish Puri loves eating delicious food and solving crimes—not necessarily in that order. (This explains his nickname: Chubby.) With the help of his crack team—Tubelight, Facecream, Flush, Handbrake, Door Stop, and of course his Mummy-ji—Puri takes on the most challenging case of his career. To date, his investigations have been more pedestrian matters, such as matrimonial matches. But now Puri is asked to seek Mary, the missing servant of an old friend. When Mary turns up dead and his friend is accused of murder, the mystery becomes ever more urgent as modern Delhi won’t pause for anyone, not even Chubby. Best read with a plate of pakoras and plenty of chai, this series starter will whet your appetite for more!
The Eye of Jade, by Diane Wei Liang
The Cultural Revolution was a time in Chinese history that many would prefer to forget. People experienced immense suffering—but none of that is unfamiliar to Beijing private eye Mei Wang. With her whole line of work forbidden in modern China, she’s used to operating in the shadows. When a friend of the family approaches her about a priceless piece of jade that was stolen from a museum, Wang takes a case that leads her further down the road of memory, pain, and her own history than she ever expected. What is past is never quite past, it seems, for this determined detective. This series (which continues with Paper Butterfly, 2009) is a perfect pick for fans of Maisie Dobbs and Mma Ramotswe.
Inspector Singh Investigates: A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder, by Shamini Flint
Inspector Singh finds himself unexpectedly sent to Malaysia when a Singaporean citizen is accused of murder—but it’s not just any citizen, it’s prominent former model Chelsea Leiw. Coming from the tidy and orderly Singapore, Singh is discomfited by his new surroundings and discovers that Leiw’s dead husband wasn’t very sympathetic, but that doesn’t matter to the officials in Kuala Lumpur. The only thing between the suspect and execution is the rather particular Inspector Singh, unwilling to soil his shoes but totally dedicated to the cause of justice. Readers will be drawn into the plot’s complexities, including the cultural and religious implications in the marriage between the dead Malaysian husband and his Singaporean wife.