The appeal of such books is that, as well as a good yarn, they offer the traveller the longed-for "feel" of a country. They serve up digestible slices of culture and history at the same time as giving you the pleasure of an old-fashioned page-turner. The marriage works well because in crime, after all, the backdrop is always one of the lead characters. Ross Macdonald told his readers far more about the underbelly of California than he ever did about Lew Archer. We read Scandinavian crime fiction largely because we're fascinated by countries simultaneously so similar yet different to ours. And people turn to Alexander McCall Smith or Ian Rankin in part for the same reason others sit on an open-top bus: they want to see the sights and sounds of Botswana or Edinburgh. Add to that the fact that we live in an era of cheap air travel and quick continental breaks, and it's hardly surprising that there's a demand for crime set in exotic locations.
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