In the March 2019 newsleter we asked readers for a list of books or book series that give a real “feel” for a location.

Here are their responses:

Pam: Once again, I find myself a month (almost 2 months) behind on responding to your newsletter.

For February’s question, I am not a fan of James Patterson. I’ve read two or three of his books. I found them to be just okay. Most recently I read The President is Missing that he co-authored with Bill Clinton. Ho-hum! Supposedly a suspenseful thriller. Not my idea of suspenseful or thrilling.

I am a fan of Michael Connelly’s books, most notably his Harry Bosch series. Having grown up in the Los Angeles area, his Bosch series definitely gives a feel for the area. He uses actual street names, areas of the city (Bunker Hill), as well as locations, e.g., landmark funicular railway, Angels Flight.

As always, thank you for your newsletters. I look forward to them every month and also your recommendations. You’ve inspired me to reach out and read new authors.

Ayesha: Hi Graeme
I thought about The Harp in the South and Poor Man’s Orange by Ruth Park giving us a glimpse of Surry Hills in Sydney when it was still a slum (though the prequel “Missus” in the trilogy is set in the bush), but returned to my original thought of The Doll Trilogy by Ray Lawler. Though actually plays, all three set the scene of Melbourne (and especially Luna Park fun park in the seaside suburb of St Kilda) decades before I used to visit it, growing up. I’m not sure if the three books/plays (Kid Stakes, Other Times and the amazing Summer of the Seventeenth Doll) are still in print separately, but I’m pretty sure you can still buy them collected in The Doll Trilogy.
Bit of a theme here of (areas in) Aussie cities I know well, long before I was born… I do have a fascination with the past, so it’s probably because they’re both set in areas I knew well. It’s always interesting to look back and see how things have changed! Both areas have changed again dramatically since my teens and twenties too, but back then it was probably easier to imagine what they were like decades before. You actually asked re a feel for a place not a time and a place, but in both instances I think the earlier times set the feel or mood of the place, which still contributes to the ambience of those areas today…

Jan: This month you profiled C.J. Box (Joe Pickett)who has a new book coming out. I’ve read all his books ….that take place in Wyoming. Also, Craig Johnson (Longmeir) who’s books also take place in Wyoming. I’ve been there. They each discribe the countryside exactly as it is. I can even picture some of the places, remembering the mountains, rivers, towns. If I had not seen Wyoming already, I would have made the trip! Actually, last year on our Epic RV trip across America, we stopped in Absoroka County. Wow. I’ve also read all Tony Hillerman’s books and we stopped at 4-Corners, Shiprock and a few other places his stories took place in. Books open the world to you!

Elizabeth: I like the Chief Bruno series set in France.

Sandra: C J Box…without a doubt gives a huge feel for the west and especially Wyoming. When I found his series, I went on a binge and read everyone he’d written in about 2 months.

Cheryle: A couple of foreign authors who write police procedurals that I read are Helene Tursten and Val McDermid. Both of these authors are terrific and their stories convey their particular area. Tursten is Sweden and McDermid is Scotland. SIGURDARDOTTIR, YRSA writes about Iceland and is another one that really relates area. HAYES-MCCOY, FELICITY writes literary fiction in Ireland.

I love reading William Kent Krueger’s northern Minnesota books. Kristin Hannah did a masterful job with Alaska in The Great Alone. Carrie LeSeur does a great job of portraying families in the Billings, Montana are where I live. And the master of them all is Louise Penny and her Canadian detective books.

These are just a few of the fabulous authors that I go to as soon as I know they have a new book out. They take me to places I will never be able to physically visit but can imagine them from these books.

Thanks for your great website and newsletter. I look forward to the newsletter every month and use the website a lot especially when starting to read a new author.

Janice: There are two series that offer good descriptions of their geographical settings. The Anna Pigeon series by Nevada Barr in which Anna is a U. S. Park ranger, working at a different national park with each book as she solves murders. The second series with good geographical description is by my favorite author, James Lee Burke. His protagonist is Dave Robicheaux with settings mainly in south Louisiana. His description of south Louisiana creates visualizations that make me feel I’m right there with Robicheaux.

MJ: Recommendations for book series that give a feel for an area:

• Deborah Crombie for her series set in England.

• Nevada Barr’s series capture the beauty of nature and wildlife of the U.S. national parks.

• Daniel Silva’s series for the locations of Israel and around the world.

• Janet Evanovich for New Jersey. 😊

I enjoy your newsletter, it helps to find new authors, and it’s fun.

Jacey: Chesapeake by James A. Michner deceased. Read as a child and mesmerized, I felt a part of book. My father and I were the heavy readers in the family. When I finished, he told me my mother’s family came from here in 1600s. It stuck to me and as doing geneaology it is ringing bells. Still finding it fascinating.

Big fan of Jonathan Kellerman and Faye Kellerman, but not Jesse. Give JK & FK another chance!!! Love psychology and religions.

Patricia: A book I thoroughly enjoyed, offering a strong sense of place is The Turquoise Dragon by David Rains Wallace. Set in the Klamath mountains/wilderness, it’s a wonderful mystery and ecological wonder. Though an older book, it’s still relevant and enjoyable.
Thanks for your excellent newsletter, I always look forward to it.

Connie: I love series that make you feel like you are in the location. I read all the Tony Hillerman books and have spent time on the Navajo reservation as a result. I want to go to Norway because of Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole books, and Scotland to explore Rebus’ hangout because of Ian Rankin. Since I have lived in San Francisco and L.A. I love the Diana’s Hardy books by John Lescroart and Harry Bosch by Michael Connelly. The last 2 series put me right at the scene from memory. The others create a visual image for me for me to join the character’s world.

Norma: Now….books that take place in a specific locale which entice one to visit….The Caroline Graham Chief Detective Inspector Barnaby series. The murder mystery series takes place in little villages in and around Oxford England. We are fans too of the tv series Midsomer Murders based on her books. Having visited there, the villages are just as described in the books!

Linda: Two series come to mind that have a location in them that intriques me: The Three Pines series by Louise Penny and The Ladies of Covington by Medlicott. When I read Penny’s books I am in that little town of Three Pines. Her descriptions make me feel the town and love it. Same with the Ladies of Covington. I want to live there. Now it wasn’t asked for, but I have had a tremendous reading month, so must share. Let Me Lie by Clare Macintosh-great read, twisty and the last line will make you gasp. Started out a tad slow, but wow it picked up. An Unwanted Guest, by Shari Lapena, reminded me of Agatha Christie and again a great twist and last paragraph marvelous. The Perfect Child by Lucinda Berry, Wow a new book, Amazon pick of the month that was so good I could not put it down. Very black, but good. Pandemic, by Robin Cook, his latest medical thriller, a little too technical, but loved the plot line. Then my last one was “The Waiting Room” by Emily Bleeker. Sad thriller, but good. Not my favorite of the month, but still up there. If you like thrillers and mysteries, these books are for you. Once again thank you for the newsletter and I really appreciate all the recommendations. My shelves are filling up with your ideas, have not been disappointed yet. Still reading some stand alones by Joseph Finder and finding them very worthwhile. Read Paronia and loved it. Reminded me of The Firm by Grisham, which I thought was excellent. Keep on reading everyone. Great way to spend your time.

Joy: I recently read 2 books that really gave me a feeling of being right there with the characters

Takes place in early Australia. I am looking forward to more books by this new author.

THE FEVER TREE-Jennifer McVeigh
This one is about the early diamond mines of Kimberley in South Africa. I really enjoy this new authors books.

Katy: Series I’ve enjoyed that bring a location to mind: Those written by Shamini Flint – humorous inspector from Singapore solving murder mysteries. Love them! First one is called Inspector Singh Investigates: A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder. There are several in the series, all available on Amazon.

Fredericka: The March newsletter is a good one. Thank you very much.

You asked about books that take place in one location, more or less and I immediately thought of Peter May’s The Lewis Trilogy. The location is the Hebrides. As I read those books, I could feel the wind, the freezing cold, what it felt like to walk among the peat beds, etc. Seriously, I was reading during a Texas summer with highs around 100°+ and I would still feel cold as I read. After finishing the trilogy I ordered his books of photographs, Hebrides by Peter May, photographs by David Wilson. I only wish I’d had it as I was reading the trilogy because May points out so many of the locations described in the books.

I would also like to introduce a new author, Cat Clayton. She has two whimsical, quirky, small-town Texas mysteries and is working on her third. The first two are How to Leash a Thief, (a Steely & Cuff Mystery, Book 1) and, How to Kennel a Killer ( a Steely & Cuff Mystery, Book 2). The main character is a sleuthing dog groomer with a talking dog. It is a fun series to cozy up to.

Eleece: Some of my favorite books that take place in a specific location is the “Kate Shugak” series by Dana Stabenow. They are set in Alaska, and I’ve read and loved every one of them. They are definitely best read in order, as the characters build over time. Highly recommend. She has written a second series set in Alaska featuring “Liam Campbell”. She seems to be done with these Alaska series now, and has moved on to historical fiction, which I’ve also read and enjoyed very much. The “Silk and Song” trilogy is about the adventures of Marco Polo’s granddaughter. “Death of an Eye” seems to be the first of a series about Cleopatra’s investigator/fixer. Dana Stabenow is one of my most favorite authors.

Bonnie: First of all, I love your site. I often read your recommendations and it’s also a great way to find out if my favorite authors have just written a book.

In terms of atmosphere and a feel for an area, I don’t think you can beat James Lee Burke. I find that I cannot read his books in the summer because his descriptions of the humidity and the muggy atmosphere and the rainy weather make my environs seem even hotter!

April: The Doc Ford series by Randy Wayne White really tell the story of western Florida, esp the islands just off the coast. At the end of this month I will be traveling to Ft. Myers for a conference and intend to tour Captiva and Sanibel Islands and eat at Doc Fords Bar and Grill – maybe at each location.

LInda: I think the Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series really gives you a feel for the Quebec wilderness where Three Pines it located. It is, by far, my favorite series so much so that I want to visit there some day… in the summer!!
A very close second would be Linda Castillo’s Kate Burkholder series set in the Amish country in Ohio.
I wait with bated breath for each new release from both authors!

Deanna: If you want a series that gives you a “feel for the area” my suggestion is the Dave Robicheau series by James Lee Burke. The books are set in New Orleans and you can definitely see, feel and taste the atmosphere. I love these books and they will live on my bookshelf for future re-reading. I highly recommend this series.

Doug: Regarding your question of the month, I have just completed the five books by Allen Eskens. I came across the first one “The Life We Bury” quite by accident after seeing it on an internet blog of the best books read in 2015. I loved it, and quickly read the other four. They take place in Minnesota, mostly in and around Minneapolis and feature a recurring cast of characters. Although each could be read as a standalone, I would highly recommend reading them in order. My personal favourite was the third in the series, “The Heavens May Fall”, since it was more of a legal drama than the others, but they are all great. I would put them in the Mystery genre, although they have elements of police procedural as well. I wrote to the author and told him that he was now on my top shelf along with my personal favourites, Harlan Coben, Linwood Barclay and Michael Connelly. High praise indeed.

Chris: Hi Graeme. At first I didn’t know how to answer the question (what book or book series gives the reader a “feel” for an area?) then it hit me: the China Bales series by Susan Wittig Albert fits the bill. From the very first book, “Thyme of Death,” I discovered that reading about the small Central Texas town of Pecan Springs, as described by Ms. Albert, felt so familiar and so real. That’s because, in my opinion, (Ms. Albert’s continual denials notwithstanding) Pecan Springs is based on San Marcos, Texas, where I attended school. The books describe a small college town very much like San Marcos, with a similar university and many of the same street names. You also get a sense of the small town lifestyle and the typical native Texas landscape. Ms. Wittig once worked as an administrator at the university in San Marcos, so she knows the area well, which her books reflect. If anyone was interested in learning more about this part of Texas, reading this series would be a good place to start.

Deborah: The series that I think give a real feel for a place is the Jimmy Perez series. I would love to go to the Shetland Islands and even have the weather for that area saved in my weather app. The series is written by Ann Cleeves and the last book in the series was released last year. I get a real feel for the place: the description of the different islands, how they have to travel around, how they make a living…the old ways vs new technology, the language. I long to go there and visit all the places talked about in the series. I would love to talk to some of the people whose families have lived there for generations.

Phyllis: I’d definitely recommend the William Kent Krueger series of Cork O’Connor books. Set in a small town in Minnesota,

these books center on a former (somewhat disgraced) sheriff who now is called on to investigate crimes for his friends and, sometimes, his own satisfaction. The series spans the seasons of the beautiful state of Minnesota. Krueger’s ability to describe a bone-chilling winter is marvelous. The rugged landscape descriptions made me feel an amazing wonder at the beauty of unspoiled nature. The spring, summer and fall settings brought similar feelings. Additionally, like Craig Johnson, Krueger folds in original Americans by adding a tribe of Ojibwe Indians to further develop plot lines and character.

On the whole, these books evoke an understanding of living with the elements that I haven’t seen in many other books. Some of the winter scenes actually made me shiver! Krueger has demonstrated a masterful ability to take the reader to the area and be part of the whole action.

Joanne: The 17 Cork O’Conner mysteries by William Kent Krueger clearly give a great “feel” for Northern Minnesota. I grew up there, and know! I also used to watch him writing at a cafe near my law school in St. Paul a million years ago. He knows Minnesota from the urban to the wild North. His books are a joy to read.

Oh. And definitely the Roger Stelljes McRyan mystery series. Set in and around St.Paul Minnesota and does a great job giving readers the “feel” for the sprawling Minnesota twin cities metro area. Also fantastic reads.

Tom: Hello Graeme, Another great letter, and thanks. I am waiting to read the last book of the Mike Bowditch series, “Stay Hidden” by Paul Doiron. I think there might be another in the series coming out later in 2019. The series has given me a good idea of Maine and it’s makeup. I even got a map of the state and a travel guide. I have been to Maine a few times (while working) but never up north. Many times when I would exit my vehicle, I could immediately smell the pines. I have been to many places with pine trees but never experienced so much fragrance.

Another book I have read several times since it came out about 20 years ago and want to read again is a true story of life on a Montana ranch called “The Cowboy Way” by David McCumber. This book presents a down to earth picture of Montana, although only a small part of it, but it takes a close look at everyday life for many living there. It’s a state I have visited once. I like it because it is so wide open, like Wyoming and others out west.

I have also just finishing reading “The Dry” by Jane Harper. This story takes place down under and the descriptions are mesmerizing, although the actual story didn’t overwhelm me like it has for many others. Australia would be an interesting place to visit, but because of its size you might need a year or two to take most of it in. Well, take care.

Order of Books » Newsletter » Reader Mailbag: Books That Give a “Feel” for a Location

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