Susan Kurosawa has been the travel editor of The Australian since 1992 and is the author of seven books, including the best-selling novel Coronation Talkies (2004) set in 1930s India.
I have chosen a selection of relatively light and engaging reads that I recommend for bright and easy summer holidays. All are fiction, with pacy narratives and twisty plots, and are distinguished by a resounding sense of place, from the Botswana so beloved by Alexander McCall Smith’s lady detective, Precious Ramotswe (now appearing in her fifteenth book), to Victoria Hislop’s evocation of the plight of Greek Cypriots during the Turkish invasion of northern Cyprus in 1974.
Eminent crime author Adrian McKinty transports us to the colonial backwaters of New Guinea in the early 20th century where members of a German nudist colony survive on bananas, coconuts and a spot of sun worship; in Cairo, Chris Womersley writes not of Egypt but a Fitzroy, Melbourne, apartment block of that name in the 1980s where bohemians and deadbeats mingle as, across the city, a Picasso is being stolen from the National Gallery of Victoria. In The Snow Kimono, the story moves across Paris and Japan, between love and loss, skilfully interlaced into a taut thriller.
Sophie Hannah has recreated Agatha Christie’s impeccable character, Hercule Poirot, in a book that is uncharacteristically lengthy for an homage to the so-called Countess of Crime but a pleasing page-turner nonetheless, and she has excelled at capturing the little Belgian detective’s fussy speech patterns; and the talented Nastasha Solomons (author of the 2010 hit, Mr Rosenblum’s List) again draws on her conservative English-Jewish heritage to pen a tale of an abruptly departed husband and intense family shame against a backdrop of London in the swinging sixties.
Two Alexander McCall Smiths on the list? No writer seems more prolific, or reliably readable, as this Scottish gent, and what fun that he has ranged beyond Botswana and his home city of Edinburgh to the island of Grand Cayman in the Caribbean, setting for his gentle coming-of-age novel The Forever Girl.
So that’s my summer all sorted, weaving across continents, on the trail of satisfyingly complicated crimes, being thoroughly entertained and amused.