Well, My Bags Are Packed, I’m Ready to Go*

GlobetrottingSome fictional sleuths are strongly associated with one place (I’m thinking for instance of Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski, who has Chicago in her blood, so to speak). It’s not that they never go anywhere, but they generally stay in one town or city. But there are other sleuths who do quite a bit of globetrotting. It makes sense when you think about it because some sleuths have particular skills that are needed in different parts of the world. Other sleuths (such as some PI sleuths) do a lot of traveling as a part of solving their cases. Globetrotting can add freshness and innovation to a series as the sleuth goes from place to place. On the other hand, if there isn’t a credible reason for the globetrotting, it can seem contrived. Still, globetrotting sleuths do add ‘zip’ to the genre.

Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot spends a lot of time ‘on the road.’ Fans will know that he first moved from his native Belgium to England as a result of World War I. But he certainly doesn’t stay there. I’ll just give a few examples to show you what I mean. In The Murder on the Links he goes to France to solve the murder of Paul Renauld. Both Death on the Nile and Appointment With Death find him in the Middle East. He travels to Iraq in Murder in Mesopotamia and then travels back through Europe in Murder on the Orient Express. And that’s not even to mention the novels and short stories in which Poirot travels to different parts of England. Considering how particular he is about his clothes, I don’t envy his valet Georges the task of getting his things together for trips.

Ngaio Marsh’s Sir Roderick Alleyn is with Scotland Yard, but that certainly doesn’t mean he stays in London, or even in the UK. For instance, in Colour Scheme and Died in the Wool, Alleyn travels to New Zealand. Both cases, by the way, involve wartime espionage/counterespionage. In When in Rome, Alleyn goes, well, to Rome. And in Spinsters in Jeopardy, Alleyn and his family travel by train to France. Then tere are some novels (Tied Up in Tinsel is one example) where we follow Alleyn’s wife, artist Agatha Troy. In those novels, we’re told Alleyn is out of the country on a case, but we don’t really follow his doings as much.

Aaron Elkins’ Gideon Oliver is a physical anthropologist and academician. He does plenty of globetrotting as he gives lectures, does guest teaching and helps makes sense of remains that are dug up. In Fellowship of Fear, for instance, he travels to Europe to give guest lectures at US naval bases in Germany, Italy and Spain – and ends by getting mixed up in espionage. In Twenty Blue Devils, he travels to Tahiti to help a friend, FBI agent John Lau, figure out the mystery behind the death of coffee plantation manager Brian Scott. And in Little Tiny Teeth, Oliver takes a trip down the Amazon for what he thinks will be a getaway adventure trip. Then, one of his follow passengers, ethnobiologist Arden Scofield, is murdered. There are several other examples too of cases where Oliver does his detecting far from home.

Both of Anthony Bidulka’s sleuths do their share of globetrotting. His Russell Quant is a former police officer who’s become a PI. Although he’s based in Saskatoon, his cases and his enjoyment of travel mean that he spends plenty of time in flight, so to speak. In Amuse Bouche, he travels to France to try to track down a missing fiancé. In Flight of Aquavit, a blackmailing case takes him to New York, and in Aloha Candy Hearts, a long-distance relationship takes him to Hawai’i. There are trips to Spain, Africa and Mexico in this series as well. Fortunately, Quant has the perfect wardrobe: his ‘wonderpants.’ They go anywhere, fit him well and don’t wrinkle…

Bidulka’s newest sleuth is disaster recovery agent Adam Saint, whom we meet in When the Saints Come Marching In. He’s originally from Saskatoon, but has made his life in Toronto, where he works for the Canadian Disaster Recovery Agency (CDRA), part of a shadowy intelligence agency. This means that he travels all over the world, wherever Canada, its citizens or its interests are involved in or affected by disasters. Saint has just returned from KwaZulu-Natal when he learns that his boss, CDRA head Geoffrey Krazinkski, has been killed at a plane crash scene in Magadan, Russia. Saint immediately goes to Magadan, where he gets information that leads him to believe that Krazinski might have been murdered. But he’s soon called back to Canada on a much more personal urgent matter. That personal business spells the end of Saint’s career with the CDRA, but he is soon drawn into a dangerous and complicated mission that involves murder, espionage and among other things, a woman on the run with her son.

Another Canadian globetrotter is Ian Hamilton’s Toronto-based forensic accountant Ava Lee. She works for a Hong Kong based company that specialises in recovering huge debts. Since she is multilingual and highly skilled at what she does, she is much in demand when people feel they’ve been cheated out of large amounts of money. And she goes ‘on the road’ a lot to do her job, too. In The Water Rat of Wanchai, she goes to Thailand and British Guyana, among other places, and in The Disciple of Las Vegas, her travels take her to Las Vegas, Hong Kong and Manila. I confess I’m only just getting acquainted with Ava, but I know someone who can tell you more. Check this post  about The Water Rat of Wanchai and this post about The Disciple of Las Vegas on Bill Selnes’ terrific crime fiction blog Mysteries and More From Saskatchewan. And while you’re there, you’ll want to consider following his blog if you aren’t already. It’s a great resource for Canadian crime fiction as well as crime novels from all over the world.

And then there’s Andrew Nette’s Max Quinlan, an Australian ex-cop who has found that he’s fairly good at finding people who don’t want to be found. In Ghost Money, he’s hired by Madeleine Avery to find her brother Charles.  Avery’s  last known whereabouts was Bangkok, so Quinlan travels there first. When he gets there he finds that Avery’s partner Robert Lee has been murdered and Avery has gone to Cambodia. So Quinlan travels first to Phnom Penh and later to northern Cambodia to find out the truth about what happened to Avery.

‘All over the world’ certainly describes crime-fictional globetrotters. Which ones do you like best?


On Another Note…


Speaking of globetrotting… I’m shortly on my way to Australia!!!!!   So from tomorrow (Friday 21 June) until Sunday 30 June, my posts here will be a little different to what I usually do. Oh, there’ll still be some crime fictional posts. But I’m also going to be including some ‘on the road’ posts, annoying travel snaps and…well, who knows what else? ;-)   If you’d rather not follow along on my journey I completely understand. Just stop back on the 30th and life on this blog may even be back to what usually counts as ‘normal’ around here…



*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from John Denver’s Leaving on a Jet Plane.


Filed under Aaron Elkins, Agatha Christie, Andrew Nette, Anthony Bidulka, Ian Hamilton, Ngaio Marsh

44 responses to “Well, My Bags Are Packed, I’m Ready to Go*

  1. Have a nice and safe trip, Margot!

  2. Have a great time in Australia. I will be looking forward to your posts.

    I mostly like mystery series where the protagonist stays in his/her home area, but I do like series set in different countries. Although Charlie Chan stays mostly in the States (although Hawaii was not a state at the time?), he does stray to the mainland U. S. several times. The Henry Tibbett series by Patricia Moyes often finds Henry and Emmy in exotic locales, like the Caribbean, Holland, Geneva (correct me if I am wrong, I am mostly going from memory).

    • Tracy – Thanks for the good wishes. You have a wonderful memory; I should have thought about the Tibbetts because you’re quite right that they do indeed travel – everywhere. And I like those characters too. Yes, I do believe it’s time for a re-read…

  3. I’m looking forward to going on a vicarious little trip along with you! Have a great time!

  4. Enjoy Australia, Margot. I’d love to go there myself. Maybe one day…

  5. I’ll look forward to your “on the road” posts, Margot, and would love to see your photos. Australia and New Zealand are places are I wanted to visit …but only if they move closer to the U.S. :D

    • Pat – Oh, don’t worry; you will be subjected to plenty of gratuitous ‘photos. And you’re right; it’s going to be a long trip. Thank goodness for my Kindle!

  6. Have a great trip Margot, look forward to reading those reports. I think Poirot was a more successful traveller than most detectives – he really was a citizen of the world….

  7. kathy d.

    Have a great time! We will enjoy every photo, observation, post, report. Maybe we’ll even get more news of mystery writers from Down Under — although some terrific bloggers in Adelaide keep us well informed. But all tidbits are appreciated.
    Now if only you could convince the book publishers and sellers in Oz to lower their prices — and if only more could get over here into librariies, it would be great.

    • Thanks, Kathy! And trust me, if I had anything to do with it, it would be a *whole* lot easier to get great Aussie books… And have no fear – I will keep you folks all updated…

  8. First of all, Margot, have a wonderful and safe trip – I look forward to reading all your posts. My wife and I still hope to get to Australia – perhaps in 2015 we’ll finally do it.

    As for the well-traveled detective, several come to mind. Two of Stuart Palmer’s most enjoyable Hildegarde Withers stories see Hildy and Oscar Piper outside their usual New York City haunts – “The Puzzle of the Happy Hooligan” sees them in Hollywood, while “The Puzzle of the Blue Bandarilla” finds them solving a murder in Mexico.

    Nero Wolfe usually stays at home in Rex Stout’s books, but occasionally he and Archie Goodwin do get out – to a cattle ranch in “Some Buried Caesar,” to a luxury spa in West Virginia in “Too Many Cooks,” and even to Montenegro in “The Black Mountain.”

    Obviously there are many more. It helps avoid “Cabot Cove Syndrome,” named after the home town of TV sleuth Jessica Fletcher, whose small-town friends and acquaintances die off at an alarming rate in order to feed the need for new plots!

    • Les – Thank you – I hope you’ll get to Australia too. And you’re right about both Hildy Withers/Oscar Piper and Wolfe/Goodwin. Both of those pairs go beyond the confines of their ‘home patch’ and that just makes sense. You’re absolutely right that the alternative is (I love that term!) the ‘Cabot Cove Syndrome.’

  9. Margot, are you coming to Melbourne at all? It would be so great to meet you face to face. Please let me know if that’s possible.

  10. Peter Reynard

    Margot, have a wonderful time when you are there. And don’t forget to scope out some locales for your next book! :)

  11. I used to love reading about Poirots globtrotting antics. He gave me hours of pleasurable reading time when I was younger.

    I’m looking forwarding to reading about your won globetrotting Margot. Have a wonderful time!

  12. col

    Enjoy your trip Margot.
    Nette’s Ghost Money was great, my first Cambodian read! I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

  13. Margot: Thanks for mentioning my blog. I admire your generosity towards fellow bloggers.

    Your post pulled together a thought I have been having at the rise of the truly global sleuth.

    It is striking that three of your examples come from Canada with Saskatchewan contributing two of the sleuths. I am sure Anthony could write about a sleuth who stays at home but that is not his personality. His love of travel comes through so strongly in his books. I have just finished When the Saints Come Marching In and enjoyed the book. I wonder how many people will pick up the book thinking it is set in New Orleans.

    Best wishes on your travel. While you arrive in Australia in mid-winter I think you indicated most of your time will be in northern Australia where it will be warm to hot. Sharon and I were in Tasmania in June a few years ago and it was cold, even for Canadians, when we stayed in a home that did not have central heating and it was freezing at night.

    • Bill – It’s my pleasure to mention your blog. And you have a good point: we now really have truly global sleuths don’t we? And although I’ve not yet Anthony in person myself, it’s so clear from his novels that he loves to travel. And one thing I really like about his novels is that he evokes different settings so effectively, including of course Saskatchewan.
      Thanks for the good travel wishes. I’ve actually read that Tasmania can get awfully cold during the winter so I’m not surprised that you found it chilly. And without central heating, I could imagine it got really cold at night. I’m actually bringing a mixed wardrobe because I’ll be in a couple of different places.

  14. Margot, Harry Hole’s first case The Bat was in Australia. Jean Baptiste Adamsberg and Retancourt went to Quebec on a course. And on TV even Morse and Lewis managed a trip to Australia!

    Have a safe trip and a great time.

  15. Have a great trip Margot – I am very envious!

  16. How very exciting, Margot! Have a wonderful trip and look forward to hearing about all of your adventures.

  17. Ms. Kinberg, I wish you a safe, happy, and productive trip to Australia. I’ll be “with you” on your journey.

  18. Have a fantastic trip, Margot! I was just in Australia for the first time earlier this year. A varied country for sure. If you haven’t already, read Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country (its a great book to read while you’re there). Hilarious and informative at the same time.

  19. Margot – I love it when Miss Marple travels. The English country village abroad, it works so well. I hope you have a wonderful time in Australia.

  20. Enjoy Sydney Margot – despite the wintry weather. I hope you make it to Perth one day.

  21. Have read your posts in the wrong order, so am late to the party, but I hope you are still enjoying your Australia trip: look forward to hearing your thoughts!
    As for well-travelled detectives, that is one of my favourite things, as you might imagine. Aurelio Zen gets sent all over Italy to investigate, although he is a native Venetian (while Brunetti of course stays put in Venice). Even Barbara Nadel’s Inspector Ikmen leaves Istanbul for London for a case at some point (although it can be argued that some series have such a strong sense of place that it doesn’t work as well when the detective is taking out of their usual ambiance).

    • Marina Sofia – Oh, I’m glad you brought up Aurelio Zen. He is well-traveled isn’t he? And you’ve reminded me that I must ‘meet’ Inspector Ikmen. I’ve heard good things about that series. It is interesting isn’t it how some series work really well when the detective is a ‘globe trotter’ and some just… don’t.

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