Some 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.