And a Man is Held in a Foreign Jail*

international-arrestsWith travel as straightforward (if not always easy!) as it is in now, there’s more international travel than ever. And in crime fiction, that means it’s more likely that a suspect might easily be from another country. That can present some legal issues, which can add an interesting layer of complexity to a story. And then there are the cultural issues, too. So it’s not surprising that this sort of story has made its way into the genre.

In Angela Savage’s Behind the Night Bazaar, for instance, Bangkok-based PI Jayne Keeney works to find out the truth behind two murders. One is the killing of her good friend Didier ‘Didi’ de Montpasse. The other is the murder of his partner, Nou. The trail puts Keeney on an intersecting course with Australian Federal Police (AFP) agent Mark D’Angelo. He’s in Thailand as a part of an effort to put a dent in the child sex trafficking industry by going after Australian perpetrators. It’s a challenge to begin with, made all the more difficult by the cultural differences between Australia and Thailand. Admittedly, D’Angelo is not the reason for the two murders. But his reason for being in Thailand sheds an interesting light on facing the issue of crimes that are committed by citizens of another country.

We also see that in Stefan Tegenfalk’s Project Nirvana, the second of his trilogy featuring Stockholm County police detectives Walter Gröhn and Jonna de Brugge. In this novel, the German police are working on a case in which four scientists have been murdered. They suspect a Swedish man named Leo Brageler, who’s currently in Germany. However, there doesn’t seem to be a real motive for the crime. The German authorities are hoping that they can get some background on the man from Swedish authorities, and ask for help from the Swedish National Bureau of Investigation. Then Brageler goes missing, and the case gets much more complicated…

The real action in T.J. Cooke’s Kiss and Tell begins when Bella Kiss, a Hungarian national, arrives at Heathrow Airport. She’s trying to smuggle in drugs, but she’s caught and quickly arrested. She admits to having the drugs, but she won’t say who paid or coerced her into bringing them to the UK. Once in custody, she asks to speak to London attorney Jill Shadow. Shadow has never heard of Bella Kiss before, but she goes to the prison where the young woman is being held. There, Bella asks for her help and seems very much afraid for her life. But she’s uncooperative, so Shadow soon sees that she’ll have to find the answers for herself. The closer she gets to the truth, the more in danger she finds herself. And it turns out that this case goes far beyond a woman trying to earn a little extra money by smuggling drugs. There’s an interesting look in this novel at the legalities of working with clients from other countries who’ve been arrested in the UK.

In Marla Cooper’s Terror in Taffeta, San Francisco- based event planner Kelsey McKenna is in the small Mexican town of San Miguel de Allende, managing the destination wedding of Nicole Abernethy and Vince Moreno. During the festivities, Dana Poole, one of the bridesmaids, collapses and dies of what turns out to be poison. For several reasons, the police suspect the bride’s sister Zoe, and she is duly arrested and imprisoned. She claims to be innocent, and Kelsey believes her. So she starts to ask questions. One of the plot threads in this novel is the challenge of being arrested while one’s in a foreign country.

Geoffrey Robert’s The Alo Release introduces readers to the Los Angeles-based Millbrook Foundation, an environmentalist watchdog group. Along with many others, the Millbrook people are concerned about a new, genetically modified seed coating that a company called Vestco is about to release. Millbrook’s people are suspicious of Vestco’s claims and its agenda, and have worked to stop the release. They haven’t been successful. With nine days to go, the foundation’s leaders have decided to stop fighting Vestco, and turn their energies elsewhere. Legendary environmental activist Jay Duggan has taken this opportunity to retire to his native New Zealand, and has invited Science Director Dr. Catherine ‘Cat’ Taylor, and IT Director Matthew Liddell to visit him in New Zealand before they return to work. Then, Vestco employee Henry Beck is found murdered, and Duggan, Taylor and Liddell are framed for the killing. Unaware of this, they land in New Zealand, and soon find that they’re considered international fugitives. Now, they have to go up against some very powerful people, to say nothing of the police of two countries, as they work to find out who really killed Beck and what the truth is about the release of the new seed coating.

And then there’s Jean-Denis Bruet-Ferreol’s The Cemetery of Swallows. That novel begins as Manuel Gemoni travels from France to the Dominican Republic. There, he kills an old man named Tobias Darbier, a Dominican citizen. He’s been badly injured, so Police Commissioner Amédée Mallock of the Paris CID has been sent to bring Gemoni back to France as soon as his condition allows. Then he’ll face justice for what he’s done. Mallock is especially interested in this case because Gemoni’s sister, Julie, works for the CID as well. When he gets to the Dominican Republic finds that the only thing Gemoni says about the killing is that he killed Darbier,

‘…because he had killed me.’

That response doesn’t help Mallock at all, so he has to start digging to find out the history of the two men. One of the plot threads running through this novel is the paperwork and bureaucracy involved in taking Gemoni into French custody without causing problems with the Dominican authorities. It makes for an interesting layer in this novel.

With more people than ever going to different countries, it makes sense that this plot point would find its way into crime fiction. And it certainly has. Which novels with this motif have stayed with you?


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Graham Parker’s Everything Goes.


Filed under Angela Savage, Geoffrey Robert, Jean-Denis Bruet-Ferreol, Marla Cooper, Stefan Tegenfalk, T.J. Cooke

22 responses to “And a Man is Held in a Foreign Jail*

  1. Having just done a stint of international travel I can’t help but wonder how complicated getting someone to translate to the lawyer you may find yourself needing should you be caught up in this type of situation! And that’s before you deal with the police/court – you have some great examples as always Margot, all of which are new to me.

  2. Going off at a tangent, your post and Cleo’s comment reminded me of the time many, many years ago when my mother and I were on a trip to Paris, and she took ill and ended up in hospital for a couple of days. The Parisians like to make a point of not speaking English, and my French is basic in the extreme – I can just about order a meal or ask for directions, but giving details of my mother’s medical history was frankly beyond me. So in the end I was kind of miming it to this nice young doctor – though I say it myself, my performance of her heart attack was Oscar-worthy, but I fear the prolapsed uterus was beyond my meagre acting powers… 😉

    • 😆 What a mental image, FictionFan! In all seriousness, though, it must have been upsetting not to be able to make your point clear, especially with your mother ill. That sort of situation can be scary. I’m glad you were able to get your meaning across, even if it was pantomimed.

  3. tracybham

    That last one you mentioned, Bruet-Ferreol’s Cemetery of Swallows, sounds very interesting, Margot. I had not heard of that before.

  4. I agree that Cemetery of Swallows does sound interesting (and thanks for the shout out, Margot). A recent example of cross-border crime and policing that stays with me is Anna Jaquiery’s wonderful novel, Death in the Rainy Season, in which Serge Morel’s holiday in Cambodia is abruptly curtailed when he is called on to investigate the murder of a French citizen in Phnom Penh. The novels shows the challenges of cross-border and cross-cultural policing very well.

    • It does, Angela, and I’m very glad you mentioned it. That’s a gap that I left. As for Cemetery of Swallows, it is a really interesting book, not least because of the setting and context. If you get to it, I hope you’ll enjoy it. And it’s always a pleasure to mention your work.

  5. Col

    I don’t think I’ve read too many like this. One I can recall, Jo Nesbo’s The Bat. Harry Hole ends up in Australia looking into a Norwegian girl’s death.

    • You’re absolutely right, Col; The Bat has that interesting layer of Hole investigating the murder of a Norwegian in another country. And it’s especially interesting to see how he’s supposed to be simply an observer on behalf of Norway…but ends up doing much more. Thanks for mentioning that one.

  6. Margot: In Mata Hari’s Last Dance by Michelle Moran the famed dancer is arrested during WW I on a stop in Great Britain and aggressively questioned by Scotland Yard. She felt very helpless.

  7. Finding oneself in trouble with the law in a foreign country would have to be terrifying. These sounds like good examples to check out, Margot.

  8. Margot, I can’t recall any examples but does Christie’s “The Man in the Brown Suit” count, especially, if my memory serves me well, that last scene in Cape Town? I have also noticed that the Interpol is rarely mentioned in American crime and thriller fiction while it’s fairly common in British fiction. That may be because Interpol is largely associated with European and South and Southeast Asian crime, both real and fictional. This is just a theory, of course.

    • That’s really interesting, Prashant. I hadn’t thought about Interpol before, but I see your point that it’s much more common in British crime fiction than in US crime fiction. Your suggested explanation makes a lot of sense, too. And thanks for mentioning The Man in the Brown Suit. I think that ending could definitely count..

  9. kathy d

    Kati Hiekkapelto writes of an immigrant gang in Finland, and Anna Fegete gets involved with one youth who is from the Middle East, and becomes quite sympathetic to him. He is implicated in someone’s murder and is then within the Finnish criminal justice system. But she finds a way out for him.
    He’s a fall guy for others’ crimes. Interesting how she becomes sympathetic to him and helps him — sort of.
    One slight tangential point is that City of Veils by Zoe Ferraris reveals some of the underbelly of the horrific Saudi Arabian “justice” system. The book says that when a suspect cannot be found, a relative of his is thrown in jail and held there until the suspect shows up. Also, it seems like no right to a lawyer, trial, evidence, etc. is assumed. And there are no democratic rights. People are held in prison there for “protesting,” and for years on end, even facing the death penalty.
    An older man was held in jail for a year for having homemade wine in his car’s trunk and faced many lashes. He was a British citizen. There was global intervention and he was released to return to Britain.

    • I’m glad you mentioned Zoe Ferraris, Kathy. I’ve been meaning to spotlight one of her books and haven’t yet. I appreciate the reminder. And you’re right about Kati Hiekkapelto, too. She writes quite effectively about the immigrant situation, and about characters experiences in other countries. I should consider spotlighting one of those books, too…

  10. kathy d

    There are three Zoe Ferraris books set in Saudi Arabia, and three books by Kati Hiekkapelto. The third one is due out here very soon. I can’t wait. I love her writing, and she and Eva Dolan were good discoveries.
    Dolan writes well about mistreatment of immigrants in Britain.

What's your view? I'd love to hear it.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s