My thought for this post was inspired by a post, Calling Out Around the World, of Margot Kinberg at her excellent blog, Confessions of a Mystery Novelist. She wrote about how crime fiction can be used to teach students about the culture of lands and peoples. As an example she drew on the Donna Leon’s series and Andrea Camilleri’s series, both from Italy, which demonstrate how Italian people approach food and dining.
I posted a comment which referred to three series which I consider so closely connected with their location that they could not have been set anywhere else in the world. They are:
1.) The Nathan Active mysteries of Stan Jones set on the northwest coast of Alaska;
2.) The Walt Longmire series of Craig Johnson set in Wyoming; and,
3.) The Napoleon “Bony” Bonaparte mysteries of Arthur Upfield set in Australia.
A common element of each series is that it takes place in a rural area.
It has led me to think that it is more common, easier seems inappropriate, for a mystery series to be a full part of its setting if it takes place outside a big city.
Each of the above series has a physical location that is very much a part of each series. Nathan Active is stationed in a village where life is still dependent on the resources of the land of that region. Walt Longmire is sheriff of a rugged county on the edge of the mountains. Bony goes to different communities and locations far from urban Australia with the countryside being an important part of each book.
Each of the books draws heavily of the lives of the people who live at those locations for the mysteries.
For comparison I have picked three examples of prominent sleuths whose mysteries are set in big cities:
1.) The Sherlock Holmes mysteries of Arthur Conan Doyle;
2.) The Nero Wolfe mysteries of Rex Stout; and,
3.) The Harry Bosch novels of Michael Connelly.
Sherlock Holmes is automatically identified with London. Undoubtedly the mysteries draw on London locations and London residents but I suggest Doyle could have placed Holmes in Oxford or Edinburgh and the mysteries would have been equally effective in the different cities.
Nero Wolfe is always remembered for residing in his Brownstone on West 35th Street in New York City. The persons who came to see him were representative New Yorkers but I think he could just as well have resided in a home in Chicago or St. Louis and had the same people coming to his home to resolve mysteries.
Harry Bosch lives in a house perched over a Los Angeles canyon and has spent the last 20 years of his fictional life, but for a brief retirement, working for the LAPD. As I think about the series I believe he could live on the hills of San Francisco and be a member of the SFPD and solve the same crimes.
I think big cities as bigger communities make it harder for a series to be as close to the community unless it is placed within a group or area of the big city.