A Nigerian detective unravels a web of corruption, suspecting an inside job when a bomb goes off at the mansion of a rich political candidate. A Japanese physics professor gets sucked into a murder investigation targeting a single mother in Tokyo, and tangles with his old university rival. A Turkish-German investigator in Frankfurt takes on a gang of neo-fascist Croatians involved in human trafficking.
It seems a certain Swedish hacker heroine with a dragon tattoo has paved the way for a surge of international crime fiction.
Spurred by the popularity of Swedish writer Stieg Larsson's trilogy, which has sold more than 40 million copies world-wide, U.S. publishers are combing the globe for the next big foreign crime novel. While major publishing houses have long avoided works in translation, many are now courting international literary agents, commissioning sample translations, tracking best-seller lists overseas and pouncing on writers who win literary prizes in Europe and Asia. The result is a new wave of detective fiction that's broadening and redefining the classic genre.
In the coming months, Minotaur Books, a mystery-and-thriller imprint of St. Martin's, will publish new crime and suspense fiction from Iceland, Japan, Nigeria, South Africa and, naturally, Sweden. A few years ago, most of the imprint's international authors were British.
"A lot of publishers are looking at this because they don't want to miss the next Stieg Larsson," says Kelley Ragland, Minotaur's editorial director.
Some have pegged Japan as the next crime-writing hotspot. Literary agent Amanda Urban of International Creative Management, who represents Cormac McCarthy and Toni Morrison, took on Japanese suspense and crime writer Shuichi Yoshida, a best-selling author in Japan, because she saw his novels as literary works with commercial potential. "Crime really crosses over," says Ms. Urban.
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