Right now, of course, Scandinavian crime novels are all the rage, thanks to Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, which has been explored by everybody from The New York Times to the Washington Post (by Friend of the Blog Neely Tucker) to Entertainment Weekly. (The GIrl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest tops the bestseller chart this week.)
But if you're sick to death of frozen landscapes, punky computer hackers and secret Nazis, you might want to check out South African writer Deon Meyer. I just read his Blood Safari over the weekend and was pleasantly surprised.
Meyer, also author of the thrillers Dead Before Dying, Thirteen Hours and Devil's Peak, sets the usual noir elements (solitary investigator with a past, beautiful and mysterious woman who buys his help) against a post-apartheid South Africa still struggling with racial and cultural divisions and devastating environmental problems. The story focuses on bodyguard Lemmer (he prefers one name, kind of like Bono, only he's much tougher), who's hired to protect a wealthy woman convinced her long-dead brother is still alive (and possibly responsible for killing several game poachers).
Meyer paints a depressing portrait of the dire consequences of development and poaching on Africa's animal population but his real skill is melding tough-guy tropes into a story that feels different from others you've read, even when it shares familiar elements. I'll read more by Meyer. You should too.