When it comes to Vietnam, well, I'm not quite as sure. You'd think there'd be plenty of crime and thriller novels set there. There are certainly many crime fiction heroes with a connection to Vietnam, often as returned GIs (eg Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch, who was a "tunnel rat"), but what about crime fiction actually set in Vietnam? I guess Graham Greene's THE QUIET AMERICAN is something of a possibility? Any other suggestions?
Over the past couple/few years, as I've been doing lots of travel, I've started to look for crime fiction set in the locations I'm travelling - preferably written by locals, where possible. Last year I spent Christmas in Germany, and read SELF'S MURDER by Bernhard Schlink (translated from the German). While travelling through Egypt in December and January, I picked up a copy of THE ANUBIS SLAYINGS by PC Doherty, and read that. And when stopping over in the Kuala Lumpur airport on the way home, I went searching for Malaysian crime fiction. Finding none, I settled for BANGKOK EIGHT by John Burdett (I had spent about 30mins in Bangkok airport too) - a very fortuitious purchase - it was excellent.
So, with a Thailand/Cambodia/Vietnam itinerary on the cards, I've been wondering about crime fiction set in Southeast Asia. Clearly Burdett is an uber-terrific option when it comes to evoking a rich sense of Bangkok and Thailand. But what about Cambodia and Vietnam? Are there any local authors with books in English translation? Are there any English-speaking authors who've set good or great crime novels there?
A quick surf of the Internet, and I haven't come up with much so far, to be honest. In terms of Cambodia, it seems one of my favourite 'new to me' authors of 2010, Shamini Flint, will set her upcoming Inspector Singh tale there (A DEADLY CAMBODIAN CRIME SPREE), but that doesn't come out until April next year - so I'll be waiting a little while.
With a bit more digging, I came across a thriller novel set in Cambodia's capital, released earlier this year: PHNOM PENH EXPRESS by Johan Smits, a Belgian author who has been living for several years in Cambodia as an ex-pat. I'm quite excited about this one, especially by some comparisons to Burdett. Apparently PHNOM PENH EXPRESS is available from Monument Books in Phnom Penh, so I'll have to see if I can arrange a little detour while we're in the city, if I can't get my hands on it beforehand. You can read more about PHNOM PENH EXPRESS here.
UPDATE: According to Smit's Facebook page for the book, it is now available in Thailand as well, including from Bangkok airport - so I will try to get my hands on a copy before I enter Cambodia. I have a few hours to kill in the airport until Helen arrives from London anyway.