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lady narcissa

Mysteries: Cosy, Cats, Capers, Historical, Medical, Procedural and everything in between

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I have just finished a reread of James McClure's Kramer and Zondi series. I had forgotten how good they are, so I thought I would post a recommendation.

The books are decidedly uncosy police procedurals set in apartheid era South Africa. While being a good read just for the stories, they also have the added bonus of their setting. The books are superb examples of "show not tell", showing the horrors and wrongs of apartheid in clinical detail without any authorial comment at all (indeed I have seen a review that seemed to think McClure actually supported apartheid). It works all the more in that Lieutenant Kramer is an unthinking supporter of the system, except that he is humanised by constantly surreptitiously breaking the rules in favour of his very able black sidekick Sergeant Zondi, with whom he has a close working relationship based on mutual trust and respect.

 

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I re-read about 7 or 8 of Van Gulik's Judge Dee mysteries and I still love them and highly recommend them. Sure, they are not all on the same level, some have fairly contrived plots and a few plot elements repeat regularly. But they are very well done and medieval China was an absolutely fascinating civilization (with both amazing and admirable as well as rather horrifying elements). My only recommendation is to skip the one that Van Gulik translated from Chinese (and only slightly streamlined) and leave it for later. Start with either the chronologically first one (Chinese Gold mystery) or the first one published (Chinese Maze).

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