Top 5 Thrillers with Unusual Settings
18 February 2016
By Rob Cox
Writing under the pseudonym S.L. Grey, thriller super-team Sarah Lotz and Louis Greenberg publish their utterly chilling and addictive Under Ground in paperback next Thursday. Its set in a luxurious subterranean complex where a group of people come to realise the real danger is not above ground, but already inside and here, to celebrate the release, the pair tell us their top 5 thrillers set in unusual places.
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Unless you’re a doomsday prepper, our latest novel, Under Ground, is set in what would probably be termed an unusual location: a luxury underground survivalist bunker. So with this in mind, here are five great thrillers/krimis that feature unusual settings or locations.*
Whiteout, Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber
A must-read if you like your crime on the chillier side, Rucka’s excellent Whiteout is the first in a series of graphic novels set in Antarctica featuring kick-ass U.S.n Marshall Carrie Stetko. In some ways a classic whodunit, it’s far, far superior to its Hollywood adaptation. The claustrophobic atmosphere of lonely Antarctic stations and the bone-chilling bleakness of the surrounding landscape are perfectly realized, so much so that it’s best read with a glass of brandy or hot chocolate to hand.
Other favourite novels set in cold climates: Peter Hoeg’s Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow; Tom Harper’s Zodiac; and Dark Matter by Michelle Paver (which is more of a horror novel than a thriller, but it’s too good to miss).
Crooked Little Vein, Warren Ellis
What a trip this scathingly witty noir is. We’ve chosen it not just because Ellis is a genius who effortlessly hops from one batshit crazy setting to another (see also his rapid-fire krimi Gun Machine and his dark and demented graphic novels), but because it includes a scene set in possibly the most bizarre location of all time: a Godzilla themed bukkake club.
If you don’t know what bukkake is, don’t Google it.
(We warned you not to).
Power Play, Mike Nicol
South African crime king Mike Nicol has no hesitation in populating his novels with hectic characters with dubious morals and placing them in hectic and dubious locations. In his latest, Power Play, there’s an unforgettable scene in a dinghy floating in shark-infested waters off Cape Point. Nicol’s use of recognisably real and fascinating locations combined with scandalous action makes you believe that the skulduggery in his novels can and does take place in reality.
Follow You Home, Mark Edwards
Does a train still qualify as an unusual setting for a crime novel? After Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, Patricia Highsmith’s Stranger on a Train and Paula Hawkins’s runaway success The Girl on the Train, probably not. But still, as we’ve both experienced the true grimness of travelling across the UK via train, we now know why they make such apt settings for murder.
Edwards’s novel could be subtitled ‘don’t talk to strangers on a train’ (especially if you happen to be in Transylvania), and moves with a speed and reliability that First Great Western could only dream of.
We also loved the entity’s train journey across Europe in Claire North’s Touch.
Young Blood, Sifiso Mzobe
Young Blood’s setting – Umlazi Township in Durban – isn’t unusual for us as we’re from South Africa, but it’s a good excuse for us to give a shout out for a novel that deserves to be more widely read. Exploring the ins and outs of the stolen car trade, it deservedly won the Sunday Times fiction prize, SA’s top literary honour, and cemented Mzobe’s position as not only an author to watch, but the go-to guy for any writers needing research info on the ins and outs of car theft.
* Much as we love the noirish works of the brilliant Lavie Tidhar, Ben Aaronovitch, China Miéville, Jonathan Lethem, Sarah Pinborough and Lauren Beukes (we could go on and on), we haven’t included amazing crime/thriller novels that involve alternate realities or this list would be endless.
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Under Ground is out in paperback Thursday 25th February. You can read an exclusive extract by clicking the image, and you can get in touch with the authors right here and here.