Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Settings

Time once again for Top Ten Tuesday, the fun meme hosted by the gals over at THE BROKE AND THE BOOKISH. Every week we're handed a new T.T.T. theme to write about - this week it's Top Ten Book Settings. Sounds good to me.

1) The Pacific Northwest.

A book set in either Washington state or Oregon is bound to get my attention. Not that there are all that many of them. I live on the East Coast and have never even visited the Pacific Northwest but I've always thought of it as a gorgeous and unbearably romantic place - albeit damp and rainy. I have a good friend who lives near Seattle and through her I've learned that maybe it's not all THAT rainy way out and up there. But I still have my doubts. Either/or, I just like the whole idea of that particular neck of the woods. Some books with this setting are: the Thomas Black and/or Mac Fontana mysteries by Earl Emerson (a retired Seattle fire fighter.) The Leo Waterman or Frank Corso books by G.M. Ford. Also the Venus Diamond series by Ford's wife, Skye Kathleen Moody. The Miss Zukas mysteries by Jo Dereske. Author Aaron Elkins who lives in the Pacific Northwest will, on occasion, set his books there as well. 

2) 221-B Baker Street. London.

Okay, confession time: Years ago when I visited London, I stayed at the Sherlock Holmes Hotel on Baker Street. (Okay, make fun. I don't care. I will rise above the hoots and hollers!) I am a devoted fan of Holmes and I can't imagine anywhere I'd rather be when the call comes to do battle with evil - than in the flat on Baker Street.: "The game is afoot!"

3)  506 West 35th Street, NYC.

If I can't be on Baker Street, I'll take up residence in the brownstone near the river with Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. Even if genius is hard to take and even harder to live with, I admit I've been in love with Wolfe since I was a teenager. What is this strange spell Wolfe has over me? I don't know. I just know I can't get enough of Rex Stout's books and will continue to re-read them forever. In reality, I grew up in Manhattan, on second avenue and thirty something street until around the 5th grade when we moved to the lower east side. If the Wolfe brownstone had existed I'd probably have roller-skated over there and taken a good look. Ha!

4) Chimneys.

The country estate of Lord Caterham in one of my favorite Agatha Christie books, THE SECRET OF CHIMNEYS (1925).  This is, I think, the book upon which all country-house screwball mysteries are based. For me, it is the original. Although I'm sure there was one or two written before.Ah, for a weekend at Chimneys solving a murder while sipping champagne, looking for secret rooms all the while cahooting with a young, fresh-faced, muscular government type.

5) Egypt.

The Victorian era Egypt of Amanda Peabody. Shepherd's Hotel in Cairo - on the veranda overlooking all the hubbub - everyone who is anyone will eventually show up at Shepherd's. The Philae - Peabody's dahabeeyah - a houseboat to travel in, leisurely, up and down the Nile. Stopping once in a while to excavate a tomb and/or solve a mystery, of course. Then later, the Emerson compound where Amelia and her hubby and their family will establish their winter base - time spent happily digging for lost tombs and foiling the plots of any evil-doers who dare affront The Father of Curses.

6) The English Countryside.

How I became an Anglophile while still a young, impressionable girl: By reading all the Agatha Christie (and other assorted Golden Age mystery writers) books set in the beautifully green English countryside. Villages with charming, insensible names filled with eccentric villagers usually up to no good. The stuff of life.

 7) Italy.

Especially Venice and/or Rome and occasionally, Tuscany as well. For Tuscany, nothing can touch the non-fiction of Frances Mayes: UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN, BELLA TUSCANY, and the like. I also love the non-fiction of Marlena De Blasi, author of, among other wonderful books set in Italy - A THOUSAND DAYS IN TUSCANY and A THOUSAND DAYS IN VENICE. The Commissario Brunetti mysteries by Donna Leon are set in Venice, I'm lining them up to read over the summer as we speak. .I also love the Jonathan Argyll art mysteries by Iain Pears set mostly in Rome. Carabinieri. Carabinieri.

8) Brideshead.

Though the humans will invariably disappoint you in Evelyn Waugh's brilliant novel BRIDESHEAD REVISITED, the house never will. How this aristocratic pile can simply be called 'a house' is beyond me. It's all about the setting; Brideshead - a magnificent house - a character in a book filled with unforgettables. (In the Brideshead Revisited series filmed in the 80's, Castle Howard in York, stands in for the fictional Brideshead - an equally magnificent home made more daunting by its reality.)

9) Boston, Massachusetts.

Especially in the Spenser books by Robert Parker and the Fred Taylor art mysteries by Nicholas Kilmer. Now I ask you - who wouldn't want to live in Clayton Reed's Beacon Hill townhouse?

10) Trenton, New Jersey.

The make-believe Trenton of Janet Evanovich's invention in her Stephanie Plum, bounty hunter, books. Family, friends, Joe Morelli, Ranger, Lula, Vinny and his duck, dinner every week at the Plum household with Grandma Mazur wearing spandex and sparkle sneakers on her way to the funeral parlor to pick up the latest gossip and view the latest deceased. Good times.


  1. I always love to read your Tues Top Ten lists, Yvette -- you always think out of the box!

    I'm ready a lovely little novel now if you're looking for another Pacific NW setting, The Violets of March by Sarah Jio -- its setting is Bainbridge Island in Washingon state. Little gem of a book.

  2. Oops -- make that "I'm reading" not "I'm ready."

  3. Thanks for the tip, Joanne. I'll check on this little 'gem of a book.'
    For sure.

  4. I realized reading your post that I've never read a Nero Wolfe novel, which surprised me considering how many mysteries I have read. So I just ordered the first two, Fer-de-Lance and The League of Frightened Men.

    I don't know about you, but I like to read an author's works in order, see how he develops ...

  5. Oh, M.M. I am so thrilled that I influenced you to try a Nero Wolfe book. Now I can only hope you enjoy your first two.

    Nothing wrong with reading in order of publication, I often do that. In truth, it's actually more important in some series than in others. But if you're main point is to see how the author and the series develops, then read them in order you must. :)

  6. So many great locations! I love the pacific northwest. Italy would be amazing to visit.

  7. I haven't heard of the Boston setting books you mentioned but I definitely want to check those out! I'd love to read some more Boston books! Great list

  8. Two Bibliomaniacs: I'm with you. I'd love to visit MOST of the places I listed. And I do, when I read books that are set there. :)

  9. Red: Robert Parker just passed away last year (if I'm remembering correctly) but he left behind a huge amount of books - you'll have a good time looking through the Spenser lists. Some of his best books:


    ...just to get you started. :)

    The Fred Taylor Books by Nicolas Kilmer begin with: HARMONY IN FLESH AND BLACK. My favorite: DIRTY LINEN.

  10. I for sure want to visit Stephanie's Trenton and the English countryside with Agatha and Sherlock's abode for sure!

  11. Someone should put together tours of mystery sites - especially in the English Countryside. (IF someone hasn't done it already.)

  12. Hey, I have Brideshead on my list, too. I don't think I've seen it on any others list.

  13. Great list as always, so interesting.

    I would say Italy, Leon's Venice and Camilleri's Sicily. But I'm open to other regions.

    I would say in addition to Wolfe's residence, I like New York City as a setting, nearly any area. I love New York: It's true.

    Then Chicago, where I grew up. Sara Paretsky sets her V.I. Warshawski series there. I just love to read about past and present neighborhoods of my old home town.

    And books set in California, as are many series, including Michael Connelly's books, Sue Grafton's, Marcia Muller's -- and many more. City, rural area, I'm there.

    I will pick up on the U.S. NW, always fascinated me, a beautiful region.

    Sometimes, Canada draws me in, especially areas I don't know much about: L.R. Wright's series in British Columbia on the seacoast, and more.

    Scandinavia: I've enjoyed many series set in Nordic climes, and will continue to do so.

  14. Good choices, and some of them are achievable, e.g. Italy and Boston. None of mine are, either due to being non-existent or far away in time.

  15. As a former Bostonian who's longing to move back, I read the Robert Parker and Nicholas Kilmer when I'm feeling especially homesick. Your blog introduced me to the Kilmer books. I lived on Beacon Hill and am always picturing where Fred is going as he moves around the city and neighboring towns. It'll have to do until I can make the move back.
    I agree with you on the other locations, too, as many of those are where my favorite books take place. For 0ld-time Cape Cod flavor, you can't beat Phoebe Atwood Taylor and her Asey Mayo series.

  16. Here you are, Yvette.


    I've looked at others, but this seems to be a regular event. And I think this blogger just returned from something similar:


    Sorry these aren't hotlinks.

  17. Anne, great minds - ha! I tried posting on your blog but had trouble earlier. I'll try again in a bit.

    These great houses with huge staffs, sound like heaven on earth.

  18. Kathy: I have no quibble with most of your choices. We'll wave to each other as we pass by! Most especially in Venice! I'll reserve the gondola!

  19. Bibliophile: Emminently achievable. I used to travel quite a bit years ago so I have plenty of good memories of some of those places.

    As for the make-believe destinations, well, those are even easier to visit. Just shut your eyes and you're there. :)

  20. Joan: I'm so happy to hear that you were swayed by be to try Nicholas Kilmer's books! His is one of my favorite series and you'll be happy to know that he has a new Fred Taylor book coming out in September of this year. :)

    I've never read an Asey Mayo book, I'm thinking I'm going to have to take a look.

  21. Carol: THANKS!

    I did read Roberta's piece recently. I LOVE her blog: BOOKS TO THE CEILING. I recommend it to anyone who adores books. She travels a lot and she LOVES good music - especially the classics and she's always posting fabulous links and posts about her concert going. Just a great blog.

    Maybe that's where I got the original idea of mystery tours.

    My memory is surely NOT what it used to be. ;)

  22. I share many of your choices, Yvette - particularly Baker Street and the English countryside.

    As far as the Pacific Northwest is concerned, you might enjoy Mary Daheim's "Alpine" series - alphabetical, and I think she's up to "S" or "T" by now. They're set in a small Washington-state mountain town a couple of hours away from Seattle. They feature Alpine's newspaper publisher/editor, Emma Lord. They pretty much need to be read in order, because Daheim does refer back (with occasional spoilers) in the later books, and there are some MAJOR events in the later books that really throw monkey wrenches into book-to-book character relationships. But they're pretty enjoyable as cozies go!

  23. Les, it's funny you should mention the Mary Daheim books. I'm one of those people that once I read something, some incident or character thing in a book that makes me go: Ugh, this I don't like - then that's pretty much it for the series.

    I did read a few of the Daheim books years ago and something occurred with her main character that just turned me completely off and I stopped reading the books because of it.

    Won't go into it since plenty of people like these books and really, there is no point to linger on unpleasant things....Ha!

    Thanks for the comment anyway. I love comments of all sorts and stripes. :)


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