I just finished reading a Philip Kerr crime novel called A man without breath, which is set near the end of the second world war in Germany. It was an interesting read for a number of reasons, but it got me thinking about why I like these sort of books so much.
Some time back I read Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith and enjoyed it for much the same reason; it’s an immersive experience of a place in time that is totally foreign to my own life. Child 44 is set in the harsh and paranoid world of Stalinist USSR and A man without breath is set in a harsh and paranoid Nazi war-time world.
They are just as interesting as worlds to me, as reading a fantasy set somewhere totally made up.
In the vast breadth the crime genre, I think certain historical settings also add interest because of the moral difficulties they supply characters with. It’s much harder to define right from wrong in places where civil society has been demolished by murderous ideologues, and if a character wants to live then they might well not be able to be the person they’d like to be.