Reading is the best way to travel without leaving your chair. Sometimes you get so caught up in a far-off country that you want to stay awhile, reading several books in a row. Ever since reading the memoirs of Janet Frame, an innovative (and too-little-known) Kiwi author, I’ve been attracted to books set in New Zealand. English writer Rose Tremain set her 2003 novel, The Colour, during New Zealand’s gold rush—an event I knew nothing about but that blazed to life in Tremain’s telling. But hers was an outsider’s view, of course, and this year has seen the publication of two excellent novels from an insider’s perspective.

According to our starred review, Tom Baragwanath’s Paper Cage (Knopf, Feb. 13) is “just the kind of dark, disturbing, gritty, and unusual treat thriller lovers are looking for.” When a boy goes missing in a small New Zealand town called Masterton, tensions among the residents run high. Lorraine Henry, a file clerk at the police station, is worried about the town’s other children—including her 7-year-old great-nephew, who will soon disappear too. “Resist the urge to race to the climax and keep Google close at hand to look up Māori words, because fully understanding the relationship between Masterton’s white and Indigenous cultures is central—not just to appreciating the book but to solving the mystery,” says our reviewer.

In Greta & Valdin (Avid Reader Press, Feb. 6), Māori writer Rebecca K. Reilly has created what our starred review calls “your new favorite fictional family.” Queer lovelorn siblings Greta and Valdin Vladisavljevic live together in Auckland. They have a Russian Moldovan father and a Māori mother; their family includes a biologist specializing in sea fungus, a theater director, a TV travel-show host, and a graduate student in literature. “As Greta and Valdin come into their own—helped by, and helping, the many weirdos in their lives—readers can root for only one outcome: If Reilly won’t give us a sequel, then we can at least hope she won't make us wait too long for her next novel,” our reviewer says.

Moving to Scandinavia: Sámi author Linnea Axelsson’s Ædnan (translated by Saskia Vogel; Knopf, Jan. 9) is an epic poem that follows the Indigenous community in the years after Sweden and Norway became separate countries in 1905, impeding the movement of the reindeer-herding Sámi. Then a young man dies in an accident, and his ghost hovers for decades. Our starred review calls it “a sharp-edged tale in verse of colonial suppression, resistance, and survival.”

Joining the lineup of outstanding Swedish crime writers is Christoffer Carlsson; he was first published in the U.S. last year with Blaze Me a Sun, and his new novel, Under the Storm (translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles; Hogarth, Feb. 27) follows a character from the earlier book, police detective Vidar Jörgensson, as he becomes obsessed with the case of a young man who killed his girlfriend—or did he? Vidar’s not so sure. “Boasting the psychological intensity of a Hitchcock film and gloomy atmospheric elements including a ferocious storm, this is a gripping, utterly distinctive mystery,” according to our starred review.

Laurie Muchnick is the fiction editor.