Mystery Books for Sale

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by Natalia Smirinova and Julia Goumen, eds.
Akashic, June 2010
280 pages
ISBN: 1936070065

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Akashic Books's collections of city noir short stories as written by those who know the places best. Off the top of my head, there are not that many well-known (at least in North America) Russian authors specializing in mystery fiction. Sure we have the works of Martin Cruz Smith to keep us entertained but, no offense, that is just not the same. It would be nice to read stories by readers who are native to Russia who are able to tell tales using their own point of view, their own take. This is what makes this anthology collection a real treat. Natalia Smirnova and Julia Goumen are two literary agents who specialize in introducing Russian authors to the rest of the world and what we have here is a sneak peek at what some may have to offer. These authors may be known in their native country, but for us it will be a journey of discovery.

This anthology collects fourteen short stories, most if not all of them written first in Russian, but they do not lose in translation. Among my favorites in the collection are Anna Starobinet's Mercy Bus about a con man hiding among the down-and-out after having scammed Russian socialites out of $500,000 for a phony charity. There is Alexander Anuchkin's Field of a Thousand Corpses, after which you will never see an apple the same way again. Then there is Ludmilla Petrushevskaya's creepy short story about a man with no prospects who gets away with a perfect crime, only to be haunted by it. Finally there is Maxim Maximov's Daddy Loves Me, about an over-the-hill teacher who has a hard time killing her father. All of these stories are dark and glum, some with a little black humor, some with a lot of violence. Add in a bit of existentialism and some nihilism as well. MOSCOW NOIR provides a glimpse into a different literary atmosphere that most American readers may be unaccustomed to for now, but this will all change with a reading of this outstanding book. It is one you should not miss.

Angel L. Soto is an equal opportunity reader and a book editor at a New Jersey academic publisher.

Reviewed by Angel L. Soto, June 2010

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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