Ever resourceful anthologist Edwards, who recently showed British mysterymongers of the golden age venturing abroad (Continental Crimes, 2017), takes the next logical step: contemporaneous (1885-1960) stories by non-Anglophone authors.
The second biggest surprise these 15 reprints offer is how rich the mystery field is beyond England and the United States. Anton Chekhov’s amusingly orthodox whodunit “The Swedish Match” may be familiar to many readers, as is Maurice Leblanc’s “Footprints in the Snow” to genre aficionados, but most of these stories have long been forgotten, and most of them richly deserve another look. Palle Rosenkrantz’s lowly police sergeant has a sudden brilliant inspiration about how to protect a witness no one will take seriously; the pseudonymous Ivans marks an English lord’s homecoming with burglary and murder; Maurice Level stages a brutal duel between a husband and the wife he has just caught in flagrante; John Flanders recounts a shipwrecked cabin boy’s grisly revenge on a bullying sailor; and, in perhaps the very best tale in a strong collection, Pierre Véry spins a sublimely witty inversion of Gaston Leroux’s Mystery of the Yellow Room. Though most of the stories date from the 1920s and '30s, the geographical range is as wide as the different approaches to crime and detection: France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Russia, India, Japan, and Mexico are all represented. One complaint: there are three stories featuring deceptive footprints or tracks and two featuring spiders in prominent roles but only one written by a woman, Maria Elvira Bermudez’s lightning-fast puzzle considering three suspects in what seems like a routine shooting before plucking the criminal from behind the curtain.
The biggest surprise, of course, is the parochialism Edwards’ introduction, headnotes, and selections reveal in readers and editors who limit their own investigations of the field to stories in the English language. You know who you are.