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THE GREATEST RUSSIAN STORIES OF CRIME AND SUSPENSE by Otto Penzler

THE GREATEST RUSSIAN STORIES OF CRIME AND SUSPENSE

By Otto Penzler

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-60598-135-2
Publisher: Pegasus

Nineteen reprints with one foot on earth and the other elsewhere.

One of the two biggest surprises here is how generously veteran anthologist Penzler defines the genre: Would anyone else call “The Portrait,” Nikolai Gogol’s allegory of a spooky painting’s power to change lives, or “The Gentleman from San Francisco,” Ivan Bunin’s massively sarcastic meditation on mortality, crime stories? The other is how readily and rewardingly Russian tales of crime turn transcendental. “Sleepy,” Anton Chekhov’s sympathetic evocation of a baby-killer, is as earthbound as “Table Talk, 1888,” Boris Akunin’s morsel of armchair detection, P. Nikitin’s surprisingly idiomatic Sherlock Holmes pastiche “The Strangler,” Lev Sheinen’s Arctic expansion of the locked-room formula in “The Hunting Knife” or Vladimir Nabokov’s macabre resolution of domestic difficulties in “Revenge.” But Maxim Gorky’s portrait of a compulsive killer in “A Strange Murderer” and the showdown between detective and his quarry in Vil Lipatov’s “Genka Paltsev, Son of Dimitri” already suggest a metaphysical dimension that blossoms into full strength in Alexander Pushkin’s spectral fairy tale “The Queen of Spades,” Gogol’s peerless tragicomedy “The Overcoat” and a pair of tales—Leo Tolstoy’s “God Sees the Truth, But Waits” and Chekhov’s “The Bet”—about the casting-off of earthly shackles. Strangest of all is Boris Sokoloff’s “The Crime of Dr. Garine,” whose investigation into a physician’s murder of his much-loved wife ends even more mysteriously than it began.

An entertaining collection of stories. Readers with no taste for the uncanny can enjoy two tart anecdotes about capital punishment—Tolstoy’s “Too Dear” and Chekhov’s “The Head Gardner’s Story”—and Chekhov’s deft and amusing whodunit, “The Swedish Match.”