Murder and mayhem erupt, even in fairy-tale Prague.
Editor Mandys maintains that it may be hard to imagine dark doings taking place virtually in the shadow of Prague Castle, yet he manages to harvest 14 artful tales that speak directly to the contrary. Although there are few standard whodunits, Prague’s long history provides fertile ground for evildoers. In some, like Ond?ej Neff’s “Marl Circle,” the seeds of menace are sown soon after the city’s founding 2,000 years ago. Others explore more recent sources of evil, from the Holocaust, which claims the hero’s father in Chaim Cigan’s “The Magical Amulet,” to the Soviet occupation, the chief source of the misery in “The Life and Work of Baroness Mautnic,” by Kate?ina Tu?ková. Some, like Miloš Urban’s “Disappearances on the Bridge” and Štépán Kop?iva’s “Amateurs,” are almost shockingly modern. Others, like Petra Soukupová’s “Another Worst Day” and Martin Goffa’s “Three Musketeers,” explore sorrow so universal they could be set at any time and any place. And some seem particularly Czech, like Ji?í W. Procházka’s “The Dead Girl from a Haunted House,” which takes place during carnival season, and Petr Stan?ík’s “The Cabinet of Seven Pierced Books,” a tale of the Golem.
Perhaps nowhere but Prague do vice and enchantment live at such close quarters, and Mandys’ collection captures both beautifully. A lovely addition to Akashic’s venerable series.