cover image The Greatest Russian Stories of Crime and Suspense

The Greatest Russian Stories of Crime and Suspense

Edited by Otto Penzler, Pegasus (Norton, dist.), $25 (366p) ISBN 978-1-60598-135-2

Penzler's anthology of Russian crime stories doesn't quite live up to the billing of its title, given the mediocrity of P. Nikitin's "The Strangler," a Sherlock Holmes pastiche that cribs from Poe's "Murders in the Rue Morgue." Fortunately, that tale is the sole dud among the 19 selections, many of which were penned by such 19th-century literary giants as Gogol, Tolstoy, and Chekhov, whose short but powerful "Sleepy" depicts an overworked servant girl driven by despair to commit murder. The most interesting story is Lev Sheinen's "The Hunting Knife," in which the author, a former prosecutor for Stalin during the purge trials of the 1930s, introduces an impossible crime element. The murder scene from Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment may strike some as padding, while others will wonder why Penzler (Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop) includes no examples of contemporary Russian noir. (Dec.)