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Passport to Crime
The Finest Mystery Stories from International Crime Writers

edited by Janet Hutchings

" He was still smiling when he reached the top of the stairs and the door to his room. No, Father would never forget his birthday. The question was merely whether he would solve the puzzle in time, because he hadn’t shown any sign of that yet. The silk flowers, hadn't they provoked any spark of recognition? But Father almost never talked about his work, at least never when Armin was there. Did he mention his investigations in the bedroom, as he gently pushed the satin camisole up over Mama's shoulders?"

Reviewed by Carol Reid

In 2003, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine launched a monthly series of stories for which they had commissioned translations. Passport to Crime presents twenty-six stories from that series and includes authors widely available in English, such as the Dutch writer, Baantjer; other contributors, such as Cuba's Luis Adrian Betancourt, have their first English-language publication here. 

Editor Janet Hutchings says in her introduction to the anthology: 

"All the forms of English-language crime fiction are represented, but rendered in ways that reveal profound differences from the American or British sensibility."
Despite the series' admirable goal of broadening the reader's experience with international writing, several of the stories chosen for the anthology are deeply stained with the literary blood of British and American grand masters of the genre. The opening and closing stories are tributes to Poe and Ellery Queen. Shades of Conan Doyle and John Dickson Carr appear elsewhere in its pages. But many of the stories have a texture and substance which owes little to the old traditions and which bring the reader into unfamiliar territory. 

The selections are arranged in what Hutchings describes as "globe-hopping order", to maximize a feeling of variety and distinction. The language of the translations is occasionally awkward, as in Boris Akunin's Table Talk 1882, in which we learn that, 

"In order to inveigle Erast Petrovich into her salon the hostess had had to bring off an extremely complex intrigue consisting of many parts- an undertaking at which she was an unsurpassed mistress."
The great majority of the translators seem to successfully decode the nuances of the tongues represented here including Norwegian, German and Japanese and transform the work into evocative and readable English. Not surprisingly, the stories for which the original author provided or assisted with translation achieved the most seamless results. 

Many styles of crime fiction appear in fine form, from psychological suspense to noir and hardboiled. The selections I found most memorable, such as Mitsuhara Yuri's Eighteenth Summer, and Beatrix Kramlovsky's Silk Road fall into a category of their own which transcends tradition and genre. In general, the collection does lives up to claims that it presents a different sensibility. The stories reflect a mutable system of morality, in which justice is meted out on a sliding, rather than absolute, scale. 

Passport to Crime succeeded in sparking me to seek out more work by many of its contributors and expanded my interest in crime and detective fiction written in the non-English speaking world.

Carol Reid has enjoyed crime fiction since the first time she wandered from the children's room into the adult section of the public library and picked up her first Agatha Christie. She lives a quiet, happy life in a small town on the west coast of Canada and has never been caught digging in her garden after midnight.


PublisherCarroll and Graf (Now owned by Perseus Books)

Publication Date:Jan 2007

Editor: Janet Hutchings

Paperback/Hardback? Paperback

First collection?Yes 

Awards: Eighteenth Summer by Mitsuhara Yuri and An Urban Legend Puzzle by Norizuki Rintaro were co-winners of the 2002 Mystery Writers of Japan award for best short story. Wedding in Voerde by Gunter Gerlach won the 2005 Friedrich Glauser prize for short fiction awarded by the German Crime Writers' Association. Isaka Kotaro's The Precision of the Agent of Death won the 2004 best short story prize from the Mystery Writers of Japan.

Authors: Fred Kassak, Beatrix Kramlovsky, Boris Akunin, Ingrid Noll, Mitsuhara Yuri, Theo Capel, Kjersti Scheen, Marco Denevi, Carmen Iarrera, Luis Adrian Betancourt, Baantjer, Bertil Falk, Rubem Fonseca, Paul Halter, Daliso Chaponda, Gunter Gerlach, Isaac Aisemberg, Richard Macker, Mischa Bach, Rene Appel, Isaka Kotaro, Georgi Godpodinov, Jutta Motz, Dominque Manotti, Frauke Schuster, Norizuki Rintaro

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