THE PERFECT CRIME: Edited by Maxim Jakubowski and Vaseem Khan (Harper Collins)
It was not that long ago that crime fiction was mainly divided into American and British crime novels, with only an occasional nod towards those books from other, primarily Anglo, nations. It also largely a ‘white’ pursuit, with most books written by white men and women and featuring white detectives.
As Maxim Jakubowski notes in the introduction to The Perfect Crime, foreign written crimes were rare, and those books which featured detectives from another culture or ethnic group were usually authored by white writers, “albeit with a great respect and affection for their protagonists and (the) social canvas” they represented. For instance, Australian based, English expatriate Arthur Upfield, penned a popular series featuring Indigenous detective Napoleon ‘Bony’ Bonaparte, while British author H. R. F. Keating wrote about a Bombay detective and the great Tony Hillerman gave us a convincing picture of life and policing on a Navajo reservation.
Fortunately, in recent decades we have not only seen the greater availability of crime fiction from other countries, most notably Scandinavia and other European countries, but also an explosion of crime and mystery writing by authors of all colours and ethnic backgrounds.
In The Perfect Crime (Harper Collins), Jakubowski and fellow editor Vaseem Khan have sought to encourage this expansion of crime fiction and have produced a terrific collection of short stories by authors from diverse cultures from around the world.
The locations range from Lagos to Mexico City, to rural New Zealand and 1920s Australia, to Darjeeling and the Caribbean, and more familiar locations in America and England. The collected authors include promising newcomers like Oyinkan Braithwaite and Nadine Matheson, and established professionals such as Walter Mosby, Mike Phillips and the multi-award winner S. A. Crosby.
All of the stories are very good, and there is not a false note in the collection. My personal favourites were Nadine Matheson’s clever story about two con artists; S. A. Cosby’s evocative and gritty ‘The Mayor Of Dukes City’ and Rachel Howzell Hall’s sinister serial killer tale. Under-appreciated Australian author Sulari Gentill, provides a typically well written historical mystery and David Heska Wanbli Weiden builds on the success of his recent novel, Winter Kills, with another powerful story here. There is also a great entry by Oyinkan Braithwaite and J. P. Pomare’s ‘For Marg’ is an intense character driven story about an ageing New Zealand famer.
As well as entertaining, many of the stories shine light on different cultures and attitudes and present new perspectives on the crime story. Vaseem Khan moves the traditional British mystery to Darjeeling in the 1950s, and has his engaging female detective, Persis Wadia, on hand to solve it, while David Heska Wanbli Weiden shows that the dusty roads of a Lakota Indian reservation can be just as mean as any big city street. Ausma Zehanat Khan explores the effect of hate crimes in an urban setting, and adds a neat sting in the tail, and Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s slice of life in Mexico in the 1940s is compelling. I also liked how Sulari Gentill’s ‘A Murder of Brides’ mixed mystery with an interesting cast of characters and shone a light on attitudes and prejudices in 1920s Australia.
In all a terrific collection of stories and a good guide to some of the best new crime writing out there.
The Perfect Crime was released in Australia and the United Kingdom in early March 2022. Thanks to the publishers for a copy of the book.
The full list of authors in the colelction are: Oyinkan Braithwaite, Abir Mukherjee, S.A. Cosby, Silvia Moreno-Garcia,
J.P. Pomare, Sheena Kamal, Vaseem Khan, Sulari Gentill, Nelson George, Rachel Howzell Hall, John Vercher, Sanjida Kay, Amer Anwar, Henry Chang, Nadine Matheson, Mike Phillips, Ausma Zehanat Khan, Felicia Yap, Thomas King, Imran Mahmood, David Heska Wanbli Weiden and Walter Mosley.