The Realm Of The Impossible ed. John Pugmire & Brian Skupin

There is so much crime fiction out there that we readers of English never get the chance to read, namely because it is written in another language. And those foreign language novels that do get translated tend to be dark, grim tales from Scandinavia rather than the classic mysteries that many people would, I feel, really enjoy. But Locked Room International have been doing something about that with the many Paul Halter translations and other authors from further afield as well.

But now it’s time to tour the globe and beyond with a selection of locked room short stories from around the world. From throughout Europe, Australia, South America, India, China, Japan, and even outer space, you will find deviousness at every turn, along with some anecdotes about real life impossible crimes, some solved, some not. But, most importantly, is the collection any good?

Well, yes, I wouldn’t be reviewing it otherwise. John Pugmire was kind enough to send me a pdf of the book, as, at time of writing, it isn’t available as an ebook. Unfortunately, the only way I have to read pdfs effectively is on the family IPad, which is often in demand. But there is another reason that I took a while to get through this collection.

Anyone who reads short story collections knows that they vary in quality from story to story. Some tales are stronger than others, and I’m sure the compiler knows this, and usually they are scattered throughout the book. Here, with twenty-two stories, there are, in my opinion, about five that were somewhat lacking for me. Probably because they are included for historical interest, such as the tale from Alexandre Dumas, but I found these difficult to get through. But this is the problem – all of the tales that I found lacking were in the first third of the collection. It almost put me off the book, but that would have been a terrible shame, because once it kicks off – primarily with the superb Poul Anderson tale Martian Crown Jewels – the quality never flags once.

There are some outstanding stories here – I’d read only two before, and one of those was in an old Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine – with the high points being the aforementioned Martian Crown Jewels, Szu-Yen Lin’s beautiful The Miracle On Christmas Eve and Edward D Hoch’s simple but effective The “Impossible” Impossible Crime. But these are the cream of a very satisfying crop.

With Christmas on the way, this is the ideal present for any lover of crime fiction out there – just include a note telling them to read the collection backwards. Still waiting for a locked room collection to include a mention of Paul Doherty in the list of “current masters of the genre” but apart from that, this is Highly Recommended.

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