The Perfect Crime edited by Vaseem Khan and Maxim Jakubowski

The spice of life…

😀 😀 😀 🙂

The blurb for this anthology claims that it includes stories from “twenty-two best selling crime writers from diverse cultures coming together from across the world”. I’ll start by saying that I don’t think this is an accurate description. All bar one of the authors lives in Britain, US, or one of the old Dominions. The exception is that there’s one author from Nigeria. So while it is true that all the authors bar one are from what we consider in our majority white countries to be ethnic minorities, I would find it hard to say that they represent “the world” unless we consider the English-speaking nations to constitute the world.

So, putting the fashionable diversity selling-point to one side (which is where I wish publishers would put it permanently), how does it work as an anthology of crime stories? As with most anthologies, I found it something of a mixed bag. It divided for me more or less half and half between stories in the poor-to-OK range and stories in the good-to-great range. Some of this is due to my subjective taste – any story, for instance, with excessive swearing or violence is always going to get a low rating from me, but these are such commonplaces in contemporary crime fiction that presumably plenty of people find them enjoyable. A couple of others played the anti-white racism game too unsubtly for my taste. Happily, though, despite that virtue-signalling blurb, most of the authors have steered clear of “diversity” as a subject and have concentrated on writing interesting and entertaining stories.

Overall, the good stories more than made up for the less good ones. I have added several authors to my list to read some of their novels in the future, which is always a sign of success in an anthology. There are noir stories, bleak stories, funny stories, tense stories, and stories that veer very close to horror, sometimes of the camp variety. Lots of originality and variety on display. I’m a bit out of touch with contemporary crime these days, but several of the names were familiar to me – Abir Mukherjee, Sulari Gentill, Ausma Zehanat Khan, etc., while many more were new to me which again is always part of the fun of anthologies.

Here’s a brief flavour of some of the ones I enjoyed most:

Jumping Ship by Oyinkan Braithwaite – Ida’s lover asks her to take some photographs of his new-born baby. She’s reluctant, but agrees. When she gets to his house, he is not there but his wife Mina and the baby are. Then Mina disappears – and later the body of Ida’s lover is discovered. This is very good, quite creepy and tense and very well written. I haven’t read any of Braithwaite’s work before, but when I looked her up I realised that she was the author of the recent very successful My Sister, the Serial Killer, which I’ve now added to my wishlist.

The Beautiful Game by Sanjida Kay – While on a night out with her sisters, Selene meets top footballer Luke Allard. He invites Selene to his house, and they become lovers. Next morning his mum Colette takes Selene under her wing, explaining how she has to behave now she’s Luke’s girlfriend. Selene’s family are thrilled that she has caught the eye of this rich and famous young man, and tell her she has to get a ring on her finger. But there’s a room in Luke’s house… a room that Selene is told she must never enter… 😱
This is excellent – both tense and fun! It’s so far over the top as to be almost camp horror, and it’s very well written. Kay has also written several successful novels, though she’s new to me.

Chinook by Thomas King – A small town in the Rockies. A man is found dead outside the saloon. The police chief, Duke, brings in his pal, Thumps Dreadfulwater, on the investigation. The victim was a bad man so plenty of people might have wanted him dead, and Thumps and Duke work together to find out what happened. The investigation in this one is nearly non-existent but the story and storytelling are great fun. Thumps and Duke are a great pairing, and the small town setting is done very well. While I haven’t read anything by Thomas King before, I was aware of him because of the enthusiasm for his books of Anne at His Thumps Dreadfulwater books are not easily available over here, but I have my fingers crossed that the publisher might put them out on Kindle at some point in the future.

Buttons by Imran Mahmood – Our narrator is Daniel, a narcissist, possibly autistic, with a fetish for buttons. Is he a serial killer? The question becomes important when he goes on a date – will he kill her? This is very well done, ambiguous and scary, and feels fresh and original. Again Mahmood has had a couple of successful novels, although to be honest neither of them appeals to me terribly much. I will look out for his name in the future though.

So, as I said, lots of introductions for me to new authors who have sparked my interest to investigate further. And because of the variety and range, I’m fairly sure every crime fiction fan will find some new authors and some stories to enjoy in this anthology.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, HarperCollins.

Amazon UK Link

32 thoughts on “The Perfect Crime edited by Vaseem Khan and Maxim Jakubowski

  1. I’m not really into the”diversity” selling point either. I just want a book to be well-written and about a subject which is interesting to me: I really don’t care about the gender/nationality/race/religion/age/sexuality of the author, just as long as they write good books.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Exactly! I don’t give extra points for “minority status”, and I’m fed up with Brits, Americans and so on claiming to be “diverse”. Just be a good writer and people will read your stories.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Glad you found some good stories and authors to look out for. I don’t seem to have much luck with anthologies…but perhaps that’s because I don’t read many of them 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha, I don’t really look out for anthologies but I seem to get sent an awful lot of them these days! I’ve learned to quite quickly abandon the stories that aren’t working for me and just concentrate on the ones that are good!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You know, FictionFan, that’s something I always notice, too: just how ‘diverse’ is a collection that claims that it is diverse. Still, that aside, it sounds like a good group of stories, and I have to say, I’m a fan of Vaseem Khan, so that was selling point for me. I’m glad you found the gems made up for the stories that….weren’t.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It really annoys me when “diversity” seems to only include the five major English-speaking nations in the world. I can’t really imagine any other five countries who could be considered less diverse than us since we all share a common culture, a common language, and a common set of values! However once passed the fashionable blurb, there are plenty of good stories in here to make the anthology really not need to be sold on the basis of false “diversity”!

      Liked by 1 person

    • That’s good to hear! I really liked her short story in this. Ha, I’m not really an anthology person either – I just keep getting sent them! But like anything else, the more short stories I read the more I grow to appreciate the skill that goes into them. And they do introduce me to new authors… 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t recognize any of those names and didn’t figure this would appeal to me…. but you won me over with the blurbs you shared! I might have to see if there’s room for it on my wishlist. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • To be honest, despite the much-vaunted “diversity” a huge proportion of the authors were Brits, so I’m not surprised you wouldn’t have heard of them. Anthologies are really good for sampling new-to-me authors and there were plenty in here I’d be happy to read more from.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I usually prefer horror or SF short stories – it often feels there’s not enough room for a mystery in the shorter length. But when a writer does it well it can be fun, and there were several goodies in here! Haha, not a name you’d easily forget, is it? Just wish it was easier to get hold of the books over here.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This sounds a pretty strong anthology! As you say, they’re always a mixed bag but it’s a great way to learn about authors you’re not familiar with. I keep looking for Abir Mukherjee books in charity shops but no luck so far – I might actually have to buy a new copy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I reckon so long as half the stories are good (or to my taste) then an anthology has done its job! I suppose it’s a compliment to Mukherjee if people aren’t giving his books to charity shops… but annoying! I really enjoyed the first few books in his series.

      Liked by 1 person

    • A lot of the authors in the book were British (despite the “diversity” claim), so I’m not surprised you don’t know them. But that’s what I like about anthologies, being introduced to lots of new authors and seeing if their style works for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I think it’s fun to discover new writers, but yes, the “why” here is a bit offputting and inaccurate in its definition of “diverse,” ignoring all those outside the realm of English-speakers. Can’t it be just because they’re good stories and writers we may have missed out on? That said, the blurb for Buttons has piqued my interest.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly! I really couldn’t care less what someone’s ethnicity/gender/etc is, so long as they write good stories. And if they write bad stories, they don’t get extra points for claiming to be “diverse”! 😉 However it was good to meet some new-to-me authors – the Buttons story was very strange and very good!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I definitely recommend Thomas King’s work, someday I’ll have to write a post on one of his books. Oyinkan Braithwaite is a writer I’d like to try – I wasn’t drawn to the first book (didn’t love the title!), but she sounds like she takes crime fiction in some interesting directions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have Indians on Vacation on my wishlist after Anne’s review, but I’d really like to read some of the Thumps Dreadfulwater books – I hope the fact that he’s participating in UK-based anthologies might be a signal his books are going to become easier to get hold of over here! I didn’t fancy My Sister, the Serial Killer either based on the title and blurb, but I did see lots of glowing reviews for it, often from people who prefer fiction to crime, which piqued my interest. And then I really enjoyed her story in this collection, so I’ve taken that as a sign…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Buttons sounds good, and I also like Bluebeard’s Chamber in The Beautiful Game. Glad you brought up My Sister the Serial Killer. I had planned to look it up and then forgot all about it. Seems like a good collection even if it didn’t consider its representativeness before making claims.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I find crime short stories quite often have a touch of horror in them, probably because it’s easier than having to have a full-blown mystery to solve. Hahaha, yes, as soon as she was told never to go into THAT ROOM, I knew she should start running…!!! I always think an anthology has succeeded if at least half of the stories are good, because subjective taste plays such a part.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I think if a short story collection actually included stories from all over the world (as opposed to the Anglophone world) I would find it really interesting – a great insight into different storytelling conventions and themes! A shame that this was not that.

    As for My Sister the Serial Killer, it was free on Audible for a while and I was quite tempted, but the title put me off. If you read it, I will be interested to hear what you think.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, that’s the kind of book I think the blurb makes this one sound as if it’s going to be, and it’s not. It’s really all just mainstream English-language crime, and really the ethnicity of the authors is irrelevant – purely an attempt to jump on the “diversity” bandwagon!

      I kept swaying back and forth on My Sister, the Serial Killer each time I read a review, but I loved her story in this book so that finally tipped me into adding it – who knows when I’ll get to it though!

      Liked by 1 person

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