Marìa Angélica Bosco, Death Going Down, t. Lucy Greaves, Pushkin Vertigo 16 [1955] ISBN-13: 978-1782272236

Augusto de Angelis, The Mystery of the Three Orchids, t. Jill Foulston, Pushkin Vertigo 16 [1942] ISBN-13: 978-1782271727

Who? Two novelists, the first of whom, Marìa Angélica Bosco, flourished in the mid-twentieth century in Argentina. The shorter-lived Augusto De Angelis was a successful Italian writer, whose twenty crime novels sold well in Italy and were popular adaptations on screen. This did not, however, protect him from the Fascists, who arrested and held him briefly in 1943, but released him—only for him to be so badly beaten by a Fascist thug that he died in 1944. Death Going Down was Bosco’s first venture into crime fiction, followed by many more. Both writers show the influence of Agatha Christie, and both books are workmanlike craft compositions; neither stands out particularly, but both give some flavour of their place and time. Above all, they are, as it were, apparently tidy in the same ways Christie was, and fine for a winter’s night or a summer beach.

Bosco’s puzzling title refers to the lift in a block of flats. A man staggering home after a night of heavy drinking finds the corpse of a woman who does not live in any of the apartments. It’s a small building, which limits the number of suspects, though it’s large enough to contain some odd types. The Three Orchids is similarly in the Christie mould, but takes us into a couture house, in which murder is much messier: the corpse is found in the owner’s bed, and the orchids which mysteriously appear seem to have no meaning. Follows the usual backstories with their financial or romantic complications until the murderer becomes obvious. What makes these books of interest is that they aren’t the traditional invasive death in a steady world, but more open to sexual deviance and the migrations of the twentieth century.

By and large, crime fiction is ephemeral, and public libraries (remember them?) sold off books when they ceased to be borrowed. Now, though, big battalions such as the British Library (whose status as a deposit library means they are are disinclined to throw things away) has rediscovered some stories worth reselling, especially if they are out of copyright, and are publishing period pieces wrapped in handsome cover art. Pushkin Vertigo—a rather smaller enterprise—is championing long-forgotten authors, especially foreign authors, who require translating into English. It is worth remembering how recent is the anglo-saxon enthusiasm for subtitled crime fiction, how resistant we once were to imports. Pushkin Vertigo are doing a good job of resurrecting forgotten—or, perhaps, completely unknown—authors. Thus far the best one I’ve tried is Martin Holmén’s Clinch, which is down and dirty in between-the-wars depression era Germany. They aren’t expensive in paperback and even less in Kindle format. Here’s Pushkin’s website:

http://pushkinpress.com/books/pushkin-vertigo/.

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