Pushkin Vertigo, a section of Pushkin Press, has dedicated itself to identifying masterful, classic foreign mysteries and bringing them to a new audience. Carefully chosen and given gorgeous cover designs, even the most dedicated crime reader will find something new.

(Read about the other Pushkin Vertigo classics I loved)



The Tokyo Zodiac Murders is a creepy locked room mystery that begins just before WWII. An eccentric painter, who was working on a set of 12 zodiac based paintings, is found dead in his studio. The murder seems impossible, with only one set of footprints in the snow, leading into the building. Also found at the scene is a raving diary in which the artist claims to have a master plan to kill the female members of his family and bury them with metallic elements also related to the zodiac. But, with the artist now dead, it seems the women are safe.

Then they begin to disappear.

50 years later, a pair of policemen are attempting to solve the very cold case. The main narrator discovers (and shares with the reader) various clues that eventually lead to the answer to the puzzle.

Stylistically, this is a very familiar form to fans of the Golden Age of Crime Writing. More importantly, it is distinctly Japanese in tone, particularly when a character becomes philosophical:

I don’t think I’m extraordinary. We all live on the same planet, we all share the same consciousness and emotions — but does that make us all equal as human beings? Look at the Tokyo businessman, look at the man from Thailand growing rice, look at the artists and the bankers. Sure we’re on consciousness, but our present and past karma are different. We have knelt at different graves and walked through different gardens. Our lives are but a burst of stardust, or a passing cloud. ~ Pg. 109

Some readers might find it a bit slow-going because the plotting is so intricate and the names and places are relatively unfamiliar. Take time to acclimate and savor the precision employed by Shimada.

Series: Pushkin Vertigo
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Pushkin Vertigo (September 15, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1782271384
ISBN-13: 978-1782271383
Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches


Barcelona Shadows

As WWI is winding to a close, Inspector Moises Corvo is fighting another sort of war. In a dim, poor neighborhood in Barcelona, children are disappearing. The crimes do not seem merit the Barcelona police force’s time since they are orphans and the children of wayward women. Corvo becomes entangled in the case and is determined to root out the culprit.

Barcelona Shadows is deeply atmospheric and pays homage to German Expressionist films like ‘M’ as well as Gothic fiction like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and more modern crime thrillers like Silence of the Lambs.

The narrative point-of-view is slippery and floats in and out of characters. At times it is the voice of the Angel of Death, waxing poetic about gathering souls. At other points, it sounds more like a demon in possession of fallen humans. What makes it so unnerving is that the voice slithers seamlessly between characters and it can be a couple of paragraphs before the reader realizes it. Pastor seems to be highlighting the thin, grey line between good and evil.

There are coincidences that are revealed to be the product of a hidden hand, of an evil stagehand, who’s always drunk and has a very unique sense of humour, who tugs on the pulleys like a madman until the play mixes together characters who otherwise would never have met. I have nothing to do with it, even though most times coincidences end up affecting me. Don’t blame me, I’m usually just an observer, calm and patient, despite my reputation as an opportunist. ~Pg. 64

Pastor also uses the device, and the present tense, to keep the reader unsure until the very end. After all, if the main character were narrating in the past tense, it would be assumed all turns out well. By having an immortal being slip in and out of the story, anything is fair game.

Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Pushkin Press; Reprint edition (June 10, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1782270221
ISBN-13: 978-1782270225
Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches

My heartfelt thanks to Brittney for sending me these review copies.