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Philippine women solve crime literature mystery

New genre emerging as writers explore Southeast Asian culture of violence

Crime busters F.H. Batacan, left, and Laurel Flores Fantauzzo. (Courtesy of the authors and Soho Press)

MANILA -- The Philippines is the scene of many crimes. Gang warfare, child exploitation, robbery, blackmail and corruption are relentlessly depicted in the country's movies. Yet it has taken two young women, of disparate backgrounds and approaches, yet both highly political, to exploit the possibilities for local mystery writing.

"Few genres lend themselves as well to the examination of society -- its flaws, its aberration, its character -- as crime fiction, " says Maria Felisa H. Batacan, pen name F.H. Batacan, whose 2002 novel "Smaller and Smaller Circles" was recently reprinted in a U.S. edition that she says is "a lot more layered" than the original.

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