A doctor by trade, although better known for his classic plays like The Seagull and Uncle Vanya, Anton Chekhov actually began his literary career writing stories, many of which were in the psychological suspense vein. They were published in a wide variety of periodicals and literary publications, many under the pseudonym of Antosha Chekhonte and mostly written to pay the bills to help put him through medical school. It's not a big a leap as many would suspect—Chekhov worked for a time with police assisting with autopsies in criminal investigations.
Peter Sekirin, who works at the Center for Russian Studies at the University of Toronto, collected 42 of these stories and compiled them into "A Night in the Cemetery," published in 2008. As Otto Penzler pointed out for the New York Sun, these are not mystery stories as you may think of them, containing "A lot of drunken behavior, frequently resulting in forgetfulness, which leads to a kind of 'mystery,' as in: What happened? There are occasional policemen, and they invariably leap to erroneous conclusions. Apparent crimes have other, frequently humorous, explanations. Terrors brought on by seemingly supernatural occurrences derive from comical misunderstandings."
Present throughout the collection, even among these early works, are Chekhov's penetrating psychological insight and microscopic views into the absurdity of human nature. His characters here, as in his mature works, are more often than not passive, weak and irrational, although they yearn to make things better or find ways to justify their existence.
In "The Swedish Match," which pokes fun at deductive reasoning, a pair of bumbling detectives find their suspect list growing as they investigate a bizarre murder case after finding "evidence" that the victim was strangled and carried out the window, then later stabbed in the garden to finish him off. The trail leads to the police superintendent's young wife, although not everything is at it seems; in the comically macabre tale, "A Night of Horror," a man finds a pink-glazed coffin in his apartment. His distress only increases as he runs to one friend and then another to find more coffins appearing in apartments.
Other offerings include "A Crime: A Double Murder Case," which is short, but interesting as an early example of noir; "Thieves," a simple-minded doctor's assistant falls among a temptress and robbers which leads to a personal meltdown as "He realized that it was only due to his lack of opportunity that he had not become a thief or a cheat."; and "The Drama at the Hunt," one of the longest stories in the collection, which revolves around three men who love the same woman, ultimately leading to betrayal, humiliation and murder.
As with all translations, I find it frustrating not to be multilingual so I can read them in the original language (I once tried to teach myself Cyrillic, with less-than-steller results), wondering about all the subtleties and authorial voice I'm missing. These stories generally show signs of a young writer coming into his own, but even a young Chekhov in translation creates characters who will stay with you.