Mini-reviews: The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries, Anne Perry's Merry Mysteries, The Santa Klaus Murder by Anne Perry, Mavis Doriel Hay, Otto Penzler
Genres: Mystery
Source: Purchased: ebook

Every year I track down at least a few Christmas or holiday themed books to read, and this year, my obsession with crime fiction took to the forefront! Now that we are less than a week from Christmas, I thought that I would share a few of the holiday mysteries I read this year! They are all available in ebook format, if you want to grab one, pour yourself a cup of cinnamon tea or egg nog, and hunker down by the fire for some merry mayhem!

All plot summaries are courtesy of Goodreads, and are reprinted subject to the fair use doctrine.

Edgar Award-winning editor Otto Penzler collects sixty of his all-time favorite holiday crime stories–many of which are difficult or nearly impossible to find anywhere else. From classic Victorian tales by Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Thomas Hardy, to contemporary stories by Sara Paretsky and Ed McBain, this collection touches on all aspects of the holiday season, and all types of mysteries. They are suspenseful, funny, frightening, and poignant.

So, this book is 654 pages long, with a total of 60 stories! I have only dipped into it at this point, but I like what I’ve read so far. I own it on kindle, but I can see the attraction of owning it in print, to mark up and dog ear and thump around. In a pinch, it could probably double as a weapon with which to bludgeon an unpleasant person to death (if one were at one’s country house and one had an inconvenient relative who was in the way of one’s inheritance or title, for example) should that become necessary!

So far, my favorite story is the Hercule Poirot short – The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding. I also quite enjoyed the Ngaio Marsh story, featuring Inspector Alleyn and the Ellis Peters Brother Cadfael story entitled The Price of Light. At some point, I will finish this thing and do a full-on review of the entire collection!

A classic country-house murder mystery, ‘The Santa Klaus Murder’ begins with Aunt Mildred declaring that no good could come of the Melbury family Christmas gathering at their country residence Flaxmere. So when Sir Osmond Melbury, the family patriarch, is discovered — by a guest dressed as Santa Klaus —with a bullet in his head on Christmas Day, the festivities are plunged into chaos.

Nearly every member of the party stands to reap some sort of benefit from Sir Osmond’s death, but Santa Klaus, the one person who seems to have every opportunity to fire the shot, has no apparent motive. Various members of the family have their private suspicions about the identity of the murderer, but in the midst of mistrust, suspicion, and hatred, it emerges that there was not one Santa Klaus but two.

This new addition to the British Library Crime Classics series is a must-have for all fans of classic murder mystery and will delight anyone looking for a thrilling read during the holidays.

This is a gem from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction that was first published in 1936, and reprinted as part of the British Library Crime Classics series. It is a classic British country house murder, with a closed circle of possible suspects. The author used sort of a unique narrative technique, where she gave various characters first person chapters in the style of written “depositions”, as well as using the primary investigator, Colonel Halstock, to provide the backbone of the story. Everyone in the house had a reason to want Sir Osmond dead, not in the least because he is a singularly repellent victim, controlling and mean, who keeps close rein on the family purse strings. It isn’t as good as Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, frankly, but if you’ve already enjoyed that one, give this one a go!


A Christmas Hope

Claudine Burroughs dreads the holiday season. She feels she has nothing in common with her circle of wealthy, status-minded friends, and the only time she’s remotely happy is when she is volunteering at a women’s clinic, a job her husband strongly disapproves of. When Claudine meets a charming poet at a Yuletide gala, her spirits are finally lifted—until he is accused of killing a fellow guest. Believing in his innocence, Claudine vows to do her utmost to help. But it seems that hypocritical London society would rather send an innocent man to the gallows than expose the shocking truth about one of their own.

A New York Christmas

Jemima Pitt, the daughter of Thomas Pitt, head of Britain’s Special Branch, is crossing the Atlantic for the first time. Her companion, Delphinia Cardew, is to marry in a grand Manhattan affair that will join together two fabulously wealthy families. But a shadow darkens the occasion: Missing from the festivities is Delphinia’s disgraced mother—and the groom’s charismatic brother has asked Jemima to help him find her and forestall the scandal that will surely follow if the prodigal parent turns up at the wedding. From Hell’s Kitchen to Fifth Avenue, from the Lower East Side to Central Park, Jemima trudges through snowy streets, asking questions but getting few answers—and never suspecting that she is walking into mortal danger.

I love reading about the Victorian era, and combining the Victorian era, crime, and Christmas is cat nip to me. Anne Perry publishes a Christmas novella every year, and then every two years, they are published for the kindle in a bundle of two novellas. I can’t stomach spending $10.00 on one novella, but when they are bundled, and I get two for the tenner, I’m okay with it!

Of the two, I preferred the second, A New York Christmas. I haven’t kept up on the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt novels, but I was delighted to see that their now grown daughter, Jemima, was the main character of this novella. I learned, as well, that Thomas Pitt has prospered mightily in his career, which has made me want to go back and pick up that series where I left it! This one was a 4 star read for me!

The first novella was fine as well. One of the things that Perry does in her holiday stories is to take a supporting character and develop a story around him or her. She dives deep into characterizations and relationships, which is often the strength of these stories. Claudine, the focus of this story, was unfamiliar to me, but I liked her a lot. She is a woman who is very much struggling with the traditional role of women in her Victorian society. I’d probably give this one a 3.5!

Do you read Christmas stories? What’s your jam – Christmas romance, mystery or something else?