Crime writers are just as susceptible as readers to the countless attractions of Christmas. Over the years, many distinguished practitioners of the genre have given one or more of their stories a Yuletide setting. The most memorable Christmas mysteries blend a lively storyline with an atmospheric evocation of the season. Getting the mixture right is much harder than it looks.
This book introduces readers to some of the finest Christmas detective stories of the past. Martin Edwards’ selection blends festive pieces from much-loved authors with one or two stories which are likely to be unfamiliar even to diehard mystery fans. The result is a collection of crime fiction to savor, whatever the season.
I enjoyed the first story in the book: "The Blue Carbuncle" by Arthur Conan Doyle. It was my first Sherlock Holmes story ever. The story was clever and I like how the ending was handled.
Another one I liked was "Waxworks" by Ethel Lina White. Two men died when they stayed overnight in the Waxwork Collection of Oldhampton. A young female reporter decides to spend a night in the Waxworks to determine if the men were frightened to death in that environment. The story is spooky, and her overnight visit has unexpected results. I have read nothing else by this author, but there are a couple of her books I want to try someday.
While investigating "Waxworks" and its author, I was reminded that Moira at Clothes in Books had posted about a novel by White titled Wax. Since the heroine has the same name (Sonia) and there is a connection to waxworks, I assume there must be some connection between the short story and the book. Yet I could find nothing to confirm that in the time I had to research it. The story was first published in 1930.
Marjorie Bowen was one pseudonym of Gabrielle Margaret Vere Long (1885–1952). This book includes "Cambric Tea" by this author and also a story she wrote as Joseph Shearing: "The Chinese Apple." Of the two, I much preferred "The Chinese Apple," which was truly creepy although it did not contain supernatural elements. I only mention that because I have read that a lot of her stories do feature the supernatural.
I should have liked "A Problem in White" by Nicholas Blake (pseudonym of Cecil Day-Lewis) because (a) it is set on a train and (b) I have read and loved many mystery novels by this author. However, it is the type where the solution is not included in the story itself, but at the end of the book, and gives the reader the chance to solve the mystery. I was not impressed with the story overall and I did not like that approach to the ending. (However, another reviewer cited Nicholas Blake's story as her favorite in the book.)
I think my favorite story was "Stuffing" by Edgar Wallace and that was very unexpected. It is a charming story about a failed robbery attempt. The ending is no surprise but I loved it. That story was fiirst published in The Saturday Evening Post, Dec 11, 1926. Clearly I need to look into other works by Edgar Wallace.
Due to the variety in types of stories and authors, I cannot say I wholeheartedly liked every story I read, but it was fun to read a group of stories featuring Christmas traditions of the times and get a sampling of the various author's writings. Based on some of the stories, I like many of these authors better when they are telling a novel-length story.
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press, 2015 (orig. pub. by The British Library Publishing Division, 2015)
Editor: Martin Edwards
Length: 298 pages
Genre: Mysteries, short story collection
Source: Provided by the publisher for review via NetGalley