Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Short Story Wednesday: Three from Mistletoe Mysteries

In 2014, George Kelley wrote a review of Mistletoe Mysteries, an anthology of Christmas stories edited by Charlotte MacLeod, originally published in 1989. All of the stories have a copyright date of 1989 and were first published in this anthology. See George's post, which includes a list of all the stories in the book. 

At the time I purchased a used copy of the book, and the next year I read the first three stories in the book. This year I read the next six stories, so I have now read nine of the fifteen stories. 

These are the three stories I liked the best. Two relate to Christmas traditions, the other is about the Scottish end of year celebration, Hogmanay.

"The Live Tree" by John Lutz

I haven't ever read anything by John Lutz. This was the shortest story of all the ones I read, about a grinchy father with zero Christmas spirit, who refuses to buy a live Christmas tree for his young son. Then his brother, who was in prison, shows up on his doorstep, with a live tree. Contrary to my expectations, I loved the ending of this story.

"Here Comes Santa Claus" by Bill Pronzini

Bill Pronzini is a very prolific author. Mostly he writes mysteries, but he has also written Westerns and edited many short story anthologies. He is best known for his Nameless Detective series of over 40 novels about a private  investigator working in the San Francisco area. I have read 25 of the books in the series; my husband has read all of them except the last one.

This short story features Nameless, who has been coerced by his girlfriend Kerry to play Santa Claus at a big fundraiser. The story is told in first person, as the novels are, but with more humor. A very good read.

"A Wee Doch and Doris" by Sharyn McCrumb

The main character in this story is a burglar, who takes advantage of New Year's Eve, when many people are out celebrating, to rob several empty houses. It also features Hogmanay, a Scottish celebration of the last day of the year, and first footing, a tradition where the first person to enter the house on the first day of the year determines the household's luck for the next year. The end of this story is a hoot, and it surprised me. Not only do I finally have a better understanding of Hogmanay, but I enjoyed reading the story.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I have read one or two of the Namesless books and I think I read McCrumb's first book.
But none of these. I only have one book with Christmas stories and that is by Trollope. Don't know where I got that one.

TracyK said...

Patti, I have one book of Christmas ghost stories that Glen gave me, and several other collections of Christmas stories, plus The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries edited by Penzler, of which I have read about a fifth of the stories. I will never run out.

Margot Kinberg said...

I like being able to dip in and out of short story collections like that, Tracy. And it sounds like that's a good group of stories. As far as I'm concerned, Pronzini does some great stuff, so I'd want to check the collection out just on that score.

Katrina said...

On Hogmanay my mother always made my tall dark brother go out of the back door and straight to the front door at 'the bells' with cake and whisky in his hands. Just to make sure that we would have good luck over the next year. He had the easy job, as a girl I spent the last day of the year scrubbing the house from top to bottom to make it ready for the New Year!

TracyK said...

Margot, My husband has some short collections of Pronzini's stories, so I am going to check them out soon.

TracyK said...

Katrina, I hoped that you would comment on Hogmanay and it's traditions. I am glad to hear that the first foot tradition is like I imagined it and I am sorry to hear that you had to do all that scrubbing.

Mathew Paust said...

I've read several of the Nameless series, Tracy. I like Bill's smooth, upbeat style. Believable characters, and a good storyteller. Were this anthology available as an ebook I would download it in a flash!

TracyK said...

Matt, I believe the anthology is available as an ebook, but it costs more than I usually pay for ebooks. I need to get back to reading the Nameless series.

col2910 said...

I missed the boat again on reading anything festive this Christmas. Oh well, soon be 2021 and December again! I've enjoyed some short soroies by John Lutz recently and I'll have to keep an eye out for that Nameless short story as well. I wonder if it isin any of my Pronzini anthologies.

TracyK said...

Col, it probably is in one of his anthologies. Glen has several of them, I plan to read some stories from them.