THE SITE FOR DIE HARD CRIME & THRILLER FANS
iBookKindlePrintReviews

Murder on Christmas Eve

2 Mins read

Edited by Cecily Gayford — Following Murder Under the Christmas Tree last year, this is the second collection of mysteries for the festive season produced by Profile Books. The appeal of such seasonal anthologies? Well, it represents a safe choice of Christmas present for the die-hard crime lover in your life. And for us crime fiction aficionados, it might be a way to introduce and convert friends and family to the genre.

This volume will appeal even to die-hard fans of noir, because it is not all tinsel and Christmas carols, cosy little puzzles with a humorous twist of mince pies and carol singers. Instead, you will find a broader range of themes here than in most other anthologies. There is a nice base of Golden Age writers on either side of the Pond, such as Margery Allingham, GK Chesterton, John Dickson Carr and Michael Innes. Introduce a nearly forgotten author like Marjorie Bowen, who wrote predominantly in other genres. Add the more modern but stylish and erudite flavours of Ellis Peters, Julian Symons and Lawrence Block. Finally, sprinkle with a dash of Scottish realism care of Ian Rankin and Val McDermid. If that isn’t a recipe for a successful Christmas pudding, I don’t know what is!

The common thread running through all of these stories is the puzzle element. These are all stories to make you scratch your head and wonder what could be going on, and perhaps even discuss them with your nearest and dearest in front of a roaring fire after an expansive Christmas dinner. They are most certainly not dark tales of despair or flashes of fast action which we might enjoy at other times of the year. Nevertheless, there is earnestness and even a rumble of social injustice running through Ian Rankin’s story, which sounds very topical at a time when universal credit is being criticised and debated in the British Parliament. The struggle for justice is even more vicious and personal in Val McDermid’s contribution, A Wife in a Million.

Most of the stories, however, delight in mischievously placing well-known detectives in preposterous situations: imagine Rankin’s Rebus taking part very reluctantly in a Christmas murder mystery and Margery Allingham’s Campion sipping tea with a little old lady in a remote country cottage on Christmas Eve. Lawrence Block has great fun lampooning crime authors and book collectors in his story about a missing manuscript and a detective heavily influenced by Nero Wolfe. Marjorie Bowen, better known for her historical romance fiction and horror stories, is present with a mystery that features a little of both, about a sulky, rich patient who claims his wife is poisoning him.

Two of the stories have elaborate and complex solutions: GK Chesterton’s Father Brown tries to solve the puzzle of an apparently cursed family who die off one by one, while John Dickson Carr teases us with misleading clues in the kind of story, which has been imitated by other writers since. They are perhaps the most ambitious stories in the collection. By way of contrast, the first three stories, by Ellis Peters, Julian Symons and Michael Innes, are less successful and feel somewhat dated, but they are still fun and quick to read. What’s not to love about a mystery-solving tomcat, a Santa with a grudge at a Santa Claus Club and a painting which comes alive?

All in all, this is a great way to explore the work of authors you might not have tried reading before and a sure-fire way to keep yourself and your friends entertained between Christmas and New Year.

For single-author Christmas collections, see our review of last year’s story collection by PD James. Or find more Christmas-themed reads here.

Profile Books
Print/Kindle/iBook
£2.60

CFL Rating: 4 Stars


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related posts
Features

DeathBecomesHer: Top Five Books of 2022

I’ve had 10 years of doing this and it doesn’t get any easier, I can tell you. Crime fiction is such an eclectic genre but even so it is easy to get stuck into a rut. This year I endeavoured to move a little outside…
Features

Best crime author of 2022 shortlist

What’s your poison when it comes to crime fiction books? Do you flit about like a butterfly from author to author or do you enjoy nothing more than getting stuck into a juicy series? Whatever your approach, there are some writers whose latest releases just…
KindlePrintReviews

Murder in the Falling Snow: Ten Classic Crime Stories

Edited by Cecily Gayford — Murder in the Falling Snow brings you ten festive stories of murder and mayhem by some of the early-20th century’s best crime writers. From country houses to trainlines, rustic pubs to suburban terraces, the stories feature perplexing mysteries solved by…
Crime Fiction Lover