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The 12 Crimes of Christmas 2023

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‘Tis the season to cosy up with a thrilling mystery, and what better way to celebrate the holidays than by delving into the macabre and magical world of Christmas-themed crime fiction? As the year draws to a close and the festive spirit fills the air, we’re here to unwrap the perfect gift for mystery enthusiasts: a collection of the most captivating crime novels set against the backdrop of Christmastime.

These 12 Crimes of Christmas 2023 will take you on a journey through a snow-covered landscape of murder, intrigue and suspense, showcasing the latest releases that blend the magic of the festive season with the chilling allure of crime fiction. So, pour yourself a cup of hot cocoa, snuggle up by the fire and prepare to embark on a Yuletide adventure like no other. These Christmassy crime crackers are sure to keep you turning pages late into the silent and mysterious nights of December.

1 – The Christmas Appeal by Janice Hallett

The Christmas Appeal by Janice Hallett front cover

In The Christmas Appeal, Janice Hallett delivers a captivating contemporary epistolary novel centred on the antics of the Fairway Players, an amateur dramatics group in the genteel town of Lower Lockwood. With simmering conflicts and overt sabotage amidst the preparations for a one-night-only production, the novel makes for a compelling whodunnit. Through a series of texts and emails, Hallett skillfully captures the small-town rivalries and social dynamics, infusing humour and puzzlement into the narrative. The intricate web of relationships and the portrayal of the zany, peculiar and aggrieved characters add depth to the mystery, all against the backdrop of a modern twist on a traditional literary format. The Christmas Appeal stands as another testament to Hallett’s prowess in crafting crime fiction, offering an engrossing blend of mystery, humour and holiday cheer, which makes it an ideal choice for a light and entertaining festive read. Read our full review here.
Buy now on Amazon or Bookshop.org

2 – Hercule Poirot’s Silent Night by Sophie Hannah

Hercule Poirot's Silent Night by Sophie Hannah front cover

In Sophie Hannah‘s Hercule Poirot’s Silent Night, the iconic detective makes a festive return in a gripping mystery set against the tranquil backdrop of 1930s Norfolk. Tasked with solving a murder at the Lauriers’ coastal estate, Poirot and Inspector Catchpool navigate a web of familial tensions and hidden motives. Hannah expertly channels Christie’s signature style, deftly planting clues and red herrings while incorporating her own masterful storytelling. Amidst a crumbling estate and family secrets, the novel delves into human psychology and family dynamics, showcasing the enduring brilliance of Poirot and his partnership with the determined Catchpool. With its nostalgic charm and intricately woven mystery, Hercule Poirot’s Silent Night is a delightful addition to the Poirot canon, appealing to both Christie enthusiasts and fans of sophisticated detective fiction. Read our full review here.
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3 – The Christmas Guest by Peter Swanson

The Christmas Guest by Peter Swanson front cover

In Peter Swanson‘s dark and suspenseful novella The Christmas Guest, the familiar setting of a country manor house in the Cotswolds takes a sinister turn when American student Ashley finds herself entangled in a web of deceit and danger. Swanson skilfully subverts expectations, offering a tale that pays homage to the British Golden Age mystery while also delivering unexpected twists and turns. The narrative unfolds at a measured pace, gradually building tension and an ominous sense of menace, leaving readers on edge until the chilling final revelation. A departure from traditional festive reads, this gripping tale is perfect for those seeking a darker, more tense narrative for the holiday season. The book’s elegant presentation and inclusion of an excerpt from Swanson’s previous work add to its allure, making it an ideal gift for those who appreciate a compelling and atmospheric read immersed in a cheerful holiday ambiance. Read our full review here.
Buy now on Amazon or Bookshop.org

4 – Who Killed Father Christmas? and Other Seasonal Mysteries edited by Martin Edwards

Who Killed Father Christmas edited by Martin Edwards

Who Killed Father Christmas? and Other Seasonal Mysteries, edited by Martin Edwards, is the fifth Christmassy anthology from the British Library. Featuring 15 short crime stories set during the holidays, the anthology differs from its more vintage predecessors by including tales published between 1911 and 1995. The title story, Patricia Moyes’ Who Killed Father Christmas? is an archetypal festive murder mystery set in a London department store. While lesser-known contributors like Catherine Aird and Garnett Radcliffe offer engaging stories, the anthology also includes works by well-known crime writers such as John Dickson Carr and J Jefferson Farjeon. The collection introduces a mix of traditional and supernatural mysteries, including standout tales like Anthony Gilbert’s atmospheric The Christmas Spirit and Glyn Daniel’s macabre Death at Christmas. While not every story resonates, on the whole this anthology successfully intertwines the holiday spirit with compelling mysteries, using festive settings to enhance the intrigue of the crimes. Read our full review here.
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5 – Murder at Maybridge Castle by Ada Moncrieff

Murder at Maybridge Castle by Ada Moncrieff front cover

In Ada Moncrieff’s Murder at Maybridge Castle, set in December 1936, Daphne King, pioneering crime reporter and amateur sleuth, takes a break from her London pursuits to attend the grand opening of England’s first haunted hotel. She’s joined by a diverse group of guests, and the weekend takes a sinister turn when a murder occurs during a game suggested by the eccentric host. Teaming up with septuagenarian sleuth Mrs Thewley, Daphne unravels the mystery, navigating humor, eccentricities and cleverly plotted twists. The atmospheric backdrop of the partially renovated castle adds to the feeling isolation and intrigue, reminiscent of classics from the Golden Age of Murder. Moncrieff’s engaging storytelling, witty dialogue and Poirot-like denouement make Murder at Maybridge Castle a delightful addition to her Christmas mystery series.
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6 – The 12 Days of Murder by Andreina Cordani

The 12 Days of Murder by Andreina Cordani front cover

Andreina Cordani‘s The 12 Days of Murder centres on the Masquerade Murder Society, a group of university friends who once solved fictional murders and who reunite after 12 years for a Christmas-themed masquerade at a remote Scottish hunting lodge. As each member is assigned an identity related to the Twelve Days of Christmas, the game takes a sinister turn when Lady Partridge is found dead and it becomes apparent that more murders are to come. The story shifts between the present and past, offering a blend of suspense and character development. The atmospheric setting in rural Scotland adds to the sense of isolation and tension, reminiscent of classic country house mysteries. The Twelve Days of Murder delivers a festive whodunnit with engaging characters, unexpected plot twists and dark revelations.
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7 – Murder at Holly House by Denzil Meyrick

Murder at Holly House by Denzil Meyrick front cover

In Denzil Meyrick‘s Murder at Holly House, readers are transported to the remote town of Elderby in December 1952, where Inspector Frank Grasby becomes entangled in a web of murder, mystery and misadventure. The historical whodunnit, related in the first person through Grasby’s unpublished memoirs, unfolds with a delightful blend of humour, suspense and a touch of Christmas spirit. Grasby’s bumbling yet endearing character leads an entertaining investigation as the quaint village faces seclusion, blizzards and unexpected murders. Meyrick’s vivid and eccentric cast of characters, rich dialogue and comedic charm create a lively narrative. The story seamlessly combines mystery, melodrama and national intrigue, making Murder at Holly House a jolly good romp through a bygone era, perfect for readers seeking a light-hearted yet suspenseful historical mystery.
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8 – The Christmas Jigsaw Murders by Alexandra Benedict

The Christmas Jigsaw Murders by Alexandra Benedict front cover

The Christmas Jigsaw Murders by Alexandra Benedict immerses readers in a chilling holiday mystery that combines the warmth of Christmas with the suspense of a thrilling conundrum. Renowned crossword setter Edie O’Sullivan, a self-professed Christmas hater, receives a cryptic package of puzzle pieces illustrating a gruesome crime scene. Teaming up with her nephew, DI Sean Brand-O’Sullivan, they race against time to decipher the clues as bodies start to pile up. Benedict weaves a compelling narrative, expertly juxtaposing festive cheer with ominous threats, creating a unique and engaging read for mystery enthusiasts. The well-developed characters, particularly Edie and Sean, add depth to the story, and the clever use of puzzles as a central theme makes The Christmas Jigsaw Murders an engaging festive mystery that develops with intricate precision.
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9 – The Pantomime Murders by Fiona Veitch Smith

The Pantomime Murders by Fiona Veitch Smith front cover

It’s Christmas 1929, and in Fiona Veitch Smith‘s The Pantomime Murders Clara Vale, the newly minted owner of a detective agency, finds herself entangled in a mystery involving the disappearance and subsequent murder of a fairy godmother scheduled to appear in Cinderella. Juggling the investigation with a shoplifting case, Clara faces societal constraints as a female detective but uses her scientific acumen to crack the complex crimes. The story seamlessly integrates historical elements such as the Wall Street crash and women’s evolving roles into the mystery, which also offers a delightful blend of intriguing characters, clever puzzles and a satisfying resolution. Whether solving crimes or navigating societal norms, Clara proves to be a compelling and smart protagonist, making The Pantomime Murders a delightful historical cosy mystery with a festive backdrop.
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10 – Have Yourself a Deadly Little Christmas by Vicki Delany

Have Yourself a Deadly Little Christmas by Vicki Delany front cover

Vicki Delany’s Have Yourself a Deadly Little Christmas is a captivating addition to the Year-Round Christmas Mystery series, which is set in the seemingly idyllic yet murder-prone town of Rudolph, New York. The narrative skillfully portrays a festive atmosphere despite the a gripping whodunnit plot centred on turmoil within a local theatre group. Merry Wilkinson, the witty and Christmas-loving sleuth, finds herself entangled in a perplexing murder mystery during the town’s Christmas preparations, showcasing the darker undercurrents of the plentiful holiday cheer. Delany expertly balances the cosy, heartwarming elements with the darker themes, keeping the suspense high and the story engaging until the satisfying conclusion. Read our full review here.
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11Who Killed the Curate? by Joan Coggin

Who Killed the Curate by Joan Coggin front cover

In Joan Coggin‘s Who Killed the Curate?, readers are transported to the Golden Age of Murder with Lady Lupin Lorimer Hastings, a charming and good-natured amateur sleuth in 1937. Originally published in 1944, the novel follows Lady Lupin’s unexpected marriage to unconventional vicar Andrew Hasting and her subsequent involvement in solving the murder of overly pious curate Charles Young. Coggin’s storytelling blends elements of Agatha Christie and PG Wodehouse, focusing on the humorous interactions of the bright young characters but capturing a unique snapshot of pre-World War II society. While Lady Lupin’s lack of awareness can be frustrating, Coggin expertly balances social commentary, crime and humour, making the novel a promising start to Lady Lupin’s detective adventures. Read our full review here.
Buy now on Amazon or Bookshop.org

12Murder Under the Mistletoe by Liz Fielding

Murder Under the Mistletoe by Liz Fielding front cover

In Murder Under the Mistletoe by Liz Fielding, the second instalment in the Maybridge Murder Mystery series, busy mum and savvy amateur detective Abby Finch finds herself entangled in a Christmassy crime when a man is killed via electrocution, seemingly an unintended target of a plot to kill a blackmailer. Abby’s expertise in gardening becomes a crucial element of the story and, as she investigates, plenty of intriguing twists and red herrings are uncovered. Fielding blends family dynamics, a budding romance and a quaint village setting, capturing the essence of the Christmas season. Murder Under the Mistletoe is a fun-filled and well-crafted cosy mystery that combines holiday cheer with a compelling whodunnit.
Buy now on Amazon

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