It’s that time of year again and while our Christmases are meant to be merry and bright (and for some, white), if we’re honest with ourselves there’s probably been an occasion or two when, surrounded by drunk relatives, we’ve secretly harboured the desire to serve up the Christmas pudding with a side of poison.
So as not to get anyone killed/wind up in jail I suggest that instead you read The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding by Agatha Christie which includes royal rubies, an English country house and a good old fashioned murder plot—sure to entertain and expel any of your own homicidal thoughts… hopefully. And while we’re on the subject of murder there happens to be one committed on Christmas Street in Stanley Ellin’s story A Death on Christmas Street. Pay attention from sentence one and you may solve the crime before the other characters come to their own conclusions.
Sleuths and Private Eyes
If you fancy yourself a mystery sleuth then you can’t go past a Sherlockian short story. Lucky for you there’s a great yuletide whodunit the famous detective must solve in The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. If after reading you still haven’t had your fill of elementary investigations then why not give a Sherlock/Conan Doyle inspired mystery a go? You could try A Scandal in Winter by Gillian Linscott, Christmas Eve by S.C. Roberts or The Secret in the Pudding Bag and Herlock Sholmes Christmas Case by Peter Todd.
Rated by many as second only to Holmes among English detectives is G.K. Chesterton’s character, Father Brown. While he would prefer to save souls he also happens to be very good at solving crimes as evidenced in the Christmas themed The Flying Stars. And while we happen to be discussing the topic of religion I should make mention of Andrew Klavan’s story The Killer Christian. Basically the tale is about a devout Catholic/hit man for the mob who meets an ‘angel’ and let’s just say it changes the course of his mission.
For those of you interested in stories by celebrated writers you can’t go past Markheim by Robert Louis Stevenson which features murder, antiques and a brush with the supernatural. Then there’s Thomas Hardy’s The thieves who couldn’t help sneezing—a deviation from his usual more harrowing tales (think of poor Tess of the d’Urbervilles!)—a humorous story about robbers who give away their hiding place because of hay fever like symptoms.
Speaking of thieves and other suspicious characters
As a child I thought Santa was the most shady of them all. Basically he breaks into houses to steal milk and cookies (or, as was the case in my house, beer), forces his reindeer to fly a heavy load of presents to every house in the world in a single night (if only PETA could find his North Pole mystery lair) and his beard is basically a bushy, white balaclava. Therefore in the spirit of my overthinking five year old self I recommend you read some dubious Santa stories including, Damon Runyon’s Dancing Dan’s Christmas and Ron Goulart’s A Visit from St. Nicholas.
The best part about all these Christmas mysteries is that you can find them all in the same place as they happen to be part of Otto Penzler’s, The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries. Penzler who is a writer, publisher and proprietor of Manhattan’s Mysterious Bookshop, draws on his encyclopaedic knowledge of English-language crime fiction collecting the best Christmas crime stories from the past and present.
What’s your favourite Christmas mystery story? Have you read any from The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries before? Let us know in the comments.