Santa Rollo wishing everyone a peaceful and happy holiday.
Santa Rollo wishing everyone a peaceful and happy holiday.
It’s the time of the season where I like to indulge myself in a little holiday criminal activity… on the written page only of course. Over the past few years I read one or two mysteries set during the Christmas season. This year’s top choice is Christmas at The Mysterious Bookshop.
As a way to give back to his customers for their support and loyalty, The owner of The Mysterious Bookshop, Otto Penzler, commissioned an original short story from a top notch crime writer each year that he would give away to his devoted customers. Penzler gave the authors three rules; first the story had to be a mystery, second it had to be set during the Christmas season, and finally The Mysterious Bookshop had to be included in some way. Over the years, writers have included Lawrence Block, Anne Perry, Mary Higgins Clark, Ed McBain, Donald E. Westlake, and Meagan Abbott among others. In all, 17 stories were written.
In 2010, Penzler published the complete collection of short fiction under the title Christmas at The Mysterious Bookshop. Recently, I purchased a copy and am ready to sit down by the fireplace with a hot chocolate and dive in. Okay, I live in Florida and I don’t have a fireplace! It will be more like turning on the air conditioning and a cold drink, but a fireplace and hot chocolate sounds more cozy and seasonal.
There are plenty of Christmas crime tales to keep you busy for many seasons to come, especially if you read cozy’s. I rarely do, but admittedly I have indulged Lea Wait’s Shadows on a Maine Christmas is a favorite.
I have listed below a partial list Christmas themed mysteries I’ve read in past years, and I am always looking for suggestions for the future.
Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (aka A Murder for Christmas & A Holiday for Murder) – Agatha Christie
The Spy Who Came for Christmas – David Morrell
A Christmas Tragedy (short story) – Agatha Christie
Silent Night (Spenser) Robert B. Parker and Helen Brann
The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries – Otto Penzler (editor)
Visions of Sugar Plums – Janet Evanovich
Deck the Halls – Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark
Merry Christmas, Alex Cross – James Patterson
Shadows on a Maine Christmas – Lea Wait
Sanity Clause – Steve Brewer
King’s Christmas (short story) – Richard Neer
Over the years, I have developed a bit of an addiction to reading holiday themed mysteries around this time of the year. Murder, mayhem and Christmas make for a good holiday treat. I thought I would list a few seasonal mystery books I have read over the years that you may enjoy.
Hercule Poirot’s Christmas- Agatha Christie
Technically, I have not read this yet. I bought a copy a couple of days ago and just began it last night. But hey, it’s Dame Agatha, so it can’t be bad.
Silent Night – Robert B. Parker
Robert B. Parker was one of my favorite authors. This slender volume was left uncompleted when the author passed away in 2010. The book was completed by his long time editor and friend Helen Brann. Subsequently, we got one last Spenser novel from the master. It’s not Parker at his best, but even middle of the road Parker is better than none at all.
The Spy Who Came For Christmas – David Morrell
Santa Fe, New Mexico is one of my favorite cities to visit. David Morrell, born in Canada, has lived in Santa Fe for many years. He knows the town and uses it’s famed art strip, Canyon Road, as the setting for this fast paced snowy Christmas Eve thriller.
Christmas at The Mysterious Bookshop – Otto Penzler
For 17 years, Otto Penzler commissioned a Christmas themed short story from one of his favorite mystery writers. The one criteria, besides a Christmas setting, was the story or at least some of it had to take place at Penzler’s famed NYC Mysterious Bookshop. In 2010, he compiled the stories and published this excellent collection. Among the authors, Lawrence Block, Donald Westlake, S.J.Rozan and Mary Higgins Clark. A must read.
Wreck the Halls – Sarah Graves
I earlier mentioned New Mexico as one of my favorite places to visit. The great state of Maine is another. Like New Mexico, I have been to Maine a few times. On one of our trips, my wife and I went to Eastport. Maine, the eastern most city in the United States. While walking along the small town’s main street we came across a hardware store. We noticed there was something odd about its window display. In one corner, there was a series of paperback books, all by one author…Sarah Graves. Intrigued, we went in and browsed through some of the books and decided to purchase two. The woman behind the counter, then asked us if we would like the books autographed? The author was upstairs, she said pointing to a staircase toward the back of the store. We climbed up and sure enough, there was Sarah Graves sitting at a desk. We talked for a few minutes, and she signed our books. While I never found out, I suspect Ms. Graves owned the hardware store. It would make sense, but then again, like her books, it’s a mystery.
Shadows of a Maine Christmas Lea Wait
Like Ms. Graves, Lea Wait is a Maine author, and she captures the state’s atmosphere superbly in her series of cozy mysteries. You genuinely feel like you are in small town Maine. Murder, a bit of violence, and long buried secrets all come to light in this holiday treat.
A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
Okay, it may be a bit of a stretch to include Dicken’s classic as a mystery, but think about it; the book is filled with suspense, ghosts and a bit of mayhem. I have read A Christmas Carol several times over the years and it’s always a pleasure,
When asked to donate to help the poor for the holidays the greediest, grumpiest Grinch of all time, Ebenezer Scrooge, replies “Are there no prisons? Are there no union workhouses?”
One of the greatest characters in Charles Dicken’s brilliant library of creations is Ebenezer Scrooge. He’s the epitome of meanness, a tower of cold unmoving steel, dismissing Christmas with the wave of a hand and his own personal mantra, “Bah Humbug!” It’s a phrase that has become part of our everyday language.
It was Dicken’s ability as a writer to take a wretched old geezer, full of nastiness and miserliness, and convincingly have him find redemption.
This time of the year I always try to watch at least one film version of A Christmas Carol. This year, it was the 1938 film with Reginald Owen as Scrooge. I didn’t think Owen made for a great Ebenezer, but the film is entertaining and certainly worth watching.
With all that said, below is a list of my the top five A Christmas Carol movies.
5) Scrooge (1970) with Albert Finney if for no other reason that than for the show stopping, Thank You, Very Much number.
4) Scrooged (1988) with Bill Murray. Enough said!
3) Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983) just because Scrooge McDuck rules!
2) A Christmas Carol (1984) George C. Scott’s gruff voice and demeanor are pure perfection.1) A Christmas Carol (1951) Nobody does it better than Alastair Sim. The film itself is a holiday masterpiece.
Please feel free to share your own favorite.