Book Review: Murder at Christmas: Ten Classic Crime Stories for the Festive Season by Cecily Gayford (Ed.)


Title: Murder at Christmas: Ten Classic Crime Stories for the Festive Season by Cecily Gayford (Editor)
Rating: 4 stars (🌟🌟🌟🌟)
Publisher:  Profile Books

This is the third in this series that I've read and I am still enjoying the collected works. Another seasonal read for me and I thought this was a very good collection.

There were authors that were new to me and I'd only come across one of these stories before. I've two more books in this series to read and expect I'll enjoy those as well. Over the last two years, Cecily Gayford & Martin Edwards have become my favourite editors who compile books of classic crime short stories.


Following are my thoughts on each story herein:

The Snapdragon and the C.I.D  by Margery Allingham- in which the solution to a murder is hidden because of a ruse to hide another. By the story's end, the only question left to answer is if the inspector had enough time to get suited up to play Father Christmas at the children's party. Charming story.

Let Nothing You Dismay! by Ellis Peters-in which a young woman breaks into a country house only to have to deal with the arrival of a pair of burglars. Before all is said and done there are carol singers in the road helping to thwart a getaway, a shot in the night and a family reunion with one member having quite a story to relate. This was fun to read and the ending was well done.

The Lion's Tooth by Edmund Crispin- in which the solution to kidnap for ransom & the bludgeoning of a nun lies in something hidden in translation. this one wasn't set at Christmas but during the hard winter.

Rumpole and the Spirit of Christmas by John Mortimer- in which Rumpole has a rough go with a spirit of Christmas and it extracts its price in court. All the usual wit is on display here and that alone made it worth reading. This story takes place in the lead up to Christmas & the scene is set in the first line of the story. 

The Assassins' Club by Nicholas Blake- in which a dinner with a group of detective novelists takes an all too real turn when after the lights go out and come back on, one of the guests has been murdered. No mention of Christmas but there is snow. Good misdirection and very quick solution.

The Ascham by Michael Innes- in which Sir John & Lady Appleby are stranded in the snow at night and take refuge at nearby Gore Castle. Another traveller has come to stay and Lord Appleby (also the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police) feels things are amiss with the assembled group. All was well with this one until the very end. The final line is pithy but there's never any answer to what was in the pocketbook of the blackmailer!

The Scandal in Winter by Gillian Linscott- in which young Jennifer (who is vacationing with her parents and sister) recounts an encounter with "Silver Stick" and "Square Bear" at a snowy Hotel Edelweiss in the Swiss Alps, where the duo have come to clear the name of Irene, who is believed to have murdered her husband a year earlier. I really enjoyed this one.

Waxworks by Ethel Lina White- in which a reporter spends the evening in a wax museum. I read this one in Silent Nights by Martin Edwards.

Twixt the Cup and the Lip by Julian Symons- in which a jewel heist in the week leading up to Christmas is carried out and ultimately foiled by a very unlikely witness via an even more obscure means. A nice story but I figured out the situation & solution far too early. Still a good story.

Nebuchadnezzar by Dorothy L. Sayers- in which a holiday round of charades proves all too telling for one player, culminating in a wild confession.

Summary:   Christmas is a season of overindulgence. For most of us, that means an extra mince pie, a second helping of turkey, or perhaps a third glass of mulled wine. But for some, the festive season is a time to settle old scores, dispatch new enemies and indulge ... in murder.

Here, ten masters of the genre serve up mystery and mayhem aplenty. From a dowager's missing jewels to a festive dinner gone horribly wrong, these classic crime stories will delight, puzzle and satisfy long after the last strands of tinsel have been cleared away.

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