This year, I am taking on The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries, a 674 page tome containing 59 individual stories about the Christmas season. Conveniently, it’s broken up into blog-post sized sections. For today I’ve read sections seven and eight. (Section 1, 2, 3 & 4, 5)
A Surprising Little Christmas
- Noel, Noel, Barry Perowne - The long build up was kind of dull for the okay punchline.
- Death on Christmas Eve, Stanley Ellin - A more interesting twist here, it colors the whole story before.
- The Chinese Apple, Joseph Shearing - Fine, a bit obvious.
These three stories each end in what amounts to a punch line. "Noel, Noel" is told by a man learning the story of what his good-for-nothing brother, Noel, did with his life. It’s fine. Not really a mystery. "The Chinese Apple" has a twist that I saw coming a mile off.
"Death on Christmas Eve" was a bit more interesting. It follows a lawyer called to a house. A brother and sister live there, and the brother is convinced his sister murdered his wife. The twist in this one gave the whole story a new tone and was quite well played.
A Modern Little Christmas
- And All Through the House, Ed McBain - Adorable and humorous. Is this the first real (spoiler) nativity in the book?
- An Early Christmas, Doug Allyn - Solid detective story. I really liked it.
- The Live Tree, John Lutz - Well done creepy little tale.
- Three-Dot Po, Sara Paretsky - Entertaining murder mystery adventure, good style, fast paced.
- Mad Dog, Dick Lochte - Kinda neat. Just the final scene of a classic mystery structure.
Ooh, these were pretty good. The less interesting ones were "The Live Tree" and "Mad Dog", and they were both still pretty good. "The Live Tree" is about a guy whose black sheep brother comes home for Christmas, trying to make amends, while "Mad Dog" is a slow reveal of a crime long-buried, live on radio.
Both "An Early Christmas" and "Three-Dot Po" were solid mystery stories in the modern style. The first follows two police detectives trying to find out who killed a scum-bag real estate lawyer. In "Three-Dot Po", a hard-boiled female PI loses a friend to murder and teams up with the dead woman’s dog to solve the case.
"And All Through the House" was fricking adorable. I didn’t spot the punch-line coming, so it really worked. The style of the writing was excellent, a great balance between reality and breezy comedy, and so many people can’t pull off indicating action with dialogue, but this does a great job.