The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries by Otto Penzler (editor)
|The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries by Otto Penzler (editor)|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: Murder, theft and mayhem – just the right themes to balance the occasionally saccharine aspects of this festive season. Perfect reading matter for a dark and spooky winter's night curled up in front of the fire.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 738||Date: November 2014|
|Publisher: Head of Zeus|
Nostalgia is a big part of the Christmas experience, and that's provided in sack-loads by this hefty tome of short stories. Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot and Brother Cadfael jostle Morse, Rumpole and Vic Warshawski for space on these tightly packed pages, while lesser known and long since forgotten writers furnish new and unexpected pleasures for even the most well-read of book worms.
The editor, Otto Penzler, owns the famous Mysterious Bookshop in New York and is considered one of the world's greatest authorities on crime and mysteries. He certainly lives up to his reputation here: not only has he provided us with a well-balanced and intriguing collection of stories, but he has also added fascinating snippets of information on the authors. Did you know, for example, that the series of books about Raffles, the gentleman jewel thief, were written by Arthur Conan Doyle's brother-in-law, and that there is a theory Hornung created his anti-hero as a tongue-in-cheek foil to the world-famous detective? And that Thomas Hardy, often known as the king of gloom and doom, was capable of writing a light-hearted tale about sneezing? Who'd have thought it of the creator of The Mayor of Casterbridge?
A further strength of the book is the fact that it is loosely divided into themes – traditional, funny, scary, puzzling and surprising to name but a few. This means the reader can select a story to suit his or her mood, and they are all short enough to read over your evening cocoa. Just don't blame us if you choose unwisely and end up leaving the lights on all night! There is something for everyone in these pages: the warmth and humanity of those two doughty defenders of the soul, Father Brown and Brother Cadfael; the glittering splendour and ragged poverty of our cities, and settings as far apart as the English country house, a department store in Bombay and the elegant streets of Manhattan. It cannot be denied that some of these tales have travelled the mean roads of time more successfully than others, but any short-comings of this sort are more than made up for by the sensation of entering worlds now forgotten and almost lost. You'll need a stronger than average stocking if you ask Santa for this enormous book, but it will be worth it!
Aficionados of crime short stories will also enjoy A New Omnibus of Crime by Tony Hillerman (Editor) and Rosemary Herbert (Editor). For more from Catherine Aird, we can recommend Past Tense.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries by Otto Penzler (editor) at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries by Otto Penzler (editor) at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.