Read The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries by Otto Penzler Online


Have yourself a crooked little Christmas with The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries. Edgar Award-winning editor Otto Penzler collects sixty of his all-time favorite holiday crime stories--many of which are difficult or nearly impossible to find anywhere else. From classic Victorian tales by Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Thomas Hardy, to contemporary storiesHave yourself a crooked little Christmas with The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries. Edgar Award-winning editor Otto Penzler collects sixty of his all-time favorite holiday crime stories--many of which are difficult or nearly impossible to find anywhere else. From classic Victorian tales by Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Thomas Hardy, to contemporary stories by Sara Paretsky and Ed McBain, this collection touches on all aspects of the holiday season, and all types of mysteries. They are suspenseful, funny, frightening, and poignant. Included are puzzles by Mary Higgins Clark, Isaac Asimov, and Ngaio Marsh; uncanny tales in the tradition of A Christmas Carol by Peter Lovesey and Max Allan Collins; O. Henry-like stories by Stanley Ellin and Joseph Shearing, stories by pulp icons John D. MacDonald and Damon Runyon; comic gems from Donald E. Westlake and John Mortimer; and many, many more. Almost any kind of mystery you’re in the mood for--suspense, pure detection, humor, cozy, private eye, or police procedural—can be found in these pages.  FEATURING:-        Unscrupulous Santas-        Crimes of Christmases Past and Present-        Festive felonies-        Deadly puddings-        Misdemeanors under the mistletoe-        Christmas cases for classic characters including Sherlock Holmes, Brother Cadfael, Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Ellery Queen, Rumpole of the Bailey, Inspector Morse, Inspector Ghote, A.J. Raffles, and Nero Wolfe....

Title : The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780345802989
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 654 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries Reviews

  • Donna Davis
    2019-04-09 17:42

    I have never before reviewed a book that I hadn't yet finished yet and wasn't planning to abandon, but the season is here, and you have to have this book! I was fortunate enough to get it as a "first read" via the giveaways. It doesn't matter, because if it is for sale before Christmas, I plan to buy a couple more copies to give as gifts. It's that good.The stories are organized according to category in a format and layout that is congenial all by itself. There are ten sections, starting with "A Traditional Christmas", with the first entry being one by Agatha Christie; it is a story that has aged well, and I don't remember having read it even though I thought I'd read everything by that writer. There are a few more, and range from just a few pages, double columns on each page, to 25 or 30 pp. Then we move on to "A Funny Little Christmas". The first there is a story by the late great Donald Westlake, and I gobbled it up and then felt bad that I hadn't saved that story for last, because I adore his work and he's gone and can't write anything more. But I perked up when I noted that yet another section, "A Modern Little Christmas", has an unread (by me) story by Ed McBain. There are many others. The final section, "A Classic Little Christmas", bookends the anthology neatly by finishing with Dame Agatha. All told there must be about sixty stories, maybe more.The anthology, edited by the brilliant and acclaimed Otto Penzler, is billed as having a number of rare or never-published short stories, and I think it's a true claim. There are many mystery writers I've read and enjoyed here, and others I had never even heard of, but found immensely entertaining. I haven't skipped any yet, but even if I find something I don't care to read, the book is worth owning. I know that already. It is also billed as an anthology to warm the heart of any grinch, and indeed, there has been at least one story with a satisfyingly creepy ending.One of the charming things about anthologies is that one can read a single story in a sitting and not feel too bad when it's time to put the bookmark in and go get something done. Then it waits there to greet us as we return from executing less pleasurable tasks, a reward that invites us to sit down, curl up with good cup of coffee or the dog or both and have a cozy read. It also makes the book a lovely thing to keep where guests can access it, because they can enjoy it even if they haven't time to read more than a story or two in between other activities....but I'm keeping you. You could be reaching for your car keys, your bus pass, or even better, going to another window to find this book online and order it. Once you see it, you will most likely feel as I do...unwilling to part with your own copy, yet yearning to get at least one more for somebody else! Get the plastic out and do it right away.Later note: I wrote this review two years ago and have continued to advance-read two or three books weekly and blog about them since then. I still haven't found a Christmas collection for adults that I like as much. The only other books in my large Christmas book collection that measure up, apart from Dickens of course, is an anthology that features Norman Rockwell art and was published in the 1980s, and for young adults and precocious children, A Newbury Christmas. As to Christmas books within the mystery genre, this one is simply the best there is.

  • Leslie
    2019-03-30 17:52

    I had a lot of fun reading these mystery short stories but the book is big!! It might have been better if I had started in early November instead of the beginning of December. I had read surprisingly few of the stories before (only Arthur Conan Doyle & Agatha Christie I believe). It was a nice touch that the book opened and closed with stories by the Grand Dame of Mysteries, Agatha Christie, the only author to have more than one story (one a Poirot story & the other a Miss Marple).The 2 stories I liked best were satires: "The Secret in the Pudding Bag & Herlock Sholmes's Christmas Case" by Peter Todd, a spoof of Sherlock Holmes, and "A Wreath for Marley" by Max Allen Collins, a fun mashup of The Maltese Falcon and A Christmas Carol.

  • Kirsty
    2019-04-18 19:57

    I could not resist purchasing The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries this year, and began to read it as soon as it was December. It is a chunky and clunky tome, so I decided from the off to spread my reading of it out over a few days. I had initially decided to read one of the sections per day so that it would last me all of advent, but I ended up reading far more of it on some days than others, and finished it in just under a week.The stories here, as mentioned above, are split into rather a lot of sections, including 'Puzzling', 'Sherlockian', 'Modern', 'Funny', and 'Scary'. The collection is a compendium which features the work of the likes of Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Ngaio Marsh, Thomas Hardy, and Colin Dexter. I had read several of these stories before, but a lot of them were new to me. As I expect with such a varied collection, some of the tales were not at all my style (the hardboiled and modern ones particularly), but there were others which I adored. The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries is a wonderful tome to dip in and out of, and it can be dug out and read from one year to the next. It would also make a great volume for newcomers to crime fiction; the contents here are so different, and encompass so many periods, that everyone is sure to find something that they love.My favourite stories are as follows:- 'The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding' by Agatha Christie (RR)- 'The Butler's Christmas Eve' by Mary Roberts- 'The Trinity Cat' by Ellis Peters- 'The Thieves Who Couldn't Help Sneezing' by Thomas Hardy- 'A Scandal in Winter' by Gillian Linscott- 'The Christmas Client' by Edward D. Hoch- 'The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle' by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (RR)- 'The Carol Singers' by Josephine Bell (RR)- 'Waxworks' by Ethel Lina White- 'Cambric Tea' by Marjorie Bowen- 'Blue Christmas' by Peter Robinson- 'Death on the Air' by Ngaio Marsh (RR)- 'A Christmas Tragedy' by Agatha Christie (RR)

  • Subashini
    2019-03-26 20:01

    3 to 3.5 stars. As expected for an anthology of this size, there's some truly absorbing stories and a bunch of mediocre ones. But just what I needed for this time of year, when the brain is largely mush.

  • Neil McCrea
    2019-03-31 23:57

    I assume the publishers who giveaway books in the first reads program want the recipients to review the book in time for the official release date of the book. This book is so large, with tiny type and two columns per page, and I am reading so many things at once that I will be lucky to finish this by Christmas much less in time for the holiday buying public. So instead of waiting until the end, I shall endeavor to write mini-reviews of some of the stories throughout the next 4-5 weeks or so.I should also note that despite the Christmas mystery theme of the collection this book is very wide in scope. It covers a great many styles (fair play, locked door, police procedural, hard boiled, etc) from a great many eras (Conan Doyle through Mary Higgins Clark).The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding The volume begins with an Agatha Christie tale. Hercule Poirot works on a mystery involving a stolen gem, a boxing day prank, and a couple of unfortunate romantic entanglements. The story is light, fun and Christie displays a better sense of character than I often give her credit for. Poirot is of course simultaneously charming and a pain in the ass.Gold, Frankincense and Murder Catherine Aird scrupulously writes only fair play mysteries. The mystery must be solved using only observation and deduction, never coincidence or confession, and all the elements to solve the case must be available to the reader before the detective gives the solution. The best fair play mysteries are better than an afternoon of doing crossword puzzles. Sadly, many of them are so concerned with puzzle and plot that they lack the other elements of good literature. Aird successfully bypasses that pitfall. Fun.Boxing Unclever I'm completely unfamiliar with Robert Barnard. The 90's was apparently his heyday, but his style is completely in the old fashioned Agatha Christie vein. There are no detectives in this one, here we are entirely on the wrong side of the law. The bloviating master thespian at the center of this story is a hoot. Solidly done, and rather fun.The Proof of the Pudding I've never read any Peter Lovesy before, but my mother is a steadfast fan. Here is our first truly dark tale, a story of domestic violence set on a London Christmas 1946. Simple and moving.The Adventure of the Dauphin's Doll An Ellery Queen tale. Their were decades worth of Ellery Queen's Mystery magazine stacked up in the basement of my childhood home. I would occasionally pick up an issue when I was lacking in reading material of my own. I don't remember Ellery Queen stories being as full of wordplay and general goofiness as this one is. Dauphin's Doll has Ellery Queen and his father matching wits against a Arsene Lupin type master thief. There is a rip-roaring, pulpy adventure feel to this story.Morse's Greatest Mystery My mother is a great fan of Colin Dexter's Inspecter Morse novels. I am only passing familiar with the old BBC series. This story is practically flash fiction. A tiny morsel likely to appeal only to diehard fans of the character.More Than Flesh and Blood I'm completely unfamiliar with the work of Susan Moody. This tale is more potboiler than mystery, but I enjoyed this story of dark family secrets revealed to no one's satisfaction.The Butler's Christmas Eve I'd never read any Mary Roberts Rinehart before, even though she wrote the first mystery novel to appear on the best seller list in America back in 1909, and she had a very long and very prolific career. In this story, an elderly butler is dismissed for being too old to carry on his duties. A year later the also elderly master of the house asks the butler back to see if he can suss out some strange goings on in the household. This is a sentimental tale, sweet but not saccharine, with more than a touch of Dickens in it.The Trinity Cat I enjoyed the old Cadfael mystery series based on Ellis Peter's novels, but this story is nothing more than a curmudgeonly rant pretending to be a contemporary mystery and wrapped in an old issue of Cat Fancy magazine. In the 1970's, an old lady is murdered for her jewelry, a country constable goes on and on about how such a thing never would have happened in his day and that today's youth have no respect for their elders, then (view spoiler)[a cat solves the mystery (hide spoiler)]. Crap.The Burglar and the Whatsit Donald Westlake, writer of the extremely hard boiled Parker novels, gives us a lightly comic Christmas yarn. A Burglar disguised as Santa Claus is badgered into helping out an alcoholic inventor. Mildly amusing, and completely surprising.Dancing Dan's Christmas Damon Runyon always convinces me, however briefly, that being a petty criminal in 1920's New York must have been a gas and that no matter your vices if you have a good heart things will work out. I would not be the tiniest bit surprised to learn that this story was the inspiration for the movie Bad Santa. Hilarious and legitimately heart warming.A Visit from St. Nicholas Ron Goulart has created an unusual niche for himself writing science fiction mysteries. This isn't one of those. Here we have a mildly comic tale about a down on his luck ad man dressing up as Santa in order to burglarize his ex-wife.The Thieves Who Couldn't Help Sneezing Thomas Hardy, the Victorian novelist responsible for writing the most depressing novel in the English language (Jude the Obscure), also wrote this literary novelty. It's a humorous fairy tale sort of story set in what appears to be late medieval rural England.Rumpole and the Spirit of Christmas I was surprised to discover that the Rumpole television series pre-dated his written adventures. The show was a great favorite of my mother's and I enjoyed it as well. I always got more from the humor in the show than I ever did from any of the "mysteries". This short story is no exception.Otto Penzler edited this book, and he is surely a name to look for. I can think of no individual with a greater knowledge of the mystery genre than Mr. Penzler. He is the owner of the Mysterious Bookstore in NYC, a location that easily makes my top 5 bookstores of all time.It is completely impossible to give a star rating to this collection, as it contains stories that span the gamut. Fortunately, there are far more 4 & 5 star stories than 1 & 2 star entries. Regardless, I am certain that anyone can find something in this book to adore, even if they aren't fond of mysteries or are perpetual grinches.

  • Éowyn
    2019-04-03 20:44

    I have yet to finish this book, and I'm not quite sure that I will. If I do finish, it is certainly going to be with some skipping about as some of the stories are a whee bit much for me. However, there are at least several truly fun ones, and the cover is even more adorable in person, so as of this moment I would give it a 50/50 review. :)12/28/16 Update:Finished! And I actually quite liked it.I ended up reading only 56/59 stories because of the reasons stated above. Favorite stories:"The Butler's Christmas Eve" by Mary Rinehart - She's simply a favorite author of mine. "A Scandal in Winter" by Gillian Linscott - A Sherlock Holmes set in Victorian Switzerland the atmosphere is glorious! "Crime's Christmas Carol" by Novella Page - The classic story of a penniless young couple at Christmastime. It is both touching and comical."The Killer Christian" by Andrew Klaven - "A story of faith and redemption". This is probably the strongest story in the collection. It also holds the distinction of being one of the few stories that makes me start crying when I try to tell someone the storyline. "Death on Christmas Eve" by Stanley Ellen - Quite uncanny. It wraps to a rather startling finish, if finish it can be called. :)"Death on the Air" by Ngario Marsh - This one has some sweet touches. "A Christmas Tragedy" by Agatha Christie - Miss Marple's observations on life are right on.

  • JulieDurnell
    2019-04-17 20:36

    A great selection of Christmas mystery short stories, enjoyed most all of them, a couple I skipped that were not for me. Took me a year reading just a few pages at a time, but the selection of well know and not so well known authors was intriguing!

  • Glen
    2019-04-10 20:47

    I won this book in a goodreads drawing.Another well chosen anthology of mysteries by Penzler, with some truly obscure gems. However, the theme does begin to wear on one after a while.

  • Tiffani
    2019-04-12 22:47

    What could be more perfect than mysteries at Christmas? Christmas is the happiest time of year and all that, but the cold winter days are also the perfect setting for all things dark and twisty. Maybe a murder, perhaps a robbery gone wrong, or maybe there could be a ghost. However you like your mystery there is something for you in The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries. There are ghosts, thieves and cold-hearted murderers. There are traditional mysteries and modern mysteries, funny mysteries and seriously scary mysteries. For added measure, Otto Penzler (the editor) threw in a few classics from the greats - Agatha Christie, Rex Stout and Arthur Conan Doyle.I loved this. It was perfect Christmastime / end-of-the year reading material, combining one of my favorite genres with Christmas spirit. I don't often read short stories. It isn't a conscious decision, it just kind of works out that way. In any case, the short story form really worked for me in this instance, allowing me to squeeze in a complete story in between Christmas shopping, work and all the preparations that go in making this time of year so special.The collection is divided into ten kinds of stories: traditional, funny, Sherlockian, pulpy, uncanny, scary, surprising, modern, puzzling, and classic Christmas mysteries. Though I liked the traditional and modern stories the best (which seems odd but it is what it is), I found something to enjoy in every set. Donald E. Westlake's The Burglar and the Whatsit was laugh out loud funny. Joseph Shearing's The Chinese Apple was dark and definitely twisty. There were a couple of interesting interpretations of Dickens's A Christmas Carol ghost story. Really, I can't recommend this book enough. There were so many great stories. One last thought - in addition to the great stories, you get to know a little bit about each author as Penzler has kindly included a paragraph about each story's author and tidbits about the origin of the story.

  • Julie Davis
    2019-03-29 19:53

    There is no better time to reread a short story collection than one that is seasonal. I guess all those early Christmas ads I hate have worked enough magic on me to make me want to dive into the season a bit early.This is a top notch collection of Christmas mysteries, ranging from G.K. Chesterton, Mary Roberts Rinehart and Agatha Christie to Donald Westlake, Mary Higgins Clark and Ed McBain. There are funny mysteries, hard boiled mysteries, ghostly mysteries, and heartless mysteries — all set at that special time of year when the contrast to Christmas emphasizes the point just a little more.As in all his "Big Book" anthologies, Otto Penzler prefaces each tale with a succinct author summary which gives nice context. A number of the stories are rare or never published before which is refreshing to habitual readers of Christmas story collections. (Guilty as charged.)This is a great collection to just dip into for one story or to keep around as a way to slow down a little amidst the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations.

  • Carrie Kilgore
    2019-04-01 18:50

    This is a fabulous collection of short stories, connected by Christmas (at least a mention) and mystery. They run the gamut from profound to silly, from the deft cozy to the chilling. The stories are sectioned so the reader can choose specific types (traditional, funny, Sherlockian, pulpy, uncanny, sorry, surprising, modern, puzzling and classic). I read it straight through, enjoying the variety. Many of the greats are represented here (Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Ellery Queen, Robert Louis Stevenson, O. Henry, Rex Stout, and so forth) as are many less well known writers. Many of these stories are extremely hard to find anywhere else. Each story is preceded by a short blurb on the author, interesting and often surprising. This is a volume I intend to dip into each year... even the busiest at yuletide should be able to find a few minutes for a short story here and there. Highly recommended.

  • Ryan
    2019-04-11 21:44

    When I'm able to combine my love of mysteries with my love of Christmas, I'm in heaven. Make them short stories, and I'm soaring so far above heaven, the angels are having a hard time finding me.Like any other collection of short stories, The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries has a few misses for me, but there are so many more hits. Going into it, I knew there was no way I would end up liking all 60 stories. What surprised me, was the fact that I enjoyed as many of them as I did. Anyone who know me won't be surprised that I jumped for glee when I came across both stories by Agatha Christie, or that I about bust a gut when I stumbled upon the story by Mary Roberts Rinehart. It's impossible for me to not like something either author has ever written. Add in stories by G.K. Chesterton, Ngaio Marsh, and Arthur Conan Doyle, and it's a perfect Christmas miracle.What may comes as surprise to some, is how many of the more modern stories I enjoyed just as much. I'll be the first to admit that when it comes to mysteries, I'm a Golden Age fan all the way. I tend to not even bother with some of the newer writers, and I can never get behind the whole "cozy" craze. Maybe it's because of the main theme, but for the most part I really enjoyed what I read, regardless of who the author was. One new author, to me anyway, that I really enjoyed was Peter Lovesey. I'm pretty sure I'll be checking out more of his work. Did I mention there is a whole section for scarier Christmas stories? Loved them all!This will be a collection I can see myself grabbing off the bookcase every year. I may not read the whole thing through ever again, but I will read one or two of my favorites, or even decide to read through an entire section of stories. Regardless of how I read them, I know I'll be reading them all again.

  • Rachel
    2019-03-24 00:52

    After two years of Christmastime reading I've done it, I've finally finished this book. Overall I think it's a wonderful book full of authors Ive read and many others I haven't. For the most part I was impressed with the selection, however, one in particular left me scratching my head. "Christmas Party" by Rex Stout was fun at first for having an air of hardboiled noir but quickly grew sour when one of the characters is mainly referred to as "the Oriental" and especially damning when the main character says, "I'm not up on Orientals, but I understand they slant their eyes to keep you guessing" (565). And, not gonna lie, it was annoying that he would say she was a lovely ornament among Wolfe's things.Now I fully support knowing real history and being reminded from time to time. You can't read Lovecraft without acknowledging his racism, for example, and the 1950s viewpoints were questionable at best, but that kind of story in something like this? Perhaps it was an editorial decision, I don't know, but it was dampening to the overall feel of the book because this story was in the later sections. Ive read this whole book and only this story and one other just didn't "fit." The other I found disturbing, though that's entirely my own view.I still think it's a wonderful collection of stories. I know I'll reread some of the stories next Christmas and I think it's not bad to have in a mystery-lovers collection.

  • Jack R. Cotner
    2019-03-30 17:52

    “The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries” edited by Otto Penzler is just what the title says, “Big”—and certainly worth its weight. From the first Christmas whodunit, “The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding” by Agatha Christie through the entire collection are wonderful and fascinating short story takes on the winter season celebrations and crime. I discovered for the first time interesting works and authors like Fergus Hume and his “The Ghost’s Touch” published in 1906. This is a book I will enjoy for many, many years. A must read for anyone interested in Yuletide holiday whodunits.

  • Susan
    2019-04-03 23:03

    This massive and--be prepared--heavy tome probably has more hits and fewer misses than any short story collection you can think of. Beginning and ending with works by Agatha Christie, it includes popular writers like Mary Higgins Clark as well as long-forgotten pulp authors and some little known contemporaries. Some of them are more Christmas-focused than others, and there are some authors I would have liked to see included, but by and large this will keep you reading happily, Christmas or not, for a long time.

  • Carole Knoles
    2019-04-11 22:39

    What a treat! If you like a little holiday reading that is not too glycemic this book is a perfect sugarplum antidote. It is filled with stories by wonderful authors such as Agatha Christie, O. Henry, and Mary Higgins Clark and at nearly seven hundred pages would contain amusements for at least at least a few years to come. I am loving it!

  • Dave Fellows
    2019-03-25 22:04

    It’s taken me two years to finish this book, as I’ve only read it in the build-up to this and the past two Christmases. It would be inaccurate to say each and ever story was a five star gem, but there is at least something to enjoy in each of them, and if you like a good mystery and fancy something festive, this fits the bill. Most stories can be read in about half an hour, and the tales themselves are well selected and compiled.

  • Tiffany
    2019-04-11 22:00

    A diverse, awesome collection of mysteries! I strongly recommend this book for anyone who likes mysteries! There are many authors included here who have published other mysteries or books in other genres; the commentary on each author and their work proceeding each mystery is especially helpful if you want to take a closer look at a certain author or their work. Thank you!

  • Ray Akerboom
    2019-04-09 21:56

    The peace of Christmas and murder mysteries aren't two things one would normally combine. But in this book several of the best murder- or misschief stories are being presented in a fascinating way for those who want to take a break from peace and goodwill on earth!

  • Terry
    2019-03-23 21:56

    Borrowed from the local library. I really liked the stories but didn't complete the book. Next Christmas season, I'll pick up where I left off by either borrowing it again or outright purchasing the book.

  • Douglas
    2019-03-23 19:53

    Very interesting anthology of mystery stories taking place at Christmas season.

  • Ruth
    2019-04-14 22:52

    I only read the four short stories "required" by book club. They all took place at Christmastime but none had Christmas spirit. They were also too short to be satisfying.

  • Susan
    2019-03-28 17:51

    Hmmm, some good some not so.

  • Debra B.
    2019-04-12 22:54

    An excellent book and a perfect read during the holidays. Obviously great care went into selecting the stories to be included in this volume. Each story was highly entertaining.

  • Ada Haynes
    2019-04-11 21:55

    I read the Dutch edition, and, from the comments below, it's a selection of the selection (only 13 stories)... but I loved all of them.

  • Carole
    2019-04-15 23:04

    ReadableThis compilation certainty keeps you reading. There are only 2 stories I struggled with, that is down to me and not any author. There are some neat twists in the tale which I enjoyed. Certainly very tradable.

  • Erin Britton
    2019-04-19 00:50

    There’s nothing like a festive felony to keep you occupied on a cold and miserable winter’s evening, which is what makes The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries a true seasonal ‘must have’. Featuring some 60 stories from the greatest crime writers in history, The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries is bursting at the [stocking?] seams with Christmas carnage, midwinter murders and Noël noir.Whatever your festive mood, there’s a subsection of criminally good capers to suit you. From ‘A Traditional Little Christmas’ to ‘A Funny Little Christmas’, ‘A Sherlockian Little Christmas’ to ‘An Uncanny Little Christmas’, The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries has got you covered. Many of the best-loved crime authors are represented, with stories from the likes of Agatha Christie, Peter Lovesey, Arthur Conan Doyle, Colin Dexter, Ellis Peters, John Mortimer, Ed McBain, Sara Paretsky and Peter Robinson included among many others.Of course, where there are famous authors, there are also famous characters and so The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries includes adventures featuring many favourite characters from the crime genre. Hercule Poirot is present in The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding while Sherlock Holmes flexes his own little grey cells in The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle. Instantly recognisable sleuths can also be found in Morse’s Greatest Mystery and Rumpole and the Spirit of Christmas, while Brother Cadfael plays his own festive role in The Price of Light.While some of the characters and stories are very familiar, there are also many more obscure and surprising works included. Whether it be authors who are now sadly forgotten, those who were never that big in the UK in the first place, or those who are not commonly associated with mysteries, there are stories in The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries that should be new to even the most ardent mystery buff. The standouts among the lesser known stories include The Thieves Who Couldn’t Stop Sneezing, the surprisingly upbeat yet still moralistic Christmas tale from Thomas Hardy, and Markheim, Robert Louis Stevenson’s festive dissection of good versus evil.Each story is introduced by Otto Penzler (proprietor of the Mysterious Bookshop in New York and all-round King of Anthologies), who sets the murderous scene, introduces key characters and provides a bit of background about each author. These introductions are an informative, enjoyable extra and often point to other works that are very much worth checking out.The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries is an absolute delight. Not everyone will like every story but the included tales are, in general, top notch. Besides, even when a short story is more miss than hit, it’s still short. There are many stories that bear reading again and again and, whether you save The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries for the festive season or spread out the murder and mayhem across the year, there are hours and hours of wonderful tales of intrigue to keep you occupied.

  • Robyn
    2019-03-23 18:39

    A good collection, especially for those of us who love anything Christmas, with a few sour notes in the editor's writing. It's important to remember that those of us who have preferences in mystery fiction will not love every story in this book. I love a good old cozy, but I really dislike police procedurals, for example, so there are some stories here that aren't my cup of tea. However, there was only one story that I actually skipped, and that only because I was finding it so mind-numbingly boring a couple pages in that I wasn't willing to continue to torture myself. The rest were at least readable and ranged up to delightful. Many were uber-predictable, which is only to be expected, and some, of course, I'd read before. I had expected this to be relatively poor quality stories written by mostly unknown authors, with the names heralded on the cover the only that would be recognizable, in order to make the sales. That was not the case. However the publisher managed the copyrights, they should be proud, because these authors are mostly Names. There were a couple that have fallen out of general recognition after 110 years or so but who were known and prolific in their time, and whose stories I enjoyed enough to mark them down for further interest. My only real complaint is the visible work of the editor. The book was broken up into sections, each with a heading, but the headings often didn't seem to apply uniformly to the stories contained within each section, and usually the stories grouped together didn't have anything in particular in common. The book didn't feel jerky or badly arranged, and if the sections and their headings hadn't been there, it would have flowed nicely. As it was, the back of my mind would nag away at trying to figure out what types of stories would be considered "surprising" or "uncanny" and what about these stories made them deserve to go together (the "sherlockian" section was, of course, more obvious, as was the "pulpy" section). Secondarily, before each story was a page of introduction, but it often seemed so unrelated to the story at hand as to be jarring. The first Ellis Peters in the book, for example, mostly discussed Brother Cadfael and his medieval setting. But the story that followed was not a Cadfael mystery, and was set in modern times. I also have to take brief exception to the introduction to the Rex Stout story, as it described Archie Goodwin in terms inaccurate, as though he was Wolfe's thug and a man of physicality. He was Wolfe's man of *action*, yes, and occasionally had to throw a punch or two, but worked to avoid it as possible and was not in any way a "big" man. Regardless, the collection is worth having, and was an enjoyable read.

  • Chris
    2019-04-04 20:36

    The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries, edited by the incomparable Otto Penzler, is a collection so good that you could almost--almost--pick a short story at random and find yourself reading a gem. That's a rare thing indeed to be said about any short story compilation. Whether your taste is cozy classics, hard boiled brutality, or puzzling enigmas, this book offers you a healthy helping of each, all with a Christmas bent or theme.Of the 59 tales included in this volume, all but one were quite good, and many were outstanding. All the greats are here, too, from Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle to Max Allen Collins and Donald Westlake, and other notables in between. And among authors I wasn't familiar with, several were superb--among them Mary Robert Rinehart's "Butler's Christmas Eve," Damon Runyon's "Dancing Dan's Christmas," Gillian Linscott's "Scandal in Winter" (a non-canon Sherlock Holmes tale).There was only one story that fell short. Dreadfully short. "Gold, Frankincense and Murder" was hampered by astonishingly awful writing. The use of adverbs, advisable and useful in nonfiction, should be used only sparingly in fiction. Yet the author's liberal use of them in this story bordered on the criminal. And what thrusts the offense into felony territory is the use of adverbs to modify the word "said." Abominations like "she agreed vaguely"--instead of, simply, "she said" and letting the vagueness show in the words themselves--are peppered throughout. Its a veritable how-to guide for what not to do in fiction writing. I'm going on and on about all this mainly because it's the second story in the volume. Encountering it so soon in the book was almost enough to discourage me from pressing on; so I emphasize this mainly to encourage the reader just to plow through (or skip) the second story and get to the rest of the fantastic stories that make up the bulk of the book. Don't give up on it.In any case, all in all, The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries is a perfect read for the season. So go ahead and curl up in front of a roaring fire, sip some hot cocoa, and dive into this lengthy volume of yuletide murder and mayhem.

  • Dave
    2019-03-30 21:48

    2015: Finished the second half a bit early. Verdict still the same as last year--good, but a lot of mediocre, and more crime than mystery. Some very poor and very boring/dated mysteries here, though I was pleased to read a couple good ones I'd never hear of: "Mad Dog" by Dick Lochte and especially "The Chinese Apple" by Joseph Shearing. On the whole, the second half was better than the first half, including great stories by Stanley Ellin, G.K. Chesterton, Ed McBain, and Agatha Christie. I miss "The Necklace of Pearls" and "The Queen's Square" by Dorothy L. Sayers, and "Blind Man's Hood" by John Dickson Carr. And I hope there's a volume 2!2014: I thought maybe I could finish this by Christmas this year, but no: itis 650 double-column pages, after all. And it just seems wrong to plow into January with it solely to finish--this way I have the other half to read for next Christmas.Notes on the first half:While I love mysteries, and Christmas is a great time to set a mystery, it doesn't follow that the best stories by certain mystery authors include their Christmas stories. It's true in the case of Ellery Queen ("The Adventure of the Dauphin's Doll"), Agatha Christie ("The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding"), and even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whose "Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" is one of the greatest Sherlock Holmes stories. But there are some bland stories here by great authors, OK stories by forgotten authors, and a whole lot more crime stories than actual mysteries. Still, there are enough good ones to keep reading, and enough great ones to savor, like "The Haunted Crescent" by Peter Lovesey, and "The Burglar and the Whatsit" by Donald Westlake. Worst so far: "A Reversible Santa Claus" by Meredith Nicholson (the longest story in the book), and "The Killer Christian" by Andrew Klavan. And where's Dorothy Sayers?