Monday, December 23, 2013

The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries edited by Otto Penzler

The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries  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.

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