First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, the writers in this collection, and Sapere Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.
With the holiday season just around the corner, I was happy to receive this collection of mysteries. Filled with short stories by a number of authors—most of whom I have never read—this was sure to be a wonderful early gift that any lover of mysteries could enjoy. I’ll jot down a brief summary of each piece and provide an overarching sentiment about the collection thereafter, for those who are interested.
Away in a Manger, by Graham Brack
Graham Brack takes readers to Prague, where Lieutenant Josef Slonský is working on Christmas Eve. Wanting to help some of the other members of his team see crime in action, Slonský convinces them to head down to the town square. While he partakes in a cup of hot wine, the others watch a short nativity play. A thief makes a grab for a woman’s wallet and the chase is on. This will be one Christmas that Slonský will not soon forget.
Footprints in the Snow, by J.C. Briggs
In this J.C. Briggs piece, Charles Dickens is stuck in a winter storm with a household and chooses to tell an impromptu story to pass the time. When his tale of a ghost appears to cause one guest to react, Dickens is surprised, but does not make much of it. However, the following morning, the same guest seems to have put himself in quite the predicament, with only a trail of footprints in the snow to explain his actions.
Lost and Found, by Keith Moray
In the small community of West Uist, Torquil McKinnon is hosting a small gathering, which includes a rag-tag group set to act as a band for the upcoming Hogmanay Dip and Nip. The following day, McKinnon learns that one of the group was found at his dining table, dead from an apparent attack of angina. Furthermore, the snuffbox in which he kept his pills was nowhere to be found. When someone commits a petty crime at the local police precinct, everyone begins to wonder if there is something to tie the death and crime together. Torquil and his fellow coppers will have to do some sleuthing before the Hogmanay Dip and Nip takes over their thoughts.
The Spirit of Christmas, by Cora Harrison
While doing some begging on the street, a young, blind boy hears his dog and minder being dragged away. Worried, Sammy tries to follow without seeing a thing and is barely saved from being killed. When his older brother, Alfie, arrives to collect him, there is much wrong with the situation. Not only is Sammy bruised, but someone has stolen a large amount of gold bullion. While Alfie processes this, he discovers a body. Alfie takes a moment to scan the scene and feels he may have an idea of what’s taken place.
The Stolen Santa Sack, by Seán Gibbons
Ben Miller enjoys driving his cab around Galway, even if he sometimes gets some odd requests. When a member of the police asks him to transport a man dressed as Santa to a hotel, he is happy to oblige. However, somewhere along the way, this Father Christmas ends up with a dagger in his chest and his sack is missing. Miller tried to stay out of it all, but cannot help sleuthing, as it seems all the coppers want is the contents of the sack. Lost in all of this is the question about what to do with the dead man in the red suit!
Will Power, by Marilyn Todd
Julia McAllister is great at her work, even if Victorian England is not ready to welcome a woman into the profession of photographer. Still, she runs her business as best she can, handling a handful of customers with a variety of requests. Julia dabbles into photography of both the living and dead, which only adds new and exciting wrinkles to her work, as well as a peppering of danger on the odd occasion. This holiday season is one of those times.
Christmas Spirits, by Gaynor Torrance
DI Jemima Huxley and her partner are on the lookout for a recently spotted murder suspect. While scanning the city, they come upon one of Cardiff’s most talked about toy stores, just in time for Huxley to ponder holiday gifts. When they find themselves being ignored by the staff, DI Huxley and her partner end up in the middle of a battle for that ‘must-have’ toy, though it is far from the scenario they might have expected. Forced to fend for themselves, DI Huxley must go above and beyond, while trying not to extinguish her holiday spark!
The Essex Nativity, by David Field
Jack Enright is in the holiday spirit, but has yet to be able to convince his mother to let him host the festivities. As Jack and Esther have come to realise, when Constance says something, you nod and go about your day. During a meal with his uncle, Percy, both coppers are called to the scene of a rural farm, where they discover a couple trying to stay warm and in the midst of delivering a baby. Percy takes up the leadership role and discovers that one of his active cases might have a new lead, forcing him to rush and make a call to Scotland Yard, while also seeking a doctor for the young couple. What follows is a feast and a touching revelation about the strength of the Christmas spirit.
Secret Santa, by Kim Fleet
Eden Grey is a hard-working private investigator with many resources at her disposal. When Eden receives an anonymous note at her office, she cannot help but begin a little surveillance effort, watching a man appear to stalk a much older woman. After confronting this mystery man, Eden learns his story, which only opens new avenues of investigation. Now, Eden must decide what to do and how to go about substantiating the claim made to her.
Stir Up Sunday, by M.J. Logue
Thankful Russell runs a popular printing shop in the 17th century. When he and his wife, Thomazine, are visited by a member of King Charles II’s Court, they agree to print a document said to be some of His Majesty’s recipes. However, it would seem someone wants the manuscript for themselves, breaking into the shop and trying to steal it. Thomazine, the brains of the family, posits that this could be more than a collection of hearty meal ideas, tied to the recent Cromwell uprising. What follows is a race to discover the truth so that Thomazine and Thankful can enjoy their Christmas together.
The Christmas Ghost, by Linda Strathman
Mina Scarletti has a way of communicating with those who have passed on and is summoned to the home of a grieving mother. Mina soon learns that the woman’s son died in a freak accident one past Christmas Eve and she hopes to be able to see her beloved boy. While Mina breaks the news that she cannot sense the boy in the house, she reveals an interesting piece of advice that might help salve the woman’s ongoing pain.
Having made my way through the collection, I must say that I am thoroughly impressed with what I read. These authors do know how to put together a wonderful set of stories, impressing the reader with a vast array of settings, characters, and approaches. While I know that I have read two of the full-length series hinted at above, there are now a number of others I am interested in finding and hopefully adding to my ongoing long list of series I follow. The publisher did well in gathering these authors together with the general Christmas theme running through their writings. I hope others are dazzled as much as I have been with this collection.
Kudos, writers of this collection, for a great set of short pieces. There’s nothing like a little mystery to heighten the excitement of the holiday season.
A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons