Book Review: The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries (Part Three)

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. (Part one, two) Today I’ve finished the third and fourth sections; they’re a bit shorter than the others.

A Sherlockian Little Christmas

  • A Scandal in Winter, Gillian Linscott - Ridonkulously cute.
  • The Christmas Client, Edward D. Hoch - Well constructed pastiche if a bit too convenient with the names of secondary characters.
  • The Secret in the Pudding Bag & Herlock Sholmes’s Christmas Case, Peter Todd - Why would anyone write or read this ever?
  • Christmas Eve, S. C. Roberts - Charming. Slightly kinder than the originals but very well done.
  • The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, Arthur Conan Doyle - Still love it.

This was an interesting section, all stories that connected to both Christmas and Sherlock Holmes. "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle", being original Doyle, is of course in a class by itself. (See my review of the television episode)

The Peter Todd stories are… odd. They are parodies, written in 1916 and 1924. The author’s real name is Charles Hamilton, and he apparently wrote a insane amount of content under dozens of pseudonyms. Most of his work seems to be children’s material. The kindest thing I can say here is that I do not think the humor has aged well. It’s a little bit like trying to read an episode of Saturday Night Live that was written a century ago. I can’t quite see what it is getting at.

Happily, the other stories are decent to great. "Christmas Eve" is sweet, written as a script. "A Scandal in Winter" follows a young girl at a ski resort in 1910 with her family that is visited by an aging Holmes and Watson, as well as a mystery surrounding one Irene née Adler. It’s a delightful perspective on these characters, subtle and well-crafted.

The notes say that story was written for a compilation of Holmes Christmas tales. Maybe I’ll put a pin in that for another year.

A Pulpy Little Christmas

  • Dead on Christmas Street, John D. MacDonald - This is the best investigative story so far that isn't Holmes.
  • Crime’s Christmas Carol, Norvell Page - Sweet & dark spin on "The Gift of the Magi".
  • Serenade to a Killer, Joseph Commings - Style was interesting, plot about bit doubtful.

Oh, now we’re talking. The tone of these stories was fantastic. "Dead on Christmas Street" is a solid little noir story about a witness who ‘fell’ out a window, and the investigators trying to get the real story. It’s marred by a bit of typical-of-the-time sexism, but nothing too egregious. "Crime’s Christmas Carol" follows a couple in desperate straits who each break their moral code for the sake of giving the other a decent holiday, only to be rescued by fate and luck.

"Serenade to a Killer" was the odd one out. In a sense a classic locked-room murder mystery, and in another sense a series of theories about abnormal psychological conditions. Do not take as medical science anything in this particular story.