The Night Before Christmas Profusely Illustrated is a collection of stories and poems for and about children. It includes Moore's "The Night Before ChThe Night Before Christmas Profusely Illustrated is a collection of stories and poems for and about children. It includes Moore's "The Night Before Christmas" and lesser known Christmas-themed works by others as well as non-holiday stories and poems about childhood. It is designed along the lines of the MacGuffey Readers that were used as school primers long ago and far away (I have a couple of those around here somewhere as well). The stories and poems beyond the famous Moore poem are obviously intended to teach and remind children of strong moral values such as friendship, family, giving, studying, and helping. The works are charming in their old-world flavor and a nice peek at the world of yesteryear.
The Finishing Stroke is devilish little classic mystery story set primarily at Christmas-time, but bookended by a prologue set twenty-some years priorThe Finishing Stroke is devilish little classic mystery story set primarily at Christmas-time, but bookended by a prologue set twenty-some years prior to the main events and a wrap-up that takes place over twenty years later. The set-up: In 1905, John Sebastian, Sr. takes his pregnant wife for a New Year's fling in New York before her "confinement" to bring forth an heir. When the weather turns bad (and a bit of looting takes place in the city), he stubbornly insists on taking her home. The result? An auto accident and his wife going into premature labor. She manages to successfully deliver a son--John Jr.--and then the doctor surprises the new father with word that another baby is on the way. But giving birth to another baby is too much for his young wife and she does not survive. In a fit of misplaced anger (heaven forbid that the man admit that it was his stubbornness that forced them out onto roads unfit for driving), John Sr. blames the death on the innocent baby and refuses to acknowledge him as his own. He gives the boy to the attending physician--a man whose wife has been unable to have children--and heads home with his new (and only) son. But the father doesn't last long himself and dies within a week, having made a new will leaving everything to John, Jr. but without arranging a promised trust fund for the unwanted baby.
Fast forward to Christmas 1929. John Jr. has put together an extended Christmas party at the home of his guardian, Arthur Craig. He has invited his best girl, Rusty Brown, and her mother; an old flame and wanna-be actress, Valentina Warren, and her current escort, an angry young musician named Marus Carlo; his long-time friend Ellery Queen and Ellery's publisher, Dan Freeman; Sam Dark, the family doctor; Roland Payne, the family lawyer; and the Reverend Andrew Gardiner. Sebastian immediately announces that some important events will happen during the party. Item one: his book of poetry is being published by the House of Freeman. Item two: January 6th is twenty-fifth birthday and he'll come into the trust fund that his father set up for him in his will. Item three: He's going to marry his beloved Rusty--and that, by the way, is why the good pastor is among their number. And item four....well, he's going to save that one for later.
However, someone has a few surprises of their own. On Christmas Day when Sebastian leads them all to the Christmas tree in the living room for gifts, they find the presents have all vanished. As they are musing over this, suddenly a fully costumed Santa Claus appears from the hallway, hands them all gifts, and vanishes just as suddenly. They all assume that Felton, the butler, had been talked into performing and they go ahead and open their gifts--items that match the zodiac sign of each guest. But when Felton--and then all party members and the rest of the servants--denies any knowledge of Santa, Ellery becomes concerned. A search through the large rambling house, reveals no extra person...and the newly fallen snow outside reveals no footprints. Later an unknown man is found dead under the Christmas tree. Then a steady campaign of mystery gifts commences. Each night a gift with a parody verse matching the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" appears with Sebastian's name. And as the gifts continue the tone becomes more and more menacing until it all culminates in a second murder. Ellery believes he has solved the mystery--but doesn't have enough confidence in the solution to put it before the police. So the case remains unsolved.
Fast forward again to 1957. Ellery receives a phone call from now-Chief Devoe (a man who had been a sergeant in the state troopers at the time) wanting to know if Queen would like a crate that contains everything gathered in the Sebastian case. [There's a general clear-out going on and Devoe hates to throw it out.] Ellery takes it and when going through all the materials, he realizes he was right--well, pretty much. He just needed to give his solution a little twist. And he goes to confront the culprit.
Provided that one is willing to suspend one's disbelief regarding the sensible actions of a few people...and one is willing to swallow an interesting twist on a central theme [can't be more specific or I'd give the show away], this is a ripping good tale. What's not to love--mysterious corpse, red herrings, large cast of suspects, isolated and somewhat snow-bound setting, lovely prose, and witty banter. This a fun mystery and I can say that I got hoodwinked (and thoroughly enjoyed it)--I was absolutely distracted by that central theme and didn't catch any of the clues that would have led me in the proper direction.
A Christmas Promise continues Anne Perry's shorter holiday mystery series with the story of thirteen-year-old Gracie Phipps and her new friend MinnieA Christmas Promise continues Anne Perry's shorter holiday mystery series with the story of thirteen-year-old Gracie Phipps and her new friend Minnie Maude Mudway. Gracie is running errands for her Gran when she runs across Minnie Maude--looking sad and lost. Minnie Maude is an eight-year-old girl on a mission to find Charlie, the beloved donkey that belonged to her Uncle Alf. Uncle Alf has just been found dead...apparently from a fall from his rag and bone cart. But the cart and Charlie have both disappeared and Minnie Maude is worried that the donkey is scared and lost.
Gracie promises Minnie Maude that she will help find the donkey. Not knowing where to go or how to set about it, they wind up consulting Mr. Balthazar, a wise old shopkeeper who warns them that there may be danger in asking too many questions. They soon discover that Uncle Alf was on the wrong route and may have picked up a valuable object that wasn't intended for the junk collector. Did someone kill to get the object back? Will the girls and their ally find the answers before Christmas--so Charlie can be home and safe in time for the holiday? You'll have to read and find out.
This is a very short and straight-forward mystery with just the right amount of Christmas charm. It is a good character study in the Victorian era and it is enjoyable to watch the girls quickly become friends. A bit of suspense and a fast-paced wrap-up make for a very solid Christmas mystery. Three stars.
...I realized that the noises in the attic had stopped. The next minute I heard them all pour down into the hall, sounding like a herd of elephants, ...I realized that the noises in the attic had stopped. The next minute I heard them all pour down into the hall, sounding like a herd of elephants, as men usually do when they're trying to be quiet. (p. 113)
Black-Headed Pins is the second book by Constance and Gwenyth Little and the first in a long line of books with "black" in the title. Their first book, titled The Grey Mist Murders, might count as a shade of black but despite the somber colors of their titles, the Little books are far from somber affairs. The ladies may deal in murders, but they are humorous, madcap affairs rather than chilling, nerve-wracking adventures.
Cozy by nature, the murders happen tidily off-stage and allow for plenty of frantic rushing about and snappy dialogue by the players. The action always takes place in drafty old mansions, hospitals, boarding houses, ocean liners--in short, anywhere that the Littles could convene a gathering of eccentric characters who seem to have wandered in from a B-movie along the lines of Bob Hope in The Ghost Breakers or my Halloween-viewing experience The Thirteenth Guest with Ginger Rogers. The heroine in each stand-alone novel runs very much to type--strong-minded and always willing to speak her mind with a sense of humor and a distinct interest in finding a man who will either do his share of the housework or who is rich enough to hire help to take care of it.
Black-Headed Pins finds Leigh Smith needing a job and having agreed to play companion and housekeeper to Mrs. Ballister. Only Mrs. Ballister didn't tell her that she holds on to every penny as though it were the last one ever minted and that they were bound for the drafty, creaky Ballister mansion in the back of beyond in New Jersey. It isn't long before "Smithy" (as she is known) regrets her decision--there is little food and less heat and no housekeeping funds to speak of. When Mrs. Ballister takes it into her head to invite the nieces and nephews for Christmas, it all Smithy can do to get the old lady to part with enough cash to provide a little Christmas cheer for the party.
The family doesn't make it any easier by arriving with three unexpected guests--but Smithy does see some possibility of a pleasant weekend. She doesn't, however, anticipate the resurrection of the Ballister family curse--which comes equipped with ghost dragging bodies back and forth across the attic floor--or that the Ballisters will start dropping like flies from "accidents." Because, you see, when the ghost starts dragging imaginary bodies around that means a Ballister will die. And once the Ballister is dead, someone must sit with it till it's firmly planted in the ground or it will start transporting itself around the house.
Mrs. Ballister's favorite nephew, John (favorite because he repairs things around the house for free), is the first to go. Liking nothing better than a home-improvement project, he heads to the roof on Christmas Day to fix a few leaks. Next thing we know he's slipped from the roof and died when his scaffolding rope accidentally breaks. Or is it an accident? That "break" in the rope looks an awful lot like a clean cut....The local town cop--Joe by name--shows up to investigate, but Smithy and her two male conquests, Berg--nephew of the house--and Richard Jones, his uninvited guest--decide to play detective themselves and try to get the bottom of things. But another Ballister will die and an attempt will be made on Berg before they finally explain the dragging noises, the scattering of black-headed pins everywhere, the bloody phone receiver, the mysterious tune on the gong, the lack of blood, and the footprints in the flower bed. Oh...and of course who engineered it all.
Like my previous read, Mayhem in B-Flat, this madcap mystery is great fun--with suspects popping in and out of rooms and dead bodies roaming through the hallways how could it not be? Smithy gets in plenty of witty one-liners and exchanges bon mots with her two beaus...all while giving the local policeman a run for his money in the detecting business. Highly entertaining and I look forward to reading the other three Little novels hanging out on the stacks.
The Birds' Christmas Carol (1886) is a very sweet short novel written by Kate Douglas Wiggin and illustrated by Katharine R. Wireman. It centers arounThe Birds' Christmas Carol (1886) is a very sweet short novel written by Kate Douglas Wiggin and illustrated by Katharine R. Wireman. It centers around Carol Bird--originally destined to be named Lucy until she arrived unexpectedly on Christmas. She grows to be an exceptionally happy, loving, and generous girl--despite the fact that she is diagnosed with an unspecified illness at age five and is bedridden by the time she is ten. As the story says, "perhaps because she was born in holiday time, carol was a very happy baby...she may have breathed in unconsciously the fragrance of evergreens and holiday dinners; while the peals of sleigh-bells and the laughter of happy children may have fallen upon her baby ears and wakened in them a glad surprise at the merry world she had come to live in." Just by being Carol, she manages to influence her unruly brothers to behave more generously to one another and her entire family learns lessons about the true meaning of Christmas from their very own Christmas Carol.
Carol manages to teach her family and readers alike that it really is better to give than to receive. Her fondest wish is to prepare a gala Christmas celebration for the nine Ruggles children who live in a small house behind her own. She finds a way to earn her own money to provide a Christmas dinner that the children will never forget as well as presents the likes of which they have never seen. While the story is primarily a moral tale about a very angelic child with an incredibly giving heart , it also features some very humorous scenes--particularly when the Ruggles matriarch is attempting to prepare her large brood for their first fine social occasion.
Even though it is tinged with sadness at the end, this is a truly lovely story--entirely suitable to the Christmas season. Five stars.
It's about 1977 and the night before Christmas when self-identified dog person and curmudgeon Cleveland Amory finds himself on a mission to help rescuIt's about 1977 and the night before Christmas when self-identified dog person and curmudgeon Cleveland Amory finds himself on a mission to help rescue a thin, bedraggled feline from a New York alley. The cat has obviously been on his own for a good while and someone has injured him. The rescue is just for the night...Amory offers to house the poor kitty overnight until someone can come claim him. But the unexpected happens. The cat decides that Amory is who he wants to live with and from the moment Amory finds him staring at him the next morning the die has been cast. Amory discovers what it's like to be owned by a cat....and how much he likes it.
The Cat Who Came for Christmas by Cleveland Amory isn't really a Christmas story. It's a story about the bond between a cat and his human that just happens to start at Christmas. The story follows Amory and Polar Bear (as the naming of the cat goes) through a year of settling in to a life together. The stories about Polar Bear are charmingly told and remind me of the cats found in the Lockridge mystery series. The cat is obviously his own person and that is relayed without making the story too cutesy.
The only part that really didn't work for me was Amory's long-winded section on the history of cat's and cat names. Not that the history of cats might not be interesting in the right context. I just don't think this book was it.
Overall, a very pleasant read and a good one to finish off my Christmas Spirit Challenge reading for 2013. Three solid stars.
This Gorey masterpiece gives us his take on the Christmas Carol story by Dickens. Edmund Gravel sits down for tea on Christmas Eve, cuts a slice of frThis Gorey masterpiece gives us his take on the Christmas Carol story by Dickens. Edmund Gravel sits down for tea on Christmas Eve, cuts a slice of fruitcake, and is immediately visited by the Spectre of Christmas That Never Was, the Spectre of Christmas That Isn't, and the Spectre of Christmas That Never Will Be. Guided on his spectral journey by the Bahhum Bug, Edmund is taken through his village of Lower Spigot and shown Affecting Scenes, Distressing Scenes, and Heart-Rending Scenes. Filled with Gorey's spectacular drawings and his twisted and mysterious world-view, this was a nice little diversion before leaping back into my vintage mysteries. Four and a half stars out of five.
This is the third in Perry's Christmas mystery series. These books tend to focus on the supporting cast members from her series books. A Christmas GueThis is the third in Perry's Christmas mystery series. These books tend to focus on the supporting cast members from her series books. A Christmas Guest follows Grandmama Mariah Ellison as she is shipped off to spend the Christmas holidays with her daughter-in-law Caroline and Caroline's new husband Joshua. The vinegary Grandmama Ellison is none too happy about these arrangements. There she is expecting the usual fine holiday gatherings hosted by her well-to-do granddaughter Emily with lots of London entertainment and society only to be told that Emily and her husband are headed to France and Grandmama is not going along for the trip. Instead, she finds herself journeying to the chilly, windswept coastal village of Romney Marshes--where there is nobody who is anybody and nothing to do but visit the local church and admire its architecture or take brisk walks along the coast.
As if that's not enough, another Christmas guest is soon foisted upon them. Joshua's cousin Maude, who has not been in England for 40 years, has come home to find that the welcoming fires may be burning--but not for her. Her family pleads previous obligations that will prevent them from hosting her during the holidays and asks Joshua to take in another guest with nowhere else to go. Grandmama Ellison barely has time to work up a suitable snit over the unwelcome guest when a housemaid is unable to wake Maude one morning...and the woman is declared dead. Supposedly from a heart attack. But Mariah isn't satisfied. Maude was hale and hearty--outwalking the spry elderly woman in their few rambles along the coast and never seemed to be the least bit unwell.
Soon Mariah is on a quest--spurred by her "very proper feelings" that the dreadful news should be broken to Maude's family in person, she is soon ensconced in the family bosom and trying her hand at a bit of detective work. After all, if her granddaughter Charlotte and her unsuitable policeman husband can solve mysteries, surely she has the wits to do so as well. She begins by pretending grief over a brief, but serious friendship for the woman she had just met--but soon realizes how much she really had likde Maude and could have come to be such friends had they had the time. As Mariah uncovers secrets that resulted in Maude's murder, she uncovers truths about herself as well and...like her fellow Victorian, Scrooge, learns what it means to truly keep Christmas.
This was a very short novel. The mystery is not intricate, but the story is well told and it was nice to see Grandmama Ellison learn some very good lessons--about herself and about how to treat other people. A nice little slice of Christmas happy endings to make the season bright....more
Plum Pudding Murder by Joanne Fluke is the twelfth book in the Hannah Swenson baking mysteries. It's also the first one that I've read. Fortunately, oPlum Pudding Murder by Joanne Fluke is the twelfth book in the Hannah Swenson baking mysteries. It's also the first one that I've read. Fortunately, one really doesn't need to have read earlier books to slip into this one (although there are some relationships to work out that are probably explained as you go along if you read them in order).
Hannah Swenson is the owner of the Cookie Jar pastry shop in Lake Eden, Minnesota. She's the queen of baking in the small town and a pretty dab hand at solving a mystery or two. It's Christmas time in this particular outing and business is booming with everyone putting in orders for extra cookies, pastries and other deserts for their holiday gatherings. "Lunatic Larry" Jaeger, the owner of the Crazy Elf Christmas Tree Lot is no exception. He's been selling Hannah's creations in his Elf Treat shop and the cookies are flying out of there faster than Santa's reindeer. He asks Hannah to whip up a special dessert that will make even more customers flood into his tree lot and she obliges with some Minnesota Plum Pudding. She takes a sample to Jaeger to try, but before he can tell her whether he thinks it will fit the bill someone decides that he has sold his last Christmas tree.
When Hannah gets curious about who might have wanted Jaeger to join the ghosts of Christmas present, she finds that there are more people on the list than she anticipated--from the Mayor who was Jaeger's partner (and who may have found himself swindled by the fast-talking tree salesman) to his ex-wife to his current fiancee to connections from his rather murky business past. It seems that Jaeger was on more than just Santa's naughty list. Hannah and her helpers (her mother, her boyfriend the dentist, her pastry shop assistant, and her boyfriend the police officer--yes, two boyfriends) will have to work fast to find the killer before the killer decides to put an end to Hannah's cookie business...permanently.
This book has a lot of fluff....and I'm not just talking about the marshmallow creme in some of the recipes (yes, there are recipes included--and they sound yummy). I realize that this is a cozy mystery and on the whole I'm a fan of cozy mysteries...but this one leaves a lot to be desired. It starts out with a bang (literally) and Jaeger immediately becomes a Christmas corpse. But then Fluke takes us back in time--One. Whole. Day. That takes up more than One. Half. of the Book. Just to give us the background and lead us back to the point where Jaeger's body is discovered. That's because we have to take all these little detours through "what the heck is Hannah's mom's best friend up to and why is she so secretive???" to "the multiple adventures of Hannah's cat and the first-ever Christmas tree that he has to deal with"--not to mention working in all the recipes that we then pad the story with. Not that the recipes don't sound good. They do. But, honestly....28 recipes in one book? Is this a cozy mystery with a bit of cooking theme or a cook book with a murder thrown in for spice?
The book is plugged in the synopsis as "a clever whodunit with pastry recipe dividends." I'm afraid not. It's not all that clever. I spotted the murderer as soon as s/he was introduced in a meaningful way. I think the characters could be very interesting if we had as much attention given to them as we do to the minute details of every recipe (which recipes are given with multiple helpful hints "from" various characters in the book. Two stars--just.
A Crossworder's Holiday by Nero Blanc (pseudonym for co-authors--and husband & wife--Cordelia Frances Biddle and Steve Zettler) is as light and frA Crossworder's Holiday by Nero Blanc (pseudonym for co-authors--and husband & wife--Cordelia Frances Biddle and Steve Zettler) is as light and frothy as a cup of peppermint hot chocolate. It is a perfect book for the end of the year and a quick read between holiday preparations and parties--nothing indepth, no intense crime puzzles and no assembly [of clues] required. If you can do the crosswords--or if that's not your gift, then taking a quick peek at the solutions thoughtfully provided at the back of the book will do--then you've got your answers.
What the book really consists of are quick snapshots in the life of the protagonists, crossword editor Belle Graham and her husband P.I. Rosco Polycrates. The stories and the characters are charming in this collection of five Christmas-themed tales, each with its own crossword puzzle. Unfortunately, like that cup of hot chocolate, the stories are so light and frothy that they are easily forgotten--enjoyable while they last, but without a lasting impression. ★★★ for a decent cozy read. Read in one sitting--but not one that I would go back to again.
The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by Frank L. Baum (most widely known for his Oz books) gives us the story of Santa Claus from his earliest daysThe Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by Frank L. Baum (most widely known for his Oz books) gives us the story of Santa Claus from his earliest days with the fairies and nymphs of the forest through his transformation into the yearly Christmas Eve visitor who brings toys for the children. It tells how the human baby was discovered by Ak, the Master Woodsman, and given his protection and then he was adopted by Necile, the nymph. The boy was named Claus ("little one") and grew up enjoying the protection of the immortals (Nymphs, Ryls, Knooks, and Fairies--those who care for the forests, waters, plants and animals). Once he is old enough to be told that there are others like him, he realizes that he would like to spend his life making other children as happy as he has been with his guardians. He learns to make toys and gives them to the children who have nothing, but soon decides that all children (even those that are rich and seem to be well-cared for) should benefit from his goodness. We also learn how he came to use chimneys and reindeer and finally, why he now makes one trip a year on Christmas Eve.
What struck me about this very interesting story of Santa Claus is how much the movie Santa Claus Is Coming to Town must have built on Baum's work (without, as far as I can tell crediting him). The parallels are quite striking: Forest animals protect him; Elves rather than a nymph take in the orphaned child; the scenes showing him learning to make toys; there is the Burgermeister who doesn't want the children to receive toys (in the book it's just a few nobles who won't allow Claus to give toys to their children); the Burgermeister takes the toys and burns them=the Awgwas in the book who steal the toys and hide them in the mountains; in the book the reindeer grow strong on special food so they can run swiftly and leap to the rooftops and in the movie they eat magic corn that allows them to fly; and so on. I'm sure the movie rearranged things as they did to play down the very pagan connections in Baum's work.
This is a quite lovely history of Santa Claus. And the illustrations are wonderful. If I had read it as child, I'm sure I would have rated it higher. As it is--three stars. ...more
This is a decent collection of Sherlock Holmes pastiches written with a Christmas holiday theme. There are eleven stories in all--written by well-knowThis is a decent collection of Sherlock Holmes pastiches written with a Christmas holiday theme. There are eleven stories in all--written by well-known mystery writers like Anne Perry, Edward D. Hoch, Peter Lovesy and Jon Breen as well as tales from science fiction and western writers like Bill Crider and Tanith Lee. And a few of the authors have dipped their toes in Holmes tributes in the past (Loren D Estleman and Daniel Stashower, for example). There are a wide range of themes from a stolen Stradivarius to a second adventure with a previous client to a puzzle involving a beautiful woman and a family curse. We also find Holmes solving mysteries for the likes of Oscar Wilde, O. Henry, Charles Darwin and Timothy Cratchit (Tiny Tim).
Just as there is a wide range of themes, there is a fairly wide range of expertise in this collection. The stories are obviously meant as homage to the Master, but few of the authors get the voice of Watson down correctly and there are occasional missteps in the relationship between Holmes and the good doctor. But regardless of the flaws, the stories are on the whole interesting and well worth the read--especially at this time of year. Three stars....more
In Corpus Christmas, Margaret Maron gives us a little murder for the holiday season. Dr. Roger Shambley, the most recent addition to the board of direIn Corpus Christmas, Margaret Maron gives us a little murder for the holiday season. Dr. Roger Shambley, the most recent addition to the board of directors for the Erich Bruel house is found dead the morning after a Christmas-themed party at the small art museum. At first glance, it looks like the snoopy, insinuating scholar had a bit too much egg nog and missed his step on the steep stairs leading to his office in the attic. But the scene has not quite been perfectly set and it it becomes apparent to Lieutenant Sigrid Harald of the NYPD that a bit of musical murder scenes has been played out.
The list of suspects grows as Lt. Harald discovers that Shambley managed to insult and infuriating nearly everyone he come across...from implications that the director is incompetent to murmurings of forgery, he had cast a knowing glance at all and sundry. Some of his insinuations prove to be mere gossip, but did something hit home? Is that why someone hit the scholar upside his rather fragile skull. It's up to Lt. Harald and company to find out.
This is a nice cozy little mystery, set in a grand old relic of a house which has been turned into a shrine to the artistic taste (both good and bad) or Erich Bruel. There are plenty of red herrings and more suspects than you can shake a stick at. The characters are delightful--realistic and humorous and sympathetic in turns. I don't believe I've ever read a story by Maron before, but I can assure you, this won't be my last. Three stars for a nice solid mystery....more
Anne Perry has dedicated her novel, A Christmas Grace, "to all those who long for a second chance." A highly appropriate dedication for a story that cAnne Perry has dedicated her novel, A Christmas Grace, "to all those who long for a second chance." A highly appropriate dedication for a story that centers on Emily Radley and her efforts to give a second chance to the folk who live in her Aunt's Irish town. Emily is called at Christmas time to be with her aunt who is dying. She thinks she is going to lay to rest an old family feud--a second chance for her aunt as well, but finds that Susannah Ross is looking for help with more than that.
The people in the town that Aunt Susannah has come to love have lived under a cloud of suspicion for seven years--ever since a young man was washed up on their shores during a dreadful storm. Saved from the sea only to murdered later by one of their own. While Emily settles into her aunt's home, another storm rages bringing another shipwreck victim ashore. Is history repeating itself? And can Emily help the townspeople face what happened before and avoid a similar fate for the shipwrecked man? Emily also faces personal questions of family loyalty to an aunt who left her family for love and questions about the kind of love she (Emily) shares with her husband. It will take a special kind of Christmas grace to help Emily find the answers.
This is a beautifully told Christmas mystery. Perry has a wonderful sense of place and a particularly graceful way of giving her readers that same sense. I feel as though I had actually visited this small coastal Irish village. It was very touching to read this story of Emily's final gift to the aunt she had never known. Perry carries off the story without making it too sentimental and improbable. The ending is a bit flat, but over-all a fine story for the Christmas season. It also develops some interesting threads that could be taken up in later stories about Emily and her husband, Jack. Three and a half stars....more
Mistletoe Mysteries, a collection of short stories collected by Charlotte MacLeod made for a nice little holiday diversion and a nifty addition to myMistletoe Mysteries, a collection of short stories collected by Charlotte MacLeod made for a nice little holiday diversion and a nifty addition to my reading for the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge. The book is made up of a variety of mystery story types by authors ranging from Mary Higgins Clark and Isaac Asimov to Marcia Muller and Aaron Elkins. It has everything from ghost stories to murders and robberies to missing teenagers. I enjoyed nearly all of the stories--there were just a few weaker tales hidden among the holiday gold. My favorite stories are "The Haunted Crescent" by Peter Lovesy and "Silent Night" by Marcia Muller.
In "The Haunted Crescent" we have one of the ghost stories in the collection. An ex-policeman is waiting in a reputedly haunted house on Christmas Eve. We are told that this is when the ghost is said to walk. Right on schedule, a pale young woman in white appears and the tale unfolds....but there is an unexpected twist at the end that makes this story more than your run-of-the mill ghost story. Lovesy does an excellent job of drawing the reader in and then pulling a clever bit of sleight of hand to change the perspective.
"Silent Night" finds Muller's detective, Sharon McCone, scouring the city on Christmas Eve for her run away nephew. The charm of this story isn't so much the mystery--there isn't much beyond the mystery of the nephew's location--but in what Sharon learns about her nephew and herself along the way. It is a nice, very short tale of redemption and how just a little attention to others can make a difference.
I give this collection three and a half stars out of five--with the two stories above rating four stars apiece....more