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Murderous Christmas Stories #3

Very Murderous Christmas

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BRAND NEW, Exactly same ISBN as listed, Please double check ISBN carefully before ordering.

234 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2018

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Cecily Gayford

16 books24 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 78 reviews
Profile Image for Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews.
1,957 reviews279 followers
December 25, 2018
Between the Christmas cooking preparations, wrapping and festivities, it is nice to know you have the comfort of a seasonal read waiting by the sidelines ready to pick up and put down again. A Very Murderous Christmas is a 2018 publication by Profile Books, which I received in a recent bundle of books from Australian publisher Allen and Unwin. The publication contains ten short stories, an appetizer of sorts, offering the reader a quick festive infused treat to offset the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

A Very Murderous Christmas gathers ten of the very best novelists in classic crime. Many of these writers are well known from both the page and the screen, such as Anthony Horowitz, Ruth Rendell and Colin Dexter. The collection also contains contributions from authors written in the 1930s, such as Edward D. Hoch’s, The Problem of Santa’s Lighthouse and Margery Allingham’s The Man with the Sack. Each short story is gently touched with references to Christmas or the holiday season. These ten short stories have been hand selected by editor Cecily Gayford. As a result, expect plenty of festive disorder, some good old fashioned murder mysteries, plenty of puzzles to solve and some flooring twists to keep you on your toes. The stories range in terms of the setting, time frame and the main subject matter. From a Holmes and Watson mystery, to a trip to the pantomime and an Agatha Christie style murder on board a snow-bound train, A Very Murderous Christmas will have any mystery lover rubbing their hands together in glee. My own personal favourite was the murder in the snow blizzard on board a train. I was tempted to look up further work from Nicholas Blake after reading his tale, A Problem in White.

If a murderous Christmas, courtesy of an unusual wolf suit, or a tale of how to best murder your nearest and dearest is what you fancy indulging in this festive season, do not let A Very Murderous Christmas pass you by!
Profile Image for Anissa.
881 reviews263 followers
December 29, 2019
A quite enjoyable collection. Not all stories had murders central to them but they all felt appropriate for the theme. I quite liked seven of the ten offered here and below were my favourites:

Camberwell Crackers by Anthony Horowitz- in which the new owner of Camberwell Crackers meets his end in a very gruesome but apropos way.

A Problem in White by Nicholas Blake- in which a robbery and murder occur on a train on a snowy night. This one reminded me of Mystery in White.

Loopy by Ruth Rendell- in which the fate of a woman engaged to a man who is forty-two and reluctant to leave his mother's home ends exactly as one would expect in such a story. Clever telling from the man's POV.

Morse's Greatest Mystery by Colin Dexter- in which the cranky and curmudgeonly Morse displays his heart for the Littlemore Charity for Mentally Handicapped Children. Very sweet & no murder here.

The Jar of Ginger by Gladys Mitchell- in which a group sit and discuss the ways to dispose of a spouse and a bit of laced ginger is suggested the conduit to that end. Creepy and clever to the last.

Rumpole and the Old Familiar Faces by John Mortimer- in which Rumpole helps a country prior bend the new "country squire" into a donation for the church and also solves an intricately planned and executed robbery to the exoneration of his client, both due to his memory. Loved this!

The Problem of Santa's Lighthouse by Edward Hoch- in which a vacationing doctor finds himself investigating the curious case of how Harry Quay died when he was ostensibly the only one on the walkway of the lighthouse. The solution here was obvious to me but I still enjoyed this one and its attempt of misdirection.

If you're looking for some short stories to get stuck into during the Christmas or snowy season, this does nicely. Definitely recommended.
Profile Image for Filipa.
1,716 reviews254 followers
December 12, 2019
3,5 stars

I adored the idea of having a collection of short stories that had a focus on crime and Christmas. For me, there couldn't be a better combo than this one. Thank to you Nessa, my dear friend who got this book for me and who knows that I not only love crime books, I absolutely adore Christmas. My original goal was to read one story a day until Christmas day or until I finished the book. The problem is that I started the book and one story didn't seem enough.
This is the kind of the book that you can't help but devour. The stories are short and even though you have 10 different authors, the writing is clear, fluid and even funny. Of course, as it happens in all anthologies there are better stories you like more and stories you like less.
In this A Very Murderous Christmas: Ten Classic Crime Stories for the Festive Season, I can confidently say that my favorite short-story was A Problem in White. The Ruth Rendell story had nothing to do with Christmas (the plot, that is) and it was my least favorite.
All in all, it was an enjoyable reading and an entertaining one.
755 reviews12 followers
December 17, 2018
Murder for Christmas? There seems to be a tradition of buying, and hopefully reading, murder mystery novels at this time of year. Possibly people fondly imagine that they will have time to actually read an entire novel over the festive season, but for those who lack that sustained reading time, this is an ideal book. Ten short stories by a mixture of writers, ranging from the clever development on classics to actual Golden Age gems, this is a book which will have something for everyone. The cosy, the clever and the complex are all represented here for enjoyment in those quiet moments that we actually get, without trying to remember what has gone before. These are not carefully introduced, justified and put into context, but just presented as they stand, in all their complexity or clever simplicity.
Margery Allingham’s “The Man with the Sack” is the first story, featuring her favourite detective, Campion. A version of Holmes and Watson appear, followed by a clever and funny contribution by Anthony Horowitz in “Camberwell Crackers”. Father Brown makes a welcome appearance, as well as Inspector Morse and Rumpole. A railway mystery, “A problem in White” by Nicolas Blake, precedes a fantastic and chilling Ruth Rendell murder tale. A club for considering hypothetical murder disturbs thanks to Gladys Mitchell, and the final story literally takes the locked room mystery to a new level in “The Problem of Santa’s Lighthouse” by Edward Hoch.
Thus there is quite a range of tales in scope, time and style. It is obviously enjoyable if you already know of some of the detectives (and lawyer!) involved from longer books or even television, but they would still work without previous knowledge. One or two authors will be broadly known, others less so, but all are allowed to show their established skills. Several, if not most, are not so Christmas based as to be only of interest at a particular time of year, but all have at least a seasonal element. The dedicated mystery fan may well recognise one or two stories here, but it is a new collection published this year so there will be surprises. There are several similar books that have come out over the last few years, and this collection does not feel like a startling new revealing reprint. It is, however, great entertainment, and would make a great gift for anyone, or an enjoyable treat for oneself.

Profile Image for Tracey.
145 reviews5 followers
November 13, 2020
An amusing selection of Christmas themed crime stories. My first introduction to a few of the authors, will be sure to check out further work.
Profile Image for Theresa Smith.
Author 5 books176 followers
December 23, 2018
Cosy mysteries have never been more unsettling! These bite sized Christmas stories are a treat for fans of the classic mystery genre. I particularly enjoyed Loopy by Ruth Rendell, a rather strange tale about a man who likes to wear a wolf suit for pleasure.

‘Principally, I felt not human. And to be not human is to be without responsibilities and human cares.’

A Very Murderous Christmas is an ideal book to have on your coffee table in the days leading up to Christmas. The stories are a great length for reading with a restorative cuppa in between Christmas preparations.

Thanks is extended to Allen and Unwin for providing me with a copy of A Very Murderous Christmas for review.
Profile Image for Jeff Howells.
668 reviews3 followers
December 11, 2018
Christmas Crime stories have been incredibly popular over last half a dozen years or so. However the well is almost dry now. This is the third volume of festive stories from this publisher and there are a number of stories here that have appeared in other collections. There’s a mix of classic crime & tales from modern authors (some of which have appeared in newspapers over the festive season). There’s an incredibly odd story from Ruth Rendell & a very slight story featuring Inspector Morse.
The best effort on display is one featuring Sherlock Holmes but written by Conan Doyle’s son, Adrian, & John Dickson Carr.
I’d be very surprised to see any more collections published in future years - unless authors can be encouraged to write new stories especially for them. That being said some of these volumes are worth revisiting year after year as a Christmas reading tradition.
Profile Image for Luna Erica.
123 reviews
December 26, 2018
I largely found the book pretty tiresome to read, in all honesty. I’m not sure if it had to do with my aversion of the particular language used in half the stories or their varying lengths (I hate when a story is too short to bring across any kind of message), but it took me a while to get through it. What made up for it entirely, then, are three stories: Loopy by Ruth Rendell (beautifully disturbing), The Jar of Ginger by Gladys Mitchell (a fairly expectable ending, but enticing nonetheless), and The Problem of Santa’s Warehouse by Edward D. Hoch (which was just an overall very well-written tale). I’d probably never reread this book save for those three stories, but I’m glad I powered through it to get to them.
January 1, 2019
Some good and atmospheric seasonal stories. As usual with such anthologies, some stories are better than others. A nice collection however and a good way to.spend some time over the festive season.
Profile Image for Dhawal Dhingra.
11 reviews3 followers
January 6, 2020
A nice read. Obviously, some stories are better than the others but all in all, I enjoyed reading the book.
Profile Image for Lee Allen.
Author 12 books90 followers
December 24, 2021
Christmas is not complete without some classic crime; and I now make reading a volume in the 'Murder at Christmas' series an annual tradition. Featuring a collection of festive mysteries, with appearances from Campion, Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown, Chief Inspector Morse, and Rumpole amongst them, 'A Very Murderous Christmas' (indeed, the whole series) feels like Christmas with old favourites.

Amongst the stories I most enjoyed were Margery Allingham's 'The Man with the Sack', which finds Campion thwarting a Christmas burglary; Anthony Horowitz's tongue-in-cheek 'Camberwell Crackers', investigating the murder of an entrepreneur who recently invested in a cracker-making business; and Ruth Rendell bringing her masterful insight into the criminal mind to the bizarre 'Loopy'.

Overall, 'A Very Murderous Christmas' is an entertaining collection of nostalgia and criminality.
Profile Image for Pirate.
Author 8 books40 followers
December 31, 2018
An appropriate read for those who find several days in the bosom of the family a test of endurance -- especially in these days of Brexit -- and granny gives you the same pair of woolly socks and a knitted kipper tie for Christmas for the 15th year in a row. Enjoyable largely from the humour of Rumpole giving a nice balance to an extremely sinister one from Ruth Rendell called Loopy which takes the Oedipus complext to another level....A Problem in White by Nicholas Blake catches the eye too. Don't worry it will quell the urge to commit crime by the end and granny will be blissfully unware of how close an escape she had...till she hands you the same present next year!
Profile Image for Trelawn.
345 reviews1 follower
February 23, 2019
A nice collection of Christmas mysteries by a selection of authors. Particularly like the Margery Allingham and Anthony Horowitz ones. The Sherlock Holmes one was good too. May buy the other volumes in this collection.
Profile Image for Andy Malcolm.
72 reviews3 followers
January 1, 2020
Fairly standard collection, but the Rumpole story was hilarious with brilliant multiple twists to finish. The Ruth Rendell one was particularly creepy, pre-dating the rise of the Fursona by several years *shudder* Quite a bit of filler here mind you.
291 reviews
January 1, 2019
Ten short stories that are either classic crime in themselves or more modern additions to the classics. As is usually the case with short story crime, they tend to revolve on a little twist or an oddity of character fitting to the season. Enjoyable bite-sized read.
Profile Image for Holly.
49 reviews3 followers
December 29, 2018
A collection of crime stories with a loose festive theme, not all of which involve murder. A few of these stories were a bit too similar for my liking which made the reading of this book rather dull at a few points. Overall, there was not enough to maintain my steadfast interest. This book is probably best suited to those familiar with Sherlock Holmes, Inspector Morse and Rumpole of the Bailey. Stand-out story for me was Horowitz's highly amusing Camberwell Crackers.
542 reviews2 followers
December 10, 2018
I love murder/mysteries and I thoroughly enjoyed this book of ten short stories.
The clues are all there, some of which I spotted, but I failed to solve any of the mysteries. I like to be surprised when I find out who actually committed the crime, as the enjoyment is ruined if it's too obvious who did it.
The stories are just the right length to keep the readers' interest, but short enough for a couple of them to be read in one sitting.
Profile Image for Christine.
290 reviews45 followers
June 4, 2023
Having read all the Cecily Gayford curated summer mysteries, I decided to read the volumes I have not yet read in the winter/Christmas themed collections. I have remarked before that, unlike the excellent British Library Classic Crime collections, the stories are usually heavily anthologised but I think this is the first in which I have previously read every one of the ten tales on offer. I was perfectly happy to read several of them again but I was glad that I had borrowed this copy from my local library; I may have been less so if I had paid money for it.

Favourite stories

Camberwell Crackers by Anthony Horowitz. Nice to see this story by Horowitz. It is set in a Christmas cracker factory in danger of being closed down by an avaricious new owner who happily meets an untimely end. Horowitz's lightness of touch is well in evidence here.

Loopy by Ruth Rendell. I went off Rendell many years ago but this is the second collection I have read recently in which one of her short stories reminded just how much I used to admire her. Here she digs down into the human psyche with her usual deft touch to tell the story of a mother and son and the woman who tried to come between them. The title is quite clever as well; short and sweet but with at least two meanings in the context of the story

Rumpole and the Old Familiar Faces by John Mortimer. It felt really comfortable to reread this story about the irrepressible Rumpole of the Bailey, who turns the tables on one criminal and uncovers another by attending a pantomime, only to find that he has been outmaneuvered.

Least favourite

The Man With the Sack by Margery Allingham. I do remember reading this the first time - I found it unengaging and pointless, with Campion more annoying than usual and I found no reason to change my mind on this reading. Coincidentally, one of my least favourite stories in the last summer collection I read was a Campion story; I remarked how obvious it is that he is a pale imitation of Lord Peter Wimsey and that aspect is illustrated even more in this story

A Problem in White by Nicholas Blake. I usually like Blake but this story, which takes place mainly on a train stranded in the snow, I found tedious. It is a 'Can you solve this' mystery, in which when you get to the end the reader is invited to see if they can spot the clues and solve the mystery. The solution is then set out in the last couple of pages. I don't much like this format, I find it takes me out of the story and I don't generally want to keep a dog and bark myself.

The Jar of Ginger by Gladys Mitchell. Again, Mitchell was chosen as a least favourite in the one of the summer collections and it has dawned on me that I just don't care much for her style. Even here, I found the story leaden and overwritten. The only blessing is that the series detective, Mrs Bradley, does not appear here.
Profile Image for Maura Heaphy Dutton.
561 reviews12 followers
January 12, 2019
A mixed bag of mysteries with a Christmas theme, raging from pretty poor and forgettable to just OK. It's par for the course that short story collections, whether single author or a collection based on some theme, will be a mixed bag; if you're lucky there will be a couple of jewels among the dross. But in this volume, there's nothing that really stands out, nothing with any "wow" factor. My three stars are based on average scores for the stories.

The Sherlock Holmes story, "The Adventure of the Red Widow," co-written by John Dickson Carr and Adrian Conan Doyle (yes, one of those Conan Doyles ...) is probably the best of the bunch. Channels the original A. Conan Doyle very effectively, and it's a pretty good mystery. I enjoyed the Gladys Mitchell story "The Jar of Ginger," because I like her snarky writing style. (She is the author of the Mrs. Bradley novels, some of which were adapted for TV by the BBC, starring Diana Rigg as the wonderfully snarky psychologist/sleuth Mrs. Bradley. They are well worth reading!) But if you couldn't see the ending coming from the first line, then you have never read a "twist in the tale" story before!

I enjoyed the Margery Allingham, Colin Dexter and John Mortimer stories, because if was fun to spend some time with detectives Albert Campion, Inspector Morse and Rumpole of the Bailey, even in sub-par adventures.

And the Anthony Horowitz story, "Camberell Crackers," was very silly but fun -- probably the best use of the Christmas theme.

I read this as the holiday selection for the Book Group, and one of my fellow members made the very good point that this would have been much better, and more interesting, collection if there had been a brief introduction to each story, saying something about the author, and putting each story into the context of their other work.
Profile Image for Becca Adams.
148 reviews9 followers
December 12, 2020
Crime stories at Christmas time, what’s not to like? I enjoyed some more than others! The best ones were:

Camberwell Crackers by Anthony Horowitz: A owner of a cracker factory is found dead in a gruesome way. But quite deservingly.

A Problem In White by Nicholas Blake- There’s a murder on a train line. This was excellent and extremely clever. Reminded me of Agatha Christie.

Morse’s Greatest Mystery by Colin Dexter- I use to watch Morse with my mam so I knew I’d like this. Morse was very nice in this one.

The Adventure of The Red Widow- Adrian Conan Doyle & John Dickson Carr- I’d never read any Sherlock Holmes before, always wanted to but never gotten around to it. It didn’t disappoint! Such a clever little story!

The Problem of Santa’s Lighthouse- Edward Hoch. This was a story of a doctor going through a town and stopped at the local lighthouse. Owned by a brother and sister, the brother is murdered and the doctor must help who would want to murder him! Really enjoyed this.


The Christmas season is one of comfort and joy, sparkling lights and steam rising from cups of mulled wine at frosty carol services. A season of goodwill, as families and friends come together to forget their differences and celebrate.

Unless, of course, you happen to be harbouring a grudge. Or hiding a guilty secret. Or you want something so much you just have to have it - whatever the cost. In A Very Murderous Christmas, ten of the best classic crime writers come together to unleash festive havoc, with murder, mayhem and twists aplenty.

From a murder aboard a snow-bound train to a pantomime costume that takes on a life of its own, these are mysteries as rich and satisfying as a Christmas dinner.
Profile Image for Chris Browning.
1,047 reviews9 followers
January 3, 2021
A lot more hit and miss than the previous Christmas crime collection, mainly because all three modern attempts at the form are absolute stinkers: Colin Dexter’s central idea here is a great one but the Morse story feels like it’s his notes for a proper tale that he submitted in a panic, with most of the story just a précis; Rendell’s contribution feels like a scanty idea for a Vine novel that she realised would’ve been terrible so instead turns it into a terrible short story instead; Horowitz is the worst, with a thin joke of a story trying desperately to feel like a classic crime story but instead sounding like a jocular uncle laughing in a really strained way at you at a Christmas party to cover the fact he’s going through a bitter divorce (plus a really, really weird joke about Estonians that just dribbles out)

All the others? Absolutely great. Blake’s story is a nice touch with a puzzle for the reader; the Allingham story is a bit more conventional than the one in Murder for Christmas but still allows Campion to shine at his best; the Hoch story threatens to get very, very weird but at the last minute just about saves itself despite a decidedly dodgy motive... it just reminds you that the golden age writers were better at short stories because there was a regular audience to hone your skills with them. That’s pretty much gone now (unlike horror, which has a significantly smaller but still thriving short form world tootling along nicely) and it really tells when the modern writers try and apply it
Profile Image for JoeK.
332 reviews2 followers
December 11, 2019
Three and a half stars. (averaged over the ten stories)

A Very Murderous Christmas wasn’t all that murderous. Of the ten stories presented, four were not about murders at all. Not that I mind that much. I've always liked mysteries that weren't steeped in violence and blood. There are other types of detective cases that just don’t happen too much in the mystery genre.

This was a quick read. I think a spent as much time on my individual reviews as I did on the tories themselves. I won’t go into too much detail here, just to say there weren’t any one star stories, but there weren’t any 5 star ones either.

The worst was my first Ruth Rendell story “Loopy” which I gave one and a half stars. Not a good introduction to as famous author.

The best was my first Albert Campion mystery by Margery Allingham. “The Man with the Sack” was a solid four stars.

I like to read Christmas themed stories at this time of the year, and none of these was really mood setting, although some tried. I’m reading Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man next, and for my dollar it’s much Christmasier.
Profile Image for Ryan O'Pray.
71 reviews
December 25, 2019
Save for the last story, ‘The Problem of Santa’s Lighthouse’, all of these short stories are firmly in the genre of middle class English crime fiction. Canonical characters such as Sherlock Holmes and Watson, Inspector Morse, Father Brown and Horace Rumpole feature - and (this is the book’s shining star) each in the brief time they appear bring their own characteristics to each of their tales - but there is just not enough juice to go around when taken as a whole, a collection.
The plots feature identity theft, jewellery theft, exquisite murders (involving Christmas Crackers to animal suits to prop pirate daggers).
The settings all feature Christmas tropes - snow, trains, manor houses, etc. - and this is an area where the collective does meet its selling point.
What harmed the book for me - and this may not apply for all readers - was the banality of most narratives. Loopy, by Ruth Rendell, was an exception, but aside from the whodunit-challenge of the ending of A Problem in White by Nicholas Blake, everything else was very by-the-numbers (including the latter’s narrative). There was a distinct lack of depth which I found lessened my enjoyment of the collection.
Profile Image for Karen M.
274 reviews
December 23, 2020
Short stories are amazing in that one book can jump you to places and times that vary dramatically and yet each is utterly satisfying. Here there are ten and really only one dud.
So I managed to start with a favourite - Mr Campion whose country house Christmas looks like being ruined by an awful nouveau riche family and a baroque loving Santa. Moved on to Sherlock and Watson in another country house , a very pleasingly gothic one, which comes with its own guillotine, definitely a red widow. Horowitz is as amazing as ever with his murder in miniature and cracker jokes as well.
Chesterton sweeps us back to country houses as Father Brown and Flambeau tangle again.Blake sets a conundrum I couldn’t resist with eight clues to find and solve. Rendell is at her unsettling best with ‘Loopy’ you know where it’s going but read on in appalled fascination . A smidgeon of Morse and Lewis like a tease really. Rumpole to delight and irritate in equal measure and finally Santa’s lighthouse a 1930s crime delight.
Entertained - I certainly was.
Profile Image for Catherine Massey.
35 reviews26 followers
February 3, 2019
This book contains 10 festive short stories from great mystery writers from Anthony Horowitz to Arthur Conan Doyle to Ruth Rendall and to the famous Morse writer Colin Dexter. From christmas crackers to gullotines, to wolf suits and pantos, it has it all. These sort of Short story anthologies fit with my life, as I have two jobs, two kids and I am studying for a degree. Therefore, I only have time on a Sunday to read. This book fits perfectly with my life, I read one short story each week. I am an avid fan of murder stories. However, some of the stories didn’t live up to my expectations. I was quite looking forward to the Ruth Rendall and Colin Dexter’s stories, but i was disappointed. I did however extremely enjoy ‘The adventure of the red widow by Arthur Conan Doyle and Camberwell Crackers by Anthony Horowitz. This book is extremely entertaining, however, as the title suggests, I was expecting more murderous escapades. I would still recommend this book and it is worth a read.
Profile Image for Alva.
101 reviews
December 29, 2022
Overall rating 3 stars

My five favourite stories:
#6 Loopy - Ruth Rendell -> 4.5-5 stars
Profoundly messed up, but I loved it. Not Christmas-y, however.
#2 The Adventure of the Red Widow - Adrian Conan Doyle & John Dickson Carr -> 4-4.5 stars
Who doesn't love a good bit of Sherlock?
#5 A Problem in White - Nicholas Blake -> 4 stars
I always like a train mystery, and I liked how the solution was presented.
#9 Rumpole and the Old Familiar Faces - John Mortimer -> 4 stars
Fun, not very twisty and turn-y, but I liked the concept.
#10 The Problem of Santa's Lighthouse - Edward Hoch -> 3.5 stars
Read surprisingly much like a modern thriller. Interesting setting.

My least favourite story was:
#8 The Jar of Ginger - Gladys Mitchell -> 2 stars
It seemed to think itself cleverer than I did. Overly chatty.
Profile Image for Lisa Kucharski.
921 reviews
December 25, 2019
Would prefer a 3 1/2 stars for this. Collection includes: The Man with the Sack, Margery Allingham, The Adventure of the Red Widos, Adrian Conan Doyle & John Dickson Carr, Camberwell Crackers by Anthony Horowitz, The Flying Stars by G.K. Chesterton, A Problem in White by Nicholas Blake, Loopy by Ruth Rendell, Morse’s Greatess Mystery by Colin Dexter, The Jar of Ginger by Gladys Mitchell, Rumpole and the old familiar Faces by John Mortimer, The Problem with Santa’s Lighthouse by Ed Hoch.

Some feel more of the season than others, Loopy is the greatest stretch for me as it involves a pantomime as a beginning spot.

Overall a nice collection that moves through he golden age and more contemporary. Always love short stories during this time of the year as it is so busy!
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