Christmas at The Mysterious Bookshop
edited by Otto Penzler
I do love Christmas mysteries, a combination of my favorite things really. Murder and theft for the holiday. This book collects 17 stories by am amazing list of writers. Each original story was commissioned by Otto Penzler, one a year beginning in 1993, printed and given to his bookstore customers as a holiday gift. The only requirements were that the story must take place during the Christmas season, involve a mystery and have a least some of the action take place at the Mysterious Bookshop in New York. I am so happy that he’s sharing the stories with the rest of us!
Each of the stories is written by a well-known author in the genre, and they vary from light-hearted and heart-warming to dark, like “The 74th Tale” by Jonathan Santlofer where a man discovers Poe and a penchant for burying people alive, and everywhere in between. As with most collections, I had some stories I enjoyed more than the rest and at least one that I didn’t really care for.
One of my favorite was probably “As Dark as Christmas Gets” by Lawrence Block. Chip Harrison is the assistant to Leo Haig, who models himself after Nero Wolf. The mystery centers around a missing manuscript and I love how all the suspects, friends of a fictionalized Penzler are gathered together and the solution provided. It was amusing in a kind of first this happened, then that, then he did this, then she did that kind of way.
“The Christmas Spirit” by Michael Malone stars Cuddy Magnum, a police chief from North Carolina visiting New York City alone at Christmas. He runs into a woman he’d met the past spring, an attractive NYPD detective, who asks him to join here at a party at The Mysterious Bookshop. Of course, murder ensues and the two solve the case.
Like the characters in Block’s story, Cuddy is from a series the author writes, but both Malone and Block are talented and in a few short pages, did a wonderful job of telling a tight story and giving me enough details about the characters to enjoy them, and even want to pick up the series they come from. That can be one of the joys of short story collections, discovering new to me authors, getting a taste of their writing, and this collection has some great ones.
The first in the book, “Give Till It Hurts” by Donald E. Westlake starts the collection off with a bang. Dormunder’s a thief who, while eluding the cops, joins a poker game held about the bookshop. What happens when the cops show up is perfect.
Oh, and “The Killer Christian” by Andrew Klavan where a mobster’s life is changed by an “angel.” I actually could go on and on about the stories I liked. The only one that really disappointed me was “The Grift of the Magi” by S. J. Rozan, it was just a little too goofy for my taste.
Overall, if you have a mystery lover on your Christmas list this year, this collection would be an ideal gift. There’s a story that’s bound to appeal. There’s murder and mischief, thieves and PIs, even a very intelligent cat.
Published October 12, 2010 by Vanguard Press
4 out of 5 stars
Challenges: 100+, Holiday Reading
I borrowed my copy from the library and the above is my honest opinion.