The Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories edited by Martin Edwards

Yuletide villainy…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Another themed collection of mystery shorts from the British Library Crime Classics series, edited and with a foreword by our usual excellent guide to all things vintage, Martin Edwards. This one contains eleven stories, all with a Christmas theme, often of family get-togethers for the holiday. Some of the British Library regulars are here – ECR Lorac, John Bude, Julian Symons, but there are also many who are new to me or whom I’ve only come across as contributors to other anthologies. I often find the stories from these lesser known ones are the best in the collections, and this is the case here. I wonder if this might be because they specialised in the short story form, whereas the bigger names are more comfortable with the full-length novel? But that’s merely speculation.

Here’s a brief idea of some of the stories I enjoyed most, which will give you some idea of the variety in the collection:

By the Sword by Selwyn Jepson – this is told from the murderer’s perspective and a nasty piece of work he is too! He is in lust with his cousin’s wife, plus his cousin, usually willing to help him out financially, has decided to draw the line and refuse him any more “loans” which never seem to get repaid. It’s a tradition in this military family that all the men die “by the sword” and our murderer is happy to go along with this. However, there’s more than one sting in the tail of this rather dark and well written story. And the author is particularly good at creating layers, so that we see through the murderer’s self-obsessed viewpoint but also can guess at things he misses.

Sister Bessie or Your Old Leech by Cyril Hare – a man is being blackmailed and is sure the blackmailer is one of his step-siblings. He’s already caused the death of the one he first suspected, but now he’s received another demand. So he sets out to kill the one he now suspects – sister Bessie. Naturally things don’t go according to plan… another one that’s very well told.

Blind Men’s Hood by Carter Dickson – one of the things I enjoy about these collection is that they often include stories that crossover into mild horror. This is a great little ghost story, brilliantly atmospheric. Our protagonists, a young man and his girlfriend, turn up at a friend’s country house for a Christmas gathering. The house is empty – all the inhabitants have gone off to a church service but for one young woman, who tells them the story of a long-ago murder. It’s beautifully done, with some lovely spooky touches.

‘Twixt the Cup and the Lip by Julian Symons – Symons is rapidly becoming one of my favourites of the authors the BL is reviving, and this rather longer story shows his style well. Our protagonist is a bookseller as far as the world knows, but in secret he is also something of a criminal mastermind. He is putting together a little team to rob a local store of a jewellery collection that forms the centrepiece of its Christmas display. Despite his meticulous planning, things don’t quite work out as he intended. There’s a lovely mixture of light and dark in this story, and the Christmas theme is enhanced by men running about in Santa costumes.

Overall, eight of the eleven stories got either 4 or 5 stars from me and none got less than 3, which makes this one of the strongest of the collections so far. Unfortunately I didn’t get around to reviewing it in time for Christmas just past, but it’s one I highly recommend for the nights leading up to next Christmas, or for the rebellious non-traditionalists among you, it would even be possible to read and enjoy it now…

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, the British Library.

Amazon UK Link
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31 thoughts on “The Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories edited by Martin Edwards

  1. I very nearly picked this up just before Christmas but thought it was a little expensive. Based on your review, I might just see if I can get it on one of the book sites 🙂

  2. Trust Edwards to curate a great-sounding collection like this, FictionFan! They do sound appealing, and I always think it’s best when a collection has a sort of theme that ties the stories together.

    • Haha, I can’t imagine Christmas in summer! When I was a kiddie, I was once asked in a test when Christmas Day was in Australia, and I very carefully calculated it must be on June 25th…

      • That’s a gorgeous story! I once did a test where the first instruction was to read all of the instructions before starting and the last instruction was to disregard all previous instructions. Can’t remember my result… probably a fail.

  3. ‘it’s one I highly recommend for the nights leading up to next Christmas’
    You read it here first! Time to dust off the Christmas ornaments and start your 2019 Christmas present list! Hah hah (I suffer too from all the things I should have done THEN, and the ARCS which will finally get reviewed years after their publication. Sometimes I’m sure I’m living in a Dali world: all my clocks have melted!

    • Hahaha! Start your shopping early! You could have everything wrapped by the end of March. And if you put the sprouts on in April, they should be ready in plenty of time for the big day…

      I used to be good about reviewing near the publication date but I’m so sloppy about it now. I’ve decided procrastination is my main talent…

  4. I keep picking this up in bookshops and then putting it down again because I was disappointed with the last Christmas BL collection that I read – glad to hear you thought this one was better!

    • I do find they vary and have been disappointed in a couple of the collections overall. I missed the last Christmas one so can’t say how this compares with that one, but I thought this one was one of the strongest of the collections they’ve done so far.

    • A really enjoyable collection! I mean, what’s not to love about thieves in Santa costumes?? (Yes, indeed – but the books don’t always let me… 😉 )

  5. Sounds a really strong collection – I like a seasonal read so I’ll have to remember this for 9 months time. Why don’t I know anyone with names like Selwyn Jepson? Life would be so much more interesting if I did 🙂

  6. 4 and 5 stars? Fabulous! I’m not sure i can read a Christmas book at this time of year though…unless I was eating Christmas chocolate to complete the theme?

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