Murder on Christmas Eve – Review
By Karl Hornsey
While Christmas 2019 may already feel an awful long way in the past, that doesn’t mean the festive season must be avoided altogether, and it certainly shouldn’t stop anyone enjoying Murder on Christmas Eve, a collection of 10 short stories set on, you guessed it, Christmas Eve, from some of the finest crime writers past and present.
OK, so reading it in the run-up to Christmas is probably the best thing to do, but it’s also a cracking read sat in front of a roaring fire with a glass of something warming in hand. It’s a relatively untaxing selection of British and American mysteries chosen to gently amuse and entertain the little grey cells, rather than to scare one witless.
There’s also the fact that the featured authors are among the finest and well-known in the crime fiction genre, including Val McDermid, Ian Rankin, Ellis Peters, GK Chesterton and Margery Allingham, with the likes of Rebus, Father Brown and Campion among the familiar characters foiling the villains, invariably as the snow lies all around, deep and crisp and even.
In addition to that famous five, there are also short stories by the less widely known John Dickson Carr, Lawrence Block, Marjorie Bowen, Julian Symons and Michael Innes, all of whom are more than capable of making a good yarn rattle along nicely.
Of the 10 tales, the Rebus story, ‘No Sanity Clause’, about a petty criminal who finds the detective in a charitable mood during the festive season, and Dickson Carr’s ‘The Footprint in the Sky’, albeit with an implausible/fantastic method of avoiding detection, were among the standouts for me. Although topping the lot, I’d have to choose ‘The Dagger with Wings’ by GK Chesterton as my personal favourite, although that might have something to do being a keen latecomer to the marvellous BBC adaptations of the Father Brown stories.
This particular vignette, one of the longest in the collection, sees the padre called on to investigate when the third and final remaining brother of a family wants police protection after his two brothers are killed, potentially by a man seeking to overturn a will that he thought should rightfully leave him a great fortune. Father Brown, in his own methodical and sensible style, debunks some of the wilder supernatural theories surrounding the case and, as is customary, all’s well that ends well.
‘Murder on Christmas Eve’ is published by Profile Books, £7.99 paperback