Eggnog and tinsel? Sure, they’re nice, but mystery lovers still need their murder and mayhem fix even in the season of good cheer, and if Christmas itself is part of the story, all the better. Every year a few authors tackle the tricky combination of homicide and holiday, and the Christmas mysteries this time around take readers from a modern New York City coffeehouse to a quaint pre-World War I inn, from Victorian London to medieval England. Here are four that fans of holiday-themed mysteries will want to look for – and if you leave a comment today, you’ll have a chance to win a free copy of one of them.
Mrs. Jeffries and the Yuletide Weddings is the twenty-sixth entry in Emily Brightwell’s popular series about a matronly housekeeper in Victorian England who happens to be the secret behind her boss’s awe-inspiring success as a Scotland Yard detective. When a middle-aged spinster is killed in what looks like a random attack, the Miss Marple of Victorian mysteries helps Inspector Witherspoon plow through the intrigue and lies, unearth long-buried secrets, get through the distraction of two Christmas weddings, and solve the crime.
Christmas is often deadly at the Pennyfoot Hotel in the years before WWI. In Decked with Folly, Kate Kingsbury’s fifth Christmas mystery in her long-running series, Cecily Sinclair Baxter is preparing her inn for a festive season when the body of a former Pennyfoot employee turns up in the duck pond. A body in the duck pond is bad news at any time of year, and it can certainly put a damper on holiday celebrations. Cecily sets out to clear the victim’s ex-wife, a Pennyfoot maid, and restore order in time for a properly cheerful Christmas.
Holiday Grind by Cleo Coyle also revolves around a seemingly random act of violence that turns out to be premeditated murder. Clare Cosi, owner of the Village Blend coffeehouse in New York, finds a volunteer Santa dead in the snow and refuses to go along with the police verdict of a mugging that went too far. When she starts probing Santa’s personal life, she puts herself in danger. Coyle (actually a husband and wife writing team) includes an expanded recipe section that will be a boon to anyone who desperately needs to gain 10 pounds fast.
For those who want a more serious mystery, Maureen Ash offers Murder for Christ’s Mass, fourth in her gracefully written Templar Knights series. The time is Christmas of 1201. Templar Bascot de Marins, who escaped after eight years of imprisonment by the Saracens in the Holy Land, is visiting Lincoln when an employee of the local mint is found murdered in a stone quarry. Because the sheriff is busy entertaining noble guests, Bascot is enlisted to investigate the crime, with help from his assistant and ward, a 13-year-old boy named Gianni whom he rescued from the brink of starvation. Ash uses the authentic settings of Lincoln castle and the surrounding town and populates them with characters based on real historical figures. She is exceptionally deft at weaving together historical details to recreate an era without hitting the reader over the head with the full weight of her research.
Tell me which of these holiday mysteries appeals to you, and you’ll be entered in a drawing for a free copy. If you don’t win – well, you know the location of your nearest bookstore, I trust! Books make wonderful holiday gifts, for friends, family, and yourself.