Thursday, November 28, 2019

"Midwinter Mysteries" - A Christmas Crime Anthology

Midwinter Mysteries is an anthology of 11 stories set in the Christmas period – but the stories are vary widely in geography and time. Generally, they’re written by authors who have crime series novels and detectives (in fact, what first attracted me to the anthology was seeing it included stories by Cora Harrison and Keith Moray, whose works I’ve previously read). 

“Away in a Manger” by Graham Black is set in Old Town Square in Prague, and police are on patrol, looking for pickpockets and possible robberies in the crowded area. A Christmas theater presentation is going on, and there’s a lot more to it than a simple Christmas play.

“Footprints in the Snow” by J.C. Briggs in set in the England of 1850. Charles Dickens had expected to be at home in Devonshire Terrace in London for Christmas Eve, but heavy snow has trapped him and his fellow guests at Fareaway Abbey, the country home of Sir Gaston Fareaway and his wife, the Lady Adelina. Dickens does what he does best on Christmas Eve – he tells a ghost story. But it’s a story that’s a bit too close to home for one of the guests.

“Lost and Found” by Keith Moray is set in West Uist, in the Orkney Islands of Scotland, in 2012. It’s almost Christmas, and Inspector Torquil Mackinnon is introducing his sergeant Lorna Golspie to his friends and fellow musicians at a party. One of the musicians is found dead the next day, and it appears to have been killed by someone at the party who knew him well.

“The Spirit of Christmas” by Cora Harrison in set in London in 1858, and it stars Alfie and his band of orphans who are caring for each other in Victorian England (Harrison has written several mysteries involving the boys). Blind Sammy, with his beautiful voice, is singing for coins in front of Hamley’s Toy Shop in High Holborn when he suddenly disappears, replaced by a man who sings badly and doesn’t look like Father Christmas at all. A crime is going down, and Alfie and his friends have to find Sammy.

In “The Stolen Santa Sack” by Sean Gibbons, cabbie Ben Miller is driving along a motorway at 2 a.m. right before Christmas, and he has a problem. He has a dead Santa Claus in the back of his cab, the same Santa Claus that Police Superintendent had had him pick up at a hotel to bring to an address 17 miles away. Along the way, Santa was murdered.

“Will Power” by Marilyn Todd is set in the London of 1895, photographer Julia McAllister returns home from an assignment to find her home burgled. The only thing stolen was a set of prints from a recent wedding, and Julia desperately needs to get those prints back.

“Christmas Spirits” by Gaynor Torrance is set in contemporary Wales. Detective Inspector Jemima Huxley is looking for a murder suspect and receives a tip he’s been spotted in Cardiff near a church. Their timing is bad; large numbers of schoolchildren are gathered for the singing of Christmas carols. The suspect is a no-show, and on the way back to headquarters she and he police partner make a stop at a shop. She asks a salesperson dressed as an elf for help, but the elf turns out to be something else entirely.

For “The Essex Nativity” by David Field, we’re back to the England of 1895. Detective Sergeant Jack Enright of the Essex Constabulary is anticipating 10 days of leave for the Christmas holiday, but is suddenly faced with dealing with a reported burglary at a nearby farm. And then things get complicated. 

“Secret Santa” by Kim Fleet is set in contemporary England. It’s two days after Christmas, and private detective Eden Grey is grousing about the holiday when a note is passed under the door of her flat. All the note says is, “Who is following me?” Grey is going to find out – and find out who slipped the note under her door.

“Sir Up Sunday” by M.J. Logue goes way, way back – to the London of 1665. King Charles II needs a book found. It’s meant to be a present for his wife, the queen, and it’s up to Major Thankful Russell to find out what happened and get the book back. Or else.

The final story in the anthology is “The Christmas Ghost” by Linda Stratman, set in Brighton, England, in 1871. Mina Scarletti is known for exposing fraudulent spirit mediums, and she’s been called to the home of Mrs. Calverdon. It’s almost Christmas, and Mrs. Calverdon sees her son sitting in the room with them as they talk. The problem is that her son is dead.

These are all fun Christmas mysteries, providing both holiday entertainment and an introduction to 11 mystery writers and their fictional detectives.

Top photograph by Rodolfo Marques via Unsplash. Used with permission.

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