EXCERPT: ‘After all,’ said our host, ‘it’s Christmas. Why not let the skeleton out of the bag?’
‘Or the cat out of the closet?’ said the historian, who likes to be precise even about clichés. ‘Are you serious?’
‘Yes,’ said our host. ‘I want to know if it’s safe for anyone to sleep in that little room at the head of the stairs.’
He had just bought the place. This party was in the nature of a house warming; and I had already decided privately that the place needed one. It was a long damp, high-windowed house, hidden behind a high hill in Sussex. The drawing-room, where a group of us had gathered around the fire after dinner, was much too long and much too draughty. It had fine panelling – a rich brown where the firelight was always finding new gleams – and a hundred little reflections trembled down it’s length, as in so many small gloomy mirrors. But it remained draughty.
Of course, we all liked the house. It had the most modern of lighting and heating arrangements, though the plumbing sent ghostly noises and clanks far down into the interior whenever you turned on a tap. But the smell of the past was in it; and you could not get over the idea that somebody was following you about. Now, at the host’s flat mention of a certain possibility, we all looked at our wives.
‘But you never told us,’ said the historian’s wife, rather shocked, ‘you never told us you had a ghost here!’
‘I don’t know that I have,’ replied our host quite seriously. ‘All I have is a bundle of evidence about something queer that once happened. It’s all right; I haven’t put anyone in that little room at the head of the stairs. So we can drop the discussion, if you’d rather.’
‘You know we can’t,’ said the Inspector: who, as a matter of strict fact, is an Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. He smoked a large cigar, and contemplated ghosts with satisfaction. ‘This is exactly the time and place to hear about it. What is it?’ – Taken from Persons or Things Unknown by Carter Dickson.
ABOUT ‘A SURPRISE FOR CHRISTMAS’: Two dead bodies and a Christmas stocking weaponised. A Postman murdered delivering cards on Christmas morning. A Christmas tree growing over a forgotten homicide. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, except for the victims of these shocking and often elaborate murders. When there’s magic in the air, sometimes even the facts don’t quite add up and the impossible can happen — and it’s up to the detective’s trained eye to unwrap the clues and put together an explanation neatly tied up with a bow. Martin Edwards compiles an anthology filled with tales of seasonal suspense where the snow runs red, perfect to be shared between super-sleuths by the fire on a cold winter’s night.
MY THOUGHTS: This is one of the better collections of short stories that I have read in some time. All are set at Christmas, although Santa only features in one story.
The stories range from extremely short and pithy, to very long and rambling.
I was not particularly impressed by the first two stories, but once I got past them, there were several in a row that I absolutely adored. Overall this is an excellent collection. I have read stories by some of the authors before, other authors were new to me, as were all the stories.
Below is my rating for each story:
1. The Black Bag Left on a Doorstep by Catherine Louisa Pirkis ⭐⭐⭐
2. The Hole in the Wall by G.K. Chesterton ⭐⭐.5
3. Death on the Air by Ngaio Marsh ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
4. Persons or Things Unknown by Carter Dickson ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
5. Dead Man’s Hand by E.R. Punshon ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
6. The Christmas Eve Ghost by Ernest Dudley ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
7. Dick Whittington’s Cat by Victor Canning ⭐⭐⭐⭐
8. A Surprise for Christmas by Cyril Hare ⭐⭐⭐⭐
9. On A Christmas Day in the Morning by Margery Allingham ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
10. Give Me A Ring by Anthony Gilbert ⭐⭐⭐
11. Father Christmas Comes to Orbins by Julian Symons ⭐⭐⭐.5
12. The Turn-Again Bell by Barry Perowne ⭐⭐⭐⭐
My absolute favourite was the Ngaio Marsh story featuring Inspector Roderick Allyen, followed by the Margery Allingham story, On Christmas Day in the Morning.
If you are looking for a Christmas treat to dip into over the festive season, this is it, or it would make a wonderful gift for the mystery lover in your life.
I: @medwardsbooks @poisonedpenpress
T: @medwardsbooks @PPPress
#christmasfiction #cosymystery #crime #detectivefiction #historicalfiction #murdermystery #mystery #shortstories
THE AUTHOR: Kenneth Martin Edwards is a British crime novelist, whose work has won awards in the UK and the United States. As a crime fiction critic and historian, and also in his career as a solicitor, he has written non-fiction books and many articles.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Poisoned Pen Press via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of A Surprise for Christmas and Other Seasonal Mysteries compiled by Martin Edwards for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com
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