by Sharon Farrow
In my latest release, Hollyberry Homicide, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol plays a major role. Since it is my favorite fictional Christmas tale, I was happy to pay tribute to it. I love a good Christmastime setting, so I have a number of stories to recommend aside from Charles Dickens. Here are a few suggestions for Christmas themed mysteries.
A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny is the second book in her Inspector Gamache series. While the scenic Quebec village of Three Pines prepares to celebrate Christmas, a murderer has other plans. The village has scheduled a number of holiday events, from Christmas pageants to a curling tournament. Despite the picturesque winter setting, things turn less festive when one of the curling participants is electrocuted in the middle of the frozen lake. This brings Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete of Quebec back to Three Pines. The reader will not only be gripped by the mystery, but charmed by the local characters and their businesses, especially Olivier’s Bistro, Myrna’s New and Used Books, Gabri’s B&B, and Sarah’s Boulangerie. And the Currier & Ives beauty of the snowy village will make you want to take a seat by the roaring fire at the inn, sip a café au lait, and admire Gamache’s considerable skills as an investigator.
If you love Christmas cozies, you no doubt know about Vicki Delaney’s Year Round Christmas series set in Rudolph, New York. Although the fifth installment was just released, readers new to the series may want to start with Book One, Rest Ye Murdered Gentlemen. Holiday fans will enjoy meeting Merry Wilkinson, owner of Mrs. Claus’s Treasures, particularly since the debut book actually takes place during Christmas. Which means the residents are even more taken up with the holiday than usual. In this one, sabotage strikes the semi-annual parade and a local reporter stumbles upon a fatal story. No matter what time of year the books unfold in, the town of Rudolph keeps the Christmas spirit year round, drawing a constant stream of tourists…and murderers.
Stephanie Barron’s Jane Austen Mystery series is a Must Read for fans of the famous author. And her 2014 release Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas is a perfect read for the holidays. Jane has been invited to spend the twelve days of Christmas at the imposing estate known as The Vyne. When the book opens, it is Christmas Eve 1814, so the convivial conversation is all about politics, Napoleon, and the success of Jane’s recently published Mansfield Park. But the mood grows somber when one of the guests dies after falling from his horse. Although his death is viewed as an accident, Jane suspects it may have been murder. Especially since the dead man brought with him the signed Treaty of Ghent, which formalized the end of the War of 1812. And now the document has disappeared. A snowy landscape, parlor games, a Christmas country house party, and dead bodies all combine to tell a fascinating holiday tale.
I included this one for sentimental reasons since Silent Night was my long ago introduction to Mary Higgins Clark. This contemporary Christmas suspense story published in 1995 is so short, it almost qualifies as a novella. However, there’s more than enough going on to hold your attention. A couple and their young children come to New York City for the husband’s operation. On Christmas Eve, the mother takes her sons to Rockefeller Center. While there, the youngest boy sees a woman steal his mother’s wallet. Because the wallet holds a St. Christopher medal the child thinks will protect his sick father, he instantly follows the woman. Once seven-year-old Brian is separated from his mother, the suspense and danger build as an escaped prisoner abducts the child. And it takes the NYC police department, the convict’s sister, and the prayers of Brian’s mother to bring the tale to a heartwarming conclusion tailor made for Christmas.
Since Lucy Foley’s The Hunting Party centers around New Year’s Eve, it is not technically a Christmas mystery. But I’m a sucker for a suspense novel that traps their characters in an isolated setting, then throws in a murder. In this Scottish resort version of a country house mystery, university friends travel to a remote hunting lodge in the Highlands to ring in the New Year. We soon learn these thirty-something friends aren’t all that friendly with each other. And someone will wind up dead. An atmospheric whodunit reminiscent of Agatha Christie, The Hunting Party unfolds in a wintry locale that prevents a speedy rescue from the elements – or the killer.
If you haven’t read any of these books yet, settle back with a cup of hot cocoa this winter and give one or more them a try. And have yourself a merry little read!
Sharon Farrow is the latest pen name of award winning author Sharon Pisacreta. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Sharon has been a freelance writer since her twenties, with her first novel released in 1998. Published in mystery, fantasy, and romance, Sharon currently writes The Berry Basket cozy mystery series.