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by Martin Edwards, ed.
British Library Crime, October 2018
250 pages
8.99 GBP
ISBN: 0712352473

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

What links half a Christmas card clutched in the hand of a dead man, a bridge player shot by an invisible killer, a perfect jewel theft foiled by imperfect criminals, and eight other mysterious events or deaths? Christmas and its associated festive cheer, and a solution in only a few pages.

THE CHRISTMAS CARD CRIME is part of The British Library Crime Classics series. The series title is a bit of a misnomer, as all the books in the series so far aren't actually classics in accepted sense of being books everyone has read (or should have read). Instead they were all popular when the authors were active, but fell out of popularity and print when they stopped writing. They are all recent enough to be ineligible for scanning by the Gutenburg Project, and all have an informative introduction by Martin Edwards.

For THE CHRISTMAS CARD CRIME Martin Edwards has collected eleven more or less obscure short stories written between 1909 and 1965, all set during the Christmas season. The writers included are Baroness Orczy, Selwyn Jepson, Donald Stuart, Ronald Knox, Carter Dickson, Francis Durbridge, Cyril Hare, E.C.R. Lorac, John Bude, John Bingham and Julian Symons. There are far fewer familiar stories than in the British Library's previous Christmas short story collection SILENT NIGHTS (2015), which included often reprinted stories by Conan Doyle and Chesterton. The only one in this selection I've seen before is the Carter Dickson, which is effectively a locked room ghost story.

Obviously, given the number of authors and the differing periods of writing, the style and quality of the stories vary. Some are a little short (the Durbridge, in particular, reads as if it's small part of a chapter of a Paul Temple adventure), and some rely a little too much on a single clue, but all eleven are somewhere between good and very good.

Overall this is an enjoyable collection of Christmas themed crime, published just in time for Christmas.

Rik Shepherd has been a computer programmer and a web accessibility consultant. He lives in the north West of England and is mildly surprised to have just realised he's been reading crime fiction for 45 years.

Reviewed by Rik Shepherd, November 2018

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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