Christmas Crime Reads 2021

1. The Twelve Even Stranger Days of Christmas - Syd Moore
Point Blank £6.99

"As the dark winter nights get longer, prepare to lose yourself in the world of the strange. With a tale for each day of Christmas and a rather unlucky 13th, Christmas is not the only spirit in these pages. ‘Tis the season for sacrificial feasts, cultish communities and a train with a rather final destination. So wrap up warm and let yourself get lost in the world of the strange, the scary and the supernatural…

The Essex Witch Museum Mysteries are gaining a cult status and are extremely addictive. These quirky tales are perfect for those snatched moments when you need a crime fix!"

2. A Fatal Night - Faith Martin
HQ £8.99

"New Year’s Eve, 1962. As a snowstorm rages outside, Oxford high society gathers to ring in the new year at the city’s most exclusive party. This is a soiree no one will forget… not least because a guest is found dead in his car the next morning. It seems the young man tragically froze to death overnight after crashing into a snowdrift – but when WPC Trudy Loveday and coroner Clement Ryder are called in to investigate, they discover a tangled web of secrets that plainly points to murder.

With everyone telling different stories about that fateful night, only one thing is clear: several people had reason to want the victim dead. And if Trudy and Clement don’t find the cracks in each lie, the killer will get away with the perfect crime…

Martin wonderfully conjures up a time without CCTV, mobiles and DNA! All Loveday and Ryder have is their determination to find the truth. Using a real event, (this snowfall lasted from December to February and is called the Big Freeze of 1963). Martin brings the chill to her story with this wintry background and is hugely enjoyable."

3. Murder In Blue - Clifford Witting
Galileo £8.99

"John Rutherford, bookseller and sometime fiction writer, discovers the bludgeoned corpse of a policeman one evening while taking a stroll in a rainstorm. The policeman's overturned bicycle is what first catches Rutherford's eye. Then he sees Officer Johnson's body sprawled on the sodden ground of Phantom Coppice. Rutherford takes Johnson's bike and pedals to rural Paulsfield police station, two miles away, to report the crime. There he finds Sgt. Martin who initiates calls to a doctor, a photographer and Inspector Charlton. But it is not these two lead detectives who are the most interesting characters of the book. That honour goes to 19 year old George Stubbings, assistant at 'Voslivres,' the bookshop Rutherford owns. George is a detective story addict and he is keen on solving the various mysteries surrounding Johnson's violent death. I am chuffed that this classic has been republished and that Clifford Witting should be more widely known and read."

4. Bryant and May: London Bridge Is Falling Down - Christopher Fowler
Doubleday £18.99

"It was the kind of story that barely made the news. When 91-year-old Amelia Hoffman died in her top-floor flat on a busy London road, it's considered an example of what has gone wrong with modern society: she slipped through the cracks in a failing system. But detectives Arthur Bryant and John May of the Peculiar Crimes Unit have their doubts. Mrs Hoffman was once a government security expert, even though no one can quite remember her. When a link emerges between the old lady and a diplomat trying to flee the country, it seems that an impossible murder has been committed.

Mrs Hoffman wasn't the only one at risk. Bryant is convinced that other forgotten women with hidden talents are also in danger. And, curiously, they all own models of London Bridge. With the help of some of their more certifiable informants, the detectives follow the strangest of clues in an investigation that will lead them through forgotten alleyways to the city's oldest bridge in search of a desperate killer. This has been tagged as the last Bryant and May case, which brings this wonderfully quirky series to a finish. We shall miss these two gentlemen and their eccentric team. Thank you for all the laughs!"

5. Murder After Christmas - Rupert Latimer
British Library Publishing £8.99

"Good old Uncle Willie – rich, truculent and seemingly propped up by his fierce willpower alone – has come to stay with the Redpaths for the holidays. It is just their luck for him to be found dead in the snow on Boxing Day morning, dressed in his Santa Claus costume and seemingly poisoned by something in the Christmas confectionery. As the police flock to the house, Willie’s descendants, past lovers and distant relatives are drawn into a perplexing investigation to find out how the old man met his fate, and who stands to gain by such an unseasonable crime.

First published in 1944, ‘Murder After Christmas’ is a lively riot of murder, mince pies and misdirection of Golden Age detective fiction to create a pacey, light-hearted package admirably suited for the holiday season. The British Library Crime Classic series has brought to print some wonderful mysteries that have languished in the out-of-print landscape, sometimes for decades. I have never heard of Rupert Latimer, but if previous Christmas treats are anything to go by, this should be deliciously deadly!"

6. The Christmas Murder Game - Alexandra Benedict
Zaffre £14.99

"Twelve clues. Twelve keys. Twelve days of Christmas. But who will survive until Twelfth Night? >br>
Lily Armitage never intended to return to Endgame House - the grand family home where her mother died twenty-one Christmases ago. Until she receives a letter from her aunt, asking her to return to take part in an annual tradition: the Christmas Game. The challenge? Solve twelve clues, to find twelve keys. The prize? The deeds to the manor house. Lily has no desire to win the house. But her aunt makes one more promise: The clues will also reveal who really killed Lily's mother all those years ago.

So, for the twelve days of Christmas, Lily must stay at Endgame House with her estranged cousins and unravel the riddles that hold the key not just to the family home, but to its darkest secrets. However, it soon becomes clear that her cousins all have their own reasons for wanting to win the house - and not all of them are playing fair. As a snowstorm cuts them off from the village, the game turns deadly. Soon Lily realises that she is no longer fighting for an inheritance, but for her life.

Benedict brings us a modern Christie-esque mystery. There is a manor house cut off by a snowstorm, a fractured family who really don’t like each other with many rivalries that hark back to childhood. Good characterisation with a plot that is highly entertaining."

7. The Invisible Host - Gwen Bristow and Bruce Manning
Dean Street Press £10.99

"“Do not doubt me, my friends; you shall all be dead before morning."

New Orleans, 1930. Eight guests are invited to a party at a luxurious penthouse apartment, yet on arrival it turns out that no one knows who their mysterious host actually is. The latter does not openly appear, but instead communicates with the guests by radio broadcast. What he has to tell his guests is chilling: that every hour, one of them will die. Despite putting the guests on their guard, the Host's prophecy starts to come horribly true, each demise occurring in bizarre fashion. As the dwindling band of survivors grows increasingly tense, their confessions to each other might explain why they have been chosen for this macabre evening-and invoke the nightmarish thought that the mysterious Host is one of them. The burning question becomes: will any of the party survive, including the Host . . . ?

Could ‘The Invisible Host’ have been the inspiration for Agatha Christie’s ‘And The There Were None’? A group of strangers without any contact with the outside world have been informed they will all die before the night is out. ‘The Invisible Host’ was written years before the emergence of one of Christie’s most famous novels – and one that is still a bestseller to this day. You decide after reading the introduction by crime fiction historian, Curtis Evans."

8. Murder Isn't Easy - Carla Valentine
Sphere £16.99

"Agatha Christie is one of our most beloved authors - a storyteller unparalleled in her clever plots and twisting tales. But Agatha was also a forensic expert; in each of her books she employs an expert weaving of human observation, ingenuity and genuine science of the era.

In ‘Murder Isn't Easy’ Carla Valentine illuminates all of Agatha's incredible knowledge, showing how she stayed at the cutting edge of forensics from ballistics to fingerprint analysis, as seen through much-loved characters such as Poirot and Miss Marple."

9. The Wintringham Mystery - Anthony Berkeley
Collins Crime Club £8.99

"Republished for the first time in nearly 95 years. Stephen Munro, a demobbed army officer, reconciles himself to taking a job as a footman to make ends meet. Employed at Wintringham Hall, the delightful but decaying Sussex country residence of the elderly Lady Susan Carey, his first task entails welcoming her eccentric guests to a weekend house-party, at which her bombastic nephew – who recognises Stephen from his former life – decides that an after-dinner séance would be more entertaining than bridge. Then Cicely disappears!

With Lady Susan reluctant to call the police about what is presumably a childish prank, Stephen and the plucky Pauline Mainwaring take it upon themselves to investigate. But then a suspicious death turns the game into an altogether more serious affair…

This classic winter mystery incorporates all the trappings of the Golden Age – a rambling country house, a séance, a murder, a room locked on the inside, with servants, suspects and alibis, a romance – and an ingenious puzzle.

First published as a 30-part newspaper serial in 1926 – the year The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was published, The Wintringham Mystery was written by Anthony Berkeley, founder of the famous Detection Club. Also known as 'Cicely Disappears', the Daily Mirror ran the story as a competition with a prize of £500 (equivalent to £30,000 today) for anyone who guessed the solution correctly. Nobody did – even Agatha Christie entered and couldn’t solve it. Can you?"

10. Murder on a Winter's Night - Ed. by Cecily Gayford
Profile £8.99

"The halls might be decked, and the mistletoe hung, but in these ten classic crime stories you're more likely to come across a corpse under the Christmas tree than a present. From a Santa Claus with a secret to a violent theft that snowballs into something quite unexpected, pull up a chair, throw another log on the fire ... and let history's greatest crime writers surprise, delight and chill you to the bone.

Featuring stories by Dorothy L. Sayers, Arthur Conan Doyle, Cyril Hare, Margery Allingham and more... These short story collections that have been coming out for the past few years, feel as though we can begin to celebrate the festive season. These stories cover Christmas and the wintertime. This includes one of the best and punchy stories I have read by Cyril Hare."