A Surprise for Christmas


Title: A Surprise for Christmas

Writer: Various, edited by Martin Edwards

Publishing House: British Library Crime Classics

Date of Publication: October 10th 2020

Rating: 5 stars

‘’It was Christmas Eve and nearly five of the clock, but an afternoon less like the traditional ideas of the seasons would be hard to imagine. True, a little snow had fallen in the early hours, but this was rapidly churned into slush by the relentless London traffic and about mid-day a haze of fog began to spread over the city. As the afternoon deepened the fog thickened, throwing a yellowish curtain over buildings and the traffic that even now streamed remorselessly through the darkening streets.’’

The Black Bag Left on a Doorstep (Catherine Louisa Pirkis): Brilliant! Loveday Brooke investigates a massive jewellery theft. A black bag, an unlocked safe and a silly message are no obstacles for our sleuth.

The Hole in the Wall (G.K.Chesterton): A strange, complex and atmospheric story with links to Britain’s turbulent history. Excellent!

Death on the Air (Ngaio Marsh): A patriarch dies in front of the wireless. About 9 suspects and practically no clues. A quintessentially British crime story but the dialogue ‘’sounded’’ a tad stilted.

Persons or Things Unknown (Carter Dickson): A historical crime lies at the heart of this story that goes back to the era of Charles II. Necromancers and a little room at the head of the stairs will keep you guessing.

Dead Man’s Hand (E.R.Punshon): A brilliant story. A mystery in reverse with one of the most striking first pages you’ll ever read in a crime tale.

The Christmas Eve Ghost (Ernest Dudley): The ghost of a dancer helps in solving a murder in a delightful story.

Dick Whittington’s Cat (Victor Canning): A theatrical cat steals a valuable bracelet.

Or ..?

A Surprise for Christmas (Cyril Hare): It is a law of nature. The sins of the past cannot remain buried forever. A fabulous story in under 10 pages.

On Christmas Day in the Morning (Margery Allingham): Don’t you just love Christmas cards and beautifully stamped envelopes?

Give Me A Ring (Anthony Gilbert): A young woman falls in love with a beautiful love as she tries to find her way through London on the evening of Christmas Eve. Little did she know…This story contains some of the most atmospheric descriptions of nightly London I’ve ever read and a wonderful pair of protagonists.

Father Christmas Comes to Orbins (Julian Symons): There’s not much money in bookselling. Let’s turn to decent robberies instead…

The Turn-Again Bell (Barry Perowne): This story is possibly my favourite in an outstanding collection. A rector has to face the coldness of a father, the prospect of a new life for his beloved children, and the local legend of a haunted bell that tolls for death. Mesmerizing,  moving, eerie.

All right, all right, I know. Broken record alert BUT I will sit here, waiting for the next collection of seasonal mysteries, marvellously selected and introduced by Martin Edwards.

‘’After all,’’ said our host, ‘’it’s Christmas. Why not let the skeleton out of the bag?’’