Sunday, December 5, 2021

The Christmas Card Crime

 The Christmas Card Crime & Other Stories by Martin Edwards (ed)

A third collection from the British Library's Crime Classics series. Edwards has selected another fine collection of Christmas crimes, holiday horrors, and seasonal slayings to delight every vintage detective fiction lover's heart. I'm pretty sure I've read several of these before, but nearly all were enjoyable--whether it was the first time reading or not. Particular favorites are "By the Sword," "Blind Man's Hood," and "A Bit of Wire-Pulling." While the solution to how the jewel thief is caught in t he Symon's story was pulled off very nicely, it was still one of my least favorites. It didn't quite meet the festive spirit of the collection. And the Paul Temple story is pretty light-weight--hardly a story at all. But--for the collections overall:  ★★★★

"A Christmas Tragedy" by Baroness Orczy: Major Ceely is murdered on Christmas Eve and all circumstantial evidence points to the unsuccessful suitor of Ceely's daughter. It's up to Lady Molly of the Yard to save an innocent man from the gallows.

"By the Sword" by Selwyn Jepson: Alfred Caithness is sure that the world is determined to do him out of what should be justly his--money, his cousin's wife, prestige, you name it. When his cousin refuses to loan him money during the holidays, he plots to get everything due him...he might wind up getting his just desserts. Not plum pudding....

"The Christmas Card Crime" by Donald Stuart: Dramatist Trevor Lowe and his friend Inspector Shadgold are on their way to a country house Christmas when their train is stranded in the deep snow. The passengers set out for a nearby pub to seek food and shelter for the night...but not everyone will live to see Christmas morning. [As a side note...Lowe is the detective here. Shadgold makes a pretty shabby showing for the Yard.]

"The Motive" by Ronald Knox: Sir Leonard Huntercombe tells an elaborate story of defending a man who may or may not have been guilty of murder to entertain holiday travelers on a sleeper train to Aberdeen. An unexpected (possibly unfair) twist at the end.

"Blind Man's Hood" by Carter Dickson: A tale of murder in a country house--told by an oddly pale woman in old-fashioned clothes. Inspired by an unsolved crime from 1902, Dickson gives us the impossible murder of Jane Waycross--killed in a house with the doors locked, surrounded by snow with no footprints that can't be accounted for.

"Paul Temple's White Christmas" by Francis Durbridge: Paul Temple foils a Christmas kidnap plan...aimed at himself!

"Sister Bessie or your Old Leech" by Cyril Hare: A tale of a man and his blackmailer. Just when he thinks he's free of the blackmail...he finds himself drawn more deeply into the web.

"A Bit of Wire-Pulling" by E. C. R. Lorac: Sir Charles Leighton's life has been threatened and Inspector Lang of the Yard is on hand at a holiday party to keep him safe. It doesn't look too good for the Yard man when Leighton is killed right under his nose.

"Pattern of Revenge" by John Bude: Not a whodunnit, a bit of a how-was-it done--a deathbed confession explains the truth about a love triangle murder and sets an innocent man free.

"Crime at Lark Cottage" by John Bigham: When John Bradley's car breaks down in a winter storm, he finds himself at Lark Cottage where a frightened Lucy Shaw expects her escaped convict husband to come and murder her. She begs her visitor to stay the night...and then signs appear that someone is outside the house.

"Twixt the Cup & the Lip" by Julian Symons: Mild-mannered bookshop owner, Mr. Rossiter Payne has an odd little hobby--jewel robberies. And when the Russian family jewels are put on display at Orbin's department store can't resist planning the perfect crime. But then things go wrong--if only he hadn't made that one comment to his shoe repair man.

First line (1st story): It was a fairly merry Christmas party, although the surliness of our host somewhat marred the festivities.

Last line (next to last story*): "And so did I," said Sergeant Wood. "I was frozen stiff."

*The last line of the last story would give everything away.


Deaths = 9 (four stabbed; one hanged; two shot; two more not named or method not revealed)

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