cover image The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries

The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries

Edited by Otto Penzler. Vintage, $25 trade paper, (672p) ISBN 978-0-345-80298-9

Penzler mines the rich vein of American and British Christmas stories from the 19th to the 21st centuries for this impressive collection of 59 short stories featuring authors still in their prime as well as others mostly forgotten by today's readers. In mood the stories range from happy endings as in Colin Dexter's Morse's Greatest Mystery to vastly amusing like Donald Westlake's The Burglar and the Whatsit. Max Allan Collins's A Wreath for Christmas plays nicely off of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. A few authors merit two entries. Agatha Christie stories bookend the collection with Poirot and Miss Marple sharing honors. Ellis Peters, Peter Lovesey and Gabrielle Long under both her Marjorie Bowen and Joseph Shearing pseudonyms also get double billing. Some of the older choices show their age as does Ellery Queen's florid The Adventure of the Dauphin's Doll and Robert Louis Stevenson's turgid Markheim. Overall Penzler has succeeded in gathering a representative and entertaining selection of yuletide stories that mystery fans might like to see on Christmas morn. (Oct.)