cover image Santa Clues

Santa Clues

Various. Signet Book, $5.99 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-451-17708-7

Although there are some worthwhile surprises among the 19 original mystery stories in this collection, it is not much of a tribute to the big man in red. Billie Sue Mosiman's account of a puzzling death on a shrimp boat and how it is revenged isn't even a Christmas story, despite a cameo appearance by a fund-raiser in a Santa suit. An opening teaser robs the suspense from Ron Goulart's yarn about an unemployed artist who makes his first--and last--foray into crime when he tries to burgle his ex-wife's house. The more successful stories tend to run on the dark side. Matthew J. Costello portrays an underemployed magician who picks up some extra work doing ``the Santa gig'' for parties until he is lured to a job where the only guest is a corpse. On Christmas Eve, Peter Crowther's PI Koko Tate puts his English degree to work to help police track a serial killer who smothers poor, elderly women and leaves a snippet of poetry at each crime scene. Richard T. Chizmar and Norman Partridge join forces to describe the action a department store security guard takes when his Santa costume prompts a sexually abused little girl to confide that she wants a new daddy for Christmas. Greenberg and Waugh edited, respectively, Mummy Stories and Murder & Mystery in Chicago. (Nov.)