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December 10, 2017

virtual advent tour: day 10
posted by soe 6:00 am

virtual advent tour

Welcome to the second sunday of Advent and day 10 of the Virtual Advent Tour!

I’m your host again today and thought I’d give quick review of a holiday read I’ve recently finished:

Mistletoe Murder and Other StoriesMistletoe Murder and Other Stories by P.D. James

Rudi and I listened to the first three-quarters of this 2016 collection of four short stories by the late mystery author driving home after Thanksgiving and I finished it up one night while knitting. The first two stories are standalones, while the latter two feature her famous detective, Adam Dalgliesh.

The title story, written in 1991, is told by a woman looking back on Christmas 1940 when she was a newly widowed war worker invited by an estranged aunt to spend the holiday with her and her cousin. It turns out that they are also to be spent with a distant relative she’s never met, an unpleasant man who is murdered in a locked room before the day is over.

The second story, “A Very Commonplace Murder,” was James’ very first short story and originally published as “Moment of Power” in 1968. In it, a man returns just before Christmas to an apartment where he once, years earlier, witnessed a murder.

The third story, “The Boxdale Inheritance” (originally published in 1979 as “Great Aunt Allie’s Flypapers”) features Chief Superintendent Dalgliesh being asked by a dear friend to look into a family murder that took place when he was a child and that has just resulted in his inheriting a decent estate of much-needed, but possibly tainted, money.

The final story, “The Twelve Clues of Christmas,” is set earlier in Dalgliesh’s career, soon after making sergeant. In it, while driving to his own family’s Christmas celebration, he happens on a scene in which an eccentric uncle has been found dead, purportedly of suicide, but not to the young detective’s keen eye. He’ll have time to show off to a superior officer before he gets his Christmas dinner.

All four stories are good of kind, but the ending of the first was enough of a surprise that I had to confirm with Rudi, who wasn’t driving, that I’d heard it correctly. And the second is really the best, worthy of inclusion in any compendium of twisty crime tales. It’s a short book, quickly read or listened to, and recommended for an evening or two’s enjoyment.

I have four choices for my next holiday book and would love to hear if any of you have strong feelings:

  • Christopher Moore’s The Stupidest Angel is a Quill Award-winning satire/horror novel that is not so dark, apparently, that my best friend, Karen, didn’t feel I could handle it. In it, an angel apparently inadvertently brings about a holiday plague of zombies.
  • Matt Haig’s A Boy Called Christmas, in which a poor boy must travel to the North Pole to save his father in a holiday caper for the middle-grade set.
  • Richard Peck’s A Season of Gifts, which I currently have out on audio, is set at Christmas 1958 and features an eccentric grandmother and her new neighbors, a Methodist minister and his family. I’m really loose on details, but it was either this, some Amish Christmas romances, or WWII nonfiction about Churchill’s visit to D.C. for Christmas audiobooks available for download on Overdrive.
  • Anita Hughes’ Christmas in Paris came out last year and tells the story of a woman who comes to Paris for her honeymoon, but without actually having gotten married, having canceled her wedding a week earlier when her fiancé decides he’s going to move to the country to take over the family farm. There’s a chance encounter and life-changing events before a happy ending seems destined to appear in one form or another.

See you back here tomorrow for our next post on the Virtual Advent Tour.

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