Homicidal Holidays: 10 Christmas-themed Mysteries
Spooky season is over, and cozy season is upon us. And it just doesn’t get any cozier than curling up under a blanket with a cup of tea while the fire crackles and the tree twinkles. Unless, that is, you’re also reading a Christmas-themed mystery.
It may be the season of good cheer, fellowship, and tidings of great joy, but the proliferation of Christmas-themed mysteries proves that the holidays cause many of us to turn our thoughts to homicide.
Perhaps it was Agatha Christie who caused us to correlate Christmas with mystery. She published a new book at Christmastime for so many years that the public grew to expect “A Christie for Christmas.”
While not every “Christie for Christmas” was set during the holidays, today there is no shortage of mystery novels with Christmas settings. If you’ve always dreamed of spending Christmas in a remote country house, check out a few of my favorites.
Murder for Christmas
This classic British country house mystery was originally published in 1949, but found new life a few years ago when it was reissued with this beautiful new cover. The cover caught my eye and I knew it would be the perfect book to read over the holiday season. If you love Hercule Poirot, then you’ll enjoy Francis Duncan’s Mordecai Tremaine—a retired tobacconist with a secret love of romantic novels.
A Christmas Party
A Christmas gathering at a family’s country home goes awry in this cozy traditional mystery by Georgette Heyer. A Christmas Party hits all the notes—a cranky family patriarch, quirky relatives, a snowy country manor, a budding romance. You can almost smell the mulled wine and plum pudding. This is a favorite that I reread every year.
The Mistletoe Murder
& Other Stories
This collection of short stories by P. D. James includes two Christmas stories—”The Mistletoe Murder” and “The Twelve Clues of Christmas.” In the title story, a mystery writer reminisces about a murder she was involved with 50 years before. “The Twelve Clues of Christmas” is a classic Christie-esque mystery featuring James’s sleuth Adam Dalgliesh. These stories will remind you why P. D. James was truly a master of the short mystery story.
Murder at an Irish Christmas
Spending Christmas in Ireland is high on my bucket list, so Murder at an Irish Christmas definitely appealed to me. When a snowstorm strands two soon-to-be-related Irish families in a remote cliffside farmhouse in West Cork, it isn’t long before one of them is murdered. O’Connor’s sleuth, Siobhán O’Sullivan, must uncover the murderer in their midst before any more family members fall victim.
Hercule Poirot’s Christmas
The owner of a diamond mine summons Poirot to his family home just before Christmas and suggests that someone in his family might be plotting against him. When he is found murdered, alone in a locked room, Poirot must uncover which member of the family is not what they seem. If you enjoy the book, check out the TV adaptation on season six of Poirot, streaming on BritBox. (But be warned: this book includes one of Agatha Christie’s most un-cozy murders.)
Murder on a Midnight Clear
I really enjoy Sara Rosett’s 1920s mystery series, so I was thrilled to see a Christmas installment. The cast of characters includes a celebrated lawn tennis champion, a fussy scientist studying snowflakes, a persuasive luggage salesman, a famous lady explorer, and the family’s eccentric aunt who has a fondness for the newfangled drinks called cocktails. The guest list alone tells you that this old-fashioned family Christmas is going to be anything but calm and bright.
The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries
This volume brings together a variety of Christmas mysteries from Victorian to contemporary, and includes such characters as Sherlock Holmes, Brother Cadfael, Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Ellery Queen, Rumpole of the Bailey, Inspector Morse, Inspector Ghote, A.J. Raffles, and Nero Wolfe. With something for everyone, it’s the perfect book to keep on your coffee table for the season.
Murder Most Festive
Murder Most Festive, set in 1938, is a debut novel with a Golden Age flavor. Complete with a country house, bickering family, and sparkling Christmas setting, it’s the perfect read if you’re looking for a little escapism this holiday season. Or if you need to be reminded that no matter how stressful your family gatherings are, at least they’ve never ended in murder.
Sleep No More: Six Murderous Tales
This collection includes only one Christmas-themed story—”The Murder of Santa Claus” is narrated by a mystery writer who admits from the beginning that he is “no P. D. James.” However, he continues to tell his story, which took place during the “heyday of the cosy ‘whodunnits,’ the Christmas of 1939.” Like “The Twelve Clues of Christmas” from The Mistletoe Murder, this story has a very Christie-esque flavor, but with the spice that only P. D. James could add.
What are you reading this Christmas?
Do you enjoy a good holiday whodunnit,
or do you prefer yours without homicide?