A U.S. survey has come out with an interesting statistic: more murders take place during the holidays than at any other time of the year. It seems the season of “good will to all” has a caveat. Don’t the holidays bring out the best in people? Makes you look at your holiday-celebrating family and neighbors in a whole new way.
With that scary thought in mind, it doesn’t surprise me that many murder mysteries are set during the holiday season—most notably at Christmastime. With all the redundant “Ho-Ho-Hos” and “Fa-La-Las” echoing in our brains, it’s no wonder that we sometimes need a break from all the cheer. Having to be happy all the holiday season puts a tremendous amount of strain on all of us. What you need is to find some time to kick back and enjoy a good book.
So why not fill your cup with the heavily-spiked eggnog that Aunt Martha brought you as a present and settle down to read some nice, nasty holiday murder mysteries.
Let’s begin with an old but wonderful read: Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. While not technically a murder or real mystery, A Christmas Carol is still a good bet to offset the continual and sometimes mindless joy of the season. Yes, I know that it has a nice little happy ending, but it also has some excellent points in it concerning the evil and cruelty of humankind. I mean, come on—do you really want Tiny Tim to die or have the Spirit of Christmas-Yet-to-Come wield pain and suffering in the world? Of course not! But you do like reading about it.
If short stories in an anthology is your thing, try Murder under the Christmas Tree: Ten Classic Crime Stories for the Festive Season, with works by such renowned authors as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Agatha Christie. These author know how to turn a festive holiday scene into a classic murder mystery.
If bloody happenings during the holidays is a turn-off for you but you still need a good, “clean” murder mystery with holiday overtones, try one of the Christmas cozies. Christmas Carol Murder by Leslie Meier is a modern take on the Dickens novel with a character named Jake Marlowe as the scrooge-like character. Or, perhaps you’d like the lovable Father Tom Christmas holiday mystery, Ten Lords A-Leaping.
Whatever book you choose to read to relax this holiday season, make sure to take time for yourself away from all the insanity this time of year can bring. After all, what’s a holiday without a little well-written murder mystery to keep you entertained after all the festivities are done?
Happy holidays to all! And to all—well, you know how it goes…
Kristen Houghton is the author of nine top-selling novels, including For I Have Sinned and Grave Misgivings. She is hard at work on a new series that features a paranormal investigator with distinct powers of her own. Houghton is also the author of two non-fiction books and numerous short stories which appear in popular horror anthologies.