Christmas is always an exciting time of year, and there’s nothing like a good book to get you in the mood. Crime fiction often centres on the festivities, with murderers, thieves and general scoundrels all crawling out of the woodwork at the time when others are simply making merry and having fun. Writers relish the opportunity to focus their plot around a time when there are so many opportunities for plot devices such as love, family troubles and buried secrets, as relationships are thrust to the fore and people who usually only see each other a handful of times a year join together to celebrate.
So, as everyone winds down on Christmas Eve, here is my pick of the five festive crime fiction books you should read with all this free time you now have until the New Year. Combining superb writing with a festive setting, they are all great options for either your own personal gratification or a late Christmas present if you find yourself running out of both time and ideas on what to buy the bibliophile in your life.
- Twelve Days of Winter: Over the years I’ve come to enjoy Stuart MacBride’s gritty Scottish thrillers, and this collection of short stories, each themed around one of the twelve days of Christmas, is as dark and twisted as the rest of his work, making for an innovative and unforgettable read.
- Murder For Christmas: Francis Duncan’s classic festive tale sees former tobacconist Mordecai Tremaine invited to spend Christmas in the sleepy village of Sherbroome at the country retreat of Benedict Grame. Starting off well enough the celebrations come to an abrupt end on Christmas morning when a corpse is discovered under the tree. With all the traditional festive tropes this is a great read for anyone looking for a unique way to get themselves in the festive spirit.
- Agatha Raisin and Kissing Christmas Goodbye: M.C Beaton’s novels featuring the cranky but loveable Agatha Raisin are twee and unchallenging, making them ideal for those whose brains have been fried from a tough few weeks preparing for the holidays. In this festive outing the spinster sleuth solves a case of poisoning which is more complicated than it first appears.
- Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow: This stunning example of true Scandinavian Crime Fiction is set during the festive season, although the plot is anything but cheerful as Miss Smilla investigates the death of a young boy who fell from the roof of her building. A Greenlander originally, Smilla knows snow better than anyone else, and it is this intuition which prompts a heart stopping race against time to catch a cold blooded and calculating killer. Peter Hoeg unforgettable novel is a great read for those who are looking for the antithesis of comfortable, old fashioned crime capers.
- Hercule Poirot’s Christmas: A personal favourite, Christie’s Christmas caper is sweet and humdrum whilst at the same time being dark and gripping, making it ideal for a flick through on the big day while the family squabbles over who’s cooking the turkey. Featuring murder, mayhem and malice this is a classic example of Christie at her best, as Poirot races to solve the murder of the rich but vile Simeon Lee before the killer strikes again.