Moss Rose (1934) by Joseph Shearing

Moss Rose by Joseph Shearing

6 stars (6/10 stars)

“Christmas Day, thought Belle, and things going on just the same. People at the mortuary ready to bring round the hearse, doctors and policemen on duty, and all that crowd of idlers in the street, with nothing better to do than just stare at the house where a stupid woman, for whom nobody cared, was murdered last night.”

It’s Christmas Eve, and Belle Adair is about to cut her throat. Once a lady (more or less), Belle is now reduced to the most sordid poverty. Dancing in the pantomime when she’s lucky, walking the streets when she’s not, spending more and more of her meager funds on gin–it’s no kind of life, she decides. Due to a strange twist of fate, however, it isn’t Belle who is found with her throat cut on Christmas morning, but her neighbor Daisy. Belle is sure she knows more about the murder than Scotland Yard. If she plays her cards right, this could be the chance of a lifetime, but the slightest miscalculation could lead to Belle from the gutter to the grave. Continue reading “Moss Rose (1934) by Joseph Shearing”

The White Priory Murders (1934) by Carter Dickson

The White Priory Murders by Carter Dickson

7 Stars (7/10 stars)

“This is your own home, isn’t it? Nothing to be afraid of in your own home.”

Centuries ago, the king’s mistress would wait for him in the Queen’s Mirror, a white marble folly surrounded by water on the estate of White Priory. Now, movie queen Marcia Tait awaits her lover there on Christmas Eve. And it’s there that her body is found on Christmas morning, her beautiful face smashed in. But with only one set of footprints in the snow, how did her killer escape? Though murder is the last thing Sir Henry Merrivale wants for Christmas, he is the only one who can solve this impossible crime. Continue reading “The White Priory Murders (1934) by Carter Dickson”

The Line Up (1934) by Helen Reilly

(6/10 stars)

“Telegraph Bureau? Inspector McKee. Homicide. Timothy Arden, Hotel Grantham, Fifth Avenue off the Square, Apartment Thirteen A.”

That was all. It was enough. In that long room at the top of Police Headquarters, Operative Eighteen, a green eyeshade tilted over his forehead, repeated the same message over and and over and over again. To the commissioner himself, the borough commander, the deputy chief inspector, the precinct, the district attorney’s office, stenographers, fingerprint men, photographers, in a voice as empty as a train announcer’s: “Homicide, Timothy Arden…” The New York police had been presented with another case.

There is nothing surprising about Timothy Arden’s death. After all, he was an elderly man with a bad heart. Still, Inspector Christopher McKee finds it strange that Arden should die just as the New York City police are about to ask him about a $10,000 check, bearing his signature, that was presented by a man who fled the bank the moment he was questioned. Strange that Arden’s children should be in such a hurry to cremate their father. And, strangest of all, why Arden, a nonsmoker, would have four cigarette butts hidden in his bedroom—all different brands. In fact, nothing seems quite right with this household. McKee is starting to think that where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Continue reading “The Line Up (1934) by Helen Reilly”

The Night of Fear (1931) by Moray Dalton

The Night of Fear by Moray Dalton

6 stars (6/10 stars)

“He stopped when he had nearly reached the gates and looked back at the house. From that distance it was beautiful, shining like a pearl in the pale wintry sunshine against the russet and umber background of the leafless woods. Since last night a house with a secret. If walls could speak, what would they have to tell?”

It’s almost Christmas and countless creatures are stirring in the country home of George Tunbridge. His guests have scattered throughout the dark house for a game of hide and seek. Though blind World War I veteran Hugh Darrow isn’t really in the mood to play, he’s willing to go along with the group. That is, until a mysterious dripping sound reveals that he is sharing his hiding place with a bloody corpse. The mood is anything but festive as Superintendent Hugh Collier investigates a Yuletide murder. Continue reading “The Night of Fear (1931) by Moray Dalton”

The Thin Man (1934) by Dashiell Hammett

The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett

7 Stars (7/10 stars)

“Murder doesn’t round out anybody’s life except the murdered’s and sometimes the murderer’s.”

“That may be,” Nora said, “but it’s all pretty unsatisfactory.”

Former gumshoe Nick Charles and wife Nora have planned a decadent Christmas holiday in New York. Instead, the disappearance of a former client leads them into mayhem. The wisecracks fly as fast as the bullets as the irrepressible Nick and Nora romp from the Ritz bar to the sleaziest speakeasies in search of a killer, without ever missing cocktail hour. Continue reading “The Thin Man (1934) by Dashiell Hammett”

The Hundredth Door (1950) by Rae Foley

The Hundredth Door by Rae Foley

6 stars (6/10 stars)

“Are you aware that people usually feel that asking me anywhere is tantamount to an invitation to murder? At least, they seem to want me when murder is in the air.”

Meredith McGrath doesn’t remember her mother. That’s because she and her lover were executed for murder when Meredith was only three years old. The victim was Meredith’s father. Eighteen years later, she is excited to finally experience her first Christmas with her father’s family, but it’s been a long, dangerous journey to the family lodge in the Adirondacks.

A strange man on the train seems to know exactly who Meredith is, and where she’s headed. “Neither of us, Miss McGrath, has friends where we are going.” Hours later, he is murdered just outside her berth, but the body vanishes, leaving only a bloodstain behind. Meredith soon learns that the stranger is right about the McGrath household—she finds few friends there, and at least one very determined enemy. Christmas day is Meredith’s twenty-first birthday. It may also be the last day of her life. Continue reading “The Hundredth Door (1950) by Rae Foley”

The Long Shadow (1975) by Celia Fremlin

The Long Shadow by Celia Fremlin

9 Stars (9/10 stars)

“How Ivor would have loved being dead! It was a shame that he was missing it all.”

Three months after her husband’s death, Imogen Barnicott is preparing to face her first Christmas alone. It’s a relief to be left to mourn in peace. Things don’t work out as planned, however. Her husband Ivor left a complicated legacy of children and ex-wives, who all descend upon Imogen for the holidays. And there are some questions about Ivor’s death, questions his widow is at a loss to answer as she finds her Christmas haunted by ghosts of the past. Continue reading “The Long Shadow (1975) by Celia Fremlin”

Dead of Winter (1959) by Constance Cornish

Dead of Winter by Constance Cornish

5 Stars (5/10 stars)

“It looks, she thought bitterly, like a movie scene of some Old World Christmas, a fairy-tale Christmas. Surely the whole thing was something out of Grimm. Or Kafka. Kafka with snowflakes.”

Recent widow Abbey Humphrey is relieved to have found a refuge in the charming Colonial village of Deepford, Vermont. She doesn’t know how she would have gotten through the last few months without the support of her friends Jenny and Emma, not to mention the upcoming Christmas holiday.

Deepford seems so safe and peaceful compared to New York City, but appearances can be deceiving. Abbey comes home to find a dead body in her bedroom. And not just any dead body—it’s Stacey Harrington, Jenny’s husband. As the rumors swirl around her, Abbey learns that she may not be so welcome in Deepford after all, as this small town is hiding big secrets. Continue reading “Dead of Winter (1959) by Constance Cornish”

The Late Clara Beame (1963) by Taylor Caldwell

Book cover of The Late Clara Beame by Taylor Caldwell (1963)

6 stars (6/10 stars)

Christmas proceeds as scheduled, come snow, darkness, alarms in the night, bullets and Borgia cups! What a wonderful spirit America has. Disaster to the right, disaster to the left, disaster fore and aft, and America beams at Christmas and pretends all is deliciously right in this worst of all possible worlds. How about some drinks?”

Last Christmas, Sam Bulowe died of poison. Police have closed the case as suicide, but Sam’s “ice-blue” widow Alice and her hard-as-nails brother are determined to find his killer. At least that’s what they tell each other. Brother David is convinced that their relatives Laura and Henry Frazier know more than they’re saying about the death. Something will have to be done about them, one way or another.

Christmas is coming again—what better time to find out exactly what happened to Sam? However, the situation becomes increasingly fraught as a snowstorm traps the family in their country home with a mysterious stranger. Who will survive to ring in the new year? Continue reading “The Late Clara Beame (1963) by Taylor Caldwell”