This week’s BotW sees normal service well and true resumed with Silent Nights – a book of Golden Age detective short stories set at or around Christmas. This is one of the British Crime Library’s reissues – I’ve read quite a few now and have discovered some really good authors that I was previously unaware of and who help me with my cravings for “proper” classic crime.
As well as familiar names like Dorothy L Sayers and Arthur Conan Doyle and lesser known but still in print authors like Margery Allingham, there are others I hadn’t heard of before and who I’ll now try and investigate. Some of them have had long out of print titles recently republished in the same series, some of them are even more obscure than that.
There’s also a really good variety of types of mystery. The Conan Doyle is a Sherlock Holmes, complete with leaps of deduction unfathomable to the normal person, The Sayers is a Wimsey locked room-esque short story about a missing necklace. There’s also really quite creepy suspense in the form of Ethel Lina White’s Waxworks, a story based around a chess problem, another which leaves you to work out who was arrested (with an explanation at the back of the book) and a poisoning with a really nasty old man.
I enjoyed all of the stories in Silent Nights. The weak point for me was the chess-based story, but that was because chess isn’t really my game. I also really appreciated the biographical notes about each of the authors at the start of the stories – complete with information about other notable titles.
If you’re looking for some Christmas reading, this might be a nice, bite-sized place to start, and equally it would make a nice present for any fan of classic crime – particularly those who haven’t ventured much beyond the obvious suspects. It’s also not violent or graphic so might work for the cozy-crime lover in your life too. Talking of Christmas present ideas, I have many more to share with you – and they’ll be posted very soon as I know this is prime Christmas shopping time!
My copy of Silent Nights came from NetGalley*, but you can the very pretty paperback from Amazon or I’ve seen it on the speciality Christmas displays in several Waterstones stores as well as Foyles in Charing Cross Road – so it may have made it into your local bookshop too. And the Kindle version is a bargain £2.99 at time of writing, so you could treat yourself to a bit of festive sleuthing without having too big an impact on your Christmas Present Buying Fund! Several of the other British Library Crime Classics are a similar price, I can recommend Mavis Doriel Hay – Her festive story Santa Klaus Murder as well as Murder Underground and Death on the Cherwell are all under £3 at the moment – as well as books by J Jefferson Farjeon and Christopher Sprigg.**
* And as usual, I only feature books here that I genuinely like – I’ve read 25 books from NetGalley in the last quarter, but only a few of those have made it to a review on here (although they all get reviewed over on Goodreads).
** Back on full disclosure again – I bought Murder Underground and Death of the Cherwell for myself, but have read various Farjeons and Sprigg’s Death of an Airman via NetGalley over the last year.