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Celebrate the Spirit of the Holidays With The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries, edited by Otto Penzler

Monday, December 25th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries-small The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries-back-small

Here in the Midwest we got a 2-inch dusting of snow on Christmas Eve, just enough to put everyone in the mood for the holidays. When it comes to a White Christmas, there’s nothing like a little just-in-time inventory.

We have our share of holiday traditions here in the O’Neill-Dechene household. And one of them is reading a mystery tale or two from Otto Penzler’s Big Book of Christmas Mysteries over the holidays, curled up in the living room by the fire, next to the Christmas tree. There aren’t a lot of things in this modern world that bring peace to a body. But lemme tell you, that’s definitely one of them.

Otto Penzler’s brick-sized Big Book anthologies are some of the great unsung bargains of modern publishing. We’ve covered a few of them over the years, and he publishes a new one every October (this year’s was The Big Book of Rogues and Villains, which we discussed two months ago.) But The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries, an imposing 672-page volume containing yuletide ctime stories from Ellery Queen, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Ellis Peters, Donald E. Westlake, Damon Runyon, Thomas Hardy, Arthur Conan Doyle, John D. MacDonald, Peter Lovesey, Max Allan Collins, Marjorie Bowen, Ed McBain, Sara Paretsky, Mary Higgins Clark, Ngaio Marsh, Isaac Asimov, Ed Gorman, G. K. Chesterton, Rex Stout, O. Henry, and Agatha Christie, is one of my favorites. Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

INTRODUCTION Otto Penzler

A Traditional Little Christmas

THE ADVENTURE OF THE CHRISTMAS PUDDING, Agatha Christie
GOLD, FRANKINCENSE AND MURDER, Catherine Aird
BOXING UNCLEVER, Robert Barnard
THE PROOF OF THE PUDDING, Peter Lovesey
THE ADVENTURE OF THE DAUPHIN’S DOLL, Ellery Queen
MORSE’S GREATEST MYSTERY, Colin Dexter
MORE THAN FLESH AND BLOOD, Susan Moody
THE BUTLER’S CHRISTMAS EVE, Mary Roberts Rinehart
THE TRINITY CAT, Ellis Peters

A Funny Little Christmas

THE BURGLAR AND THE WHATSIT, Donald E. Westlake
DANCING DAN’S CHRISTMAS, Damon Runyon
A VISIT FROM ST. NICHOLAS, Ron Goulart
THE THIEVES WHO COULDN’T HELP SNEEZING, Thomas Hardy
RUMPOLE AND THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS, John Mortimer
A REVERSIBLE SANTA CLAUS, Meredith Nicholson

A Sherlockian Little Christmas

A SCANDAL IN WINTER,Gillian Linscott
THE CHRISTMAS CLIENT, Edward D. Hoch
THE SECRET IN THE PUDDING BAG & HERLOCK SHOLMES’S CHRISTMAS CASE, Peter Todd
CHRISTMAS EVE, S. C. Roberts
THE ADVENTURE OF THE BLUE CARBUNCLE, Arthur Conan Doyle

A Pulpy Little Christmas

DEAD ON CHRISTMAS STREET, John D. MacDonald
CRIME’S CHRISTMAS CAROL, Norvell Page
SERENADE TO A KILLER, Joseph Commings

An Uncanny Little Christmas

THE HAUNTED CRESCENT, Peter Lovesey
A CHRISTMAS IN CAMP, Edmund Cox
THE CHRISTMAS BOGEY, Pat Frank
THE KILLER CHRISTIAN, Andrew Klavan
THE GHOST’S TOUCH, Fergus Hume
A WREATH FOR MARLEY, Max Allan Collins

A Scary Little Christmas

THE CAROL SINGERS, Josephine Bell
WAXWORKS, Ethel Lina White
CAMBRIC TEA, Marjorie Bowen
THE 74TH TALE, Jonathan Santlofer
THE UNINNOCENT, Bradford Morrow
BLUE CHRISTMAS, Peter Robinson

A Surprising Little Christmas

NOEL, NOEL, Barry Perowne
DEATH ON CHRISTMAS EVE, Stanley Ellin
THE CHINESE APPLE, Joseph Shearing

A Modern Little Christmas

AND ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE, Ed McBain
AN EARLY CHRISTMAS, Doug Allyn
THE LIVE TREE, John Lutz
THREE-DOT PO, Sara Paretsky
MAD DOG, Dick Lochte

A Puzzling Little Christmas

SISTER BESSIE, Cyril Hare
THAT’S THE TICKET, Mary Higgins Clark
DEATH ON THE AIR, Ngaio Marsh
THE THIRTEENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, Isaac Asimov
THE CHRISTMAS KITTEN, Ed Gorman
THE SANTA CLAUS CLUB, Julian Symons

A Classic Little Christmas

THE FLYING STARS, G. K. Chesterton
CHRISTMAS PARTY, Rex Stout
THE RAFFLES RELICS, E. W. Hornung
THE PRICE OF LIGHT, Ellis Peters
A PRESENT FOR SANTA SAHIB, H. R. F. Keating
THE CHRISTMAS TRAIN, Will Scott
MARKHEIM, Robert Louis Stevenson
A CHAPARRAL CHRISTMAS GIFT, O. Henry
THE CHOPHAM AFFAIR, Edgar Wallace
A CHRISTMAS TRAGEDY, Agatha Christie

The book also includes Penzler’s entertaining and informative intros to every one of the 59 stories, as well as a brief introduction.

The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps-smallOtto Penzler has built quite a library of Big Book anthologies over the last decade, all focusing on genre fiction. He’s produced roughly one per year since 2007. They include:

The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps — 2007
The Vampire Archives — 2009
Agents of Treachery — 2010
The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories — 2010
Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! — 2011
The Big Book of Adventure Stories — 2011
The Big Book of Ghost Stories — 2012
The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries — 2013
The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries — 2014
The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories — 2015
The Big Book of Jack the Ripper — 2016
The Big Book of Rogues and Villains –- 2017

The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries was published by Vintage/Black Lizard on October 22, 2013. It is 672 pages, priced at $25 in trade paperback and $15.99 for the digital edition. The cover, a painting by Al Parker from the February 1938 issue of The Country Home, was designed by Joe Montgomery.

See all of our most recent book coverage here.

2 Comments »

  1. John, Thanks for highlighting this book. I have a copy. What I especially like about it is Otto’s brief synopsis of each author at the beginning of the story, including pseudonyms. It’s a fun book that I get out every Christmas.

    Another favorite Christmas holiday book edited by Penzler is Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop. ‘Tis the Season to be Deadly. It has a great introduction but no brief histories of the authors. The Table of Contents lists:

    Donald E Westlake, Give Till It Hurts
    George Baxt, Schemes and Variations
    Edward D Hoch, The Theft of the Rusty Bookmark
    Ron Goulart, Murder for Dummies
    Lawrence Block, As Dark as Christmas Gets
    Jeremiah Healy, The Holiday Fairy
    Ed McBain, I Saw Mommy Killing Santa Claus
    S J Rozan, The Grift of the Magi
    Anne Perry, My Object All Sublime
    Michael Malone, Christmas Spirit
    Thomas H Cook, The Lesson of the Season
    Lisa Michelle Atkinson, Yule Be Sorry
    Rupert Holmes, The Long Winter’s Nap
    Charles Ardai, Cold Reading
    Andrew Klavan, The Killer Christian
    Jonathan Santlofer, The 74th Tale
    Mary Higgins Clark, What’s in a Name?

    All the stories relate to Penzler’s Mysterious Bookshop in NYC and most include mentions of Otto himself. Definitely makes you want to visit it!

    Comment by Barbara Barrett - December 28, 2017 11:09 am

  2. Barbara,

    Thanks for the tip! I’ve never read Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop, but I’ll definitely add it to my list!

    Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop-small

    Comment by John ONeill - December 28, 2017 11:38 am


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