Murder on a Winter’s Night

Short stories have been my discovery this year, and this collection of ten crime stories didn’t disappoint. Although most of them were set before 1960 a couple were more modern and I enjoyed the difference in attitudes towards the police. And not all were about murder, there was a good helping of burglary and double crossing too. Here’s just a quick thought about my favourites:

The longest story by far was The Undignified Melodrama of the Bone of Contention by Dorothy L Sayers (1928). Lord Peter Wimsey is staying with some friends the Frobisher-Pym’s in the country, and while there gets himself involved in village life as is only polite. There are late night rides along eerie lanes, a spot called ‘Dead Man’s Post’ where George Winter was ‘foully murthered’, sightings of the death coach and a headless horseman and the reading of a strange and macabre will that upsets the family at the big house. This was a lot of fun!

The New Catacomb by Arthur Conan Doyle (1898) is set in Rome, where two young archeologists discuss a catacomb that one of them has just uncovered. This was brilliant, one of those stories where you know almost straight away what’s going to happen but Conan Doyle builds up the tension, teasing the reader until we start to doubt ourselves – and then delivers!

Underneath the Mistletoe Last Night by Mark Billingham was published in 2011 and was a great twisty story about a young family. What I found really interesting, especially after reading the older stories, was that all the characters seemed interchangeable. There was no discernible social difference between the police, the victims and the criminal which gave it a sense of companionship that added an extra layer to the crime, and made it uncomfortably close – it could happen to any of us!

And finally A Surprise for Christmas by Cyril Hare (1956) was one of those perfect stories where in a few pages we can see exactly how the land lies, how a man rules over his home and family. Sitting back chuckling on Christmas Day while his wife busies around and the children arrange a surprise for him. And then with just a couple of lines it all comes tumbling down!

It’s definitely not a time of goodwill, and I’m not even contemplating that Santa might be a crook!

Merry Christmas!

17 thoughts on “Murder on a Winter’s Night

  1. Ooh, delighted to see my best friend Sir Arthur Conan Doyle here – it’s a great story, isn’t it? He’s so well known for Holmes that his other stuff tends to get overlooked, but he wrote so many great non-Holmes short stories too. And you’re the second person to mention A Surprise for Christmas in two days. which I’m taking as a sign that I must read it, since I enjoyed his novel Tragedy at Law so much recently. This sounds like an excellent collection – I’ve just about reached my short-story limit this winter, but I’m adding this to the wishlist for next year! 😀

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    1. It’s the first Conan Doyle I’ve ever read! I thought it was exceptionally good and will add him to my next classics list for sure. I didn’t realise Cyril Hare was so prolific! Tragedy at Law can go on the list too!

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  2. Lovely! I think I’ve read that Cyril Hare story in a different Christmas mysteries anthology as it definitely rings a bell! It’s an excellent mix of eras too, with stories old and new. Thanks, Jane, I’ll keep an eye out for this one.

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  3. I love how varied this collection is in that not everything is about murder. I’ve been meaning to explore Dorothy Sayers as I have two of hers on my bookshelves. I hope you had a good holiday season!

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  4. This sounds like a wonderful collection! I have read now a number of stories by Dorothy L Sayers and found nearly all of them impressive, but have not read The Undignified Melodrama of the Bone of Contention. I never knew Conan Doyle set a story in Rome, interesting, I am adding The New Catacomb to my TBR, thanks!

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