The Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories is a holiday-themed short story collection featuring eleven vintage mystery stories.
A Christmas Tragedy by Baroness Orczy
First sentence: It was a fairly merry Christmas party, although the surliness of our host somewhat marred the festivities. But imagine two such beautiful young women as my own dear lady and Margaret Ceely, and a Christmas Eve Cinderella in the beautiful ball-room at Clevere Hall, and you will understand that even Major Ceely’s well-known cantankerous temper could not altogether spoil the merriment of a good, old-fashioned festive gathering.
Premise/plot: A holiday gathering at a country home goes awry when a murder is committed on Christmas Eve. It is up to Lady Molly to find the real murderer and free the man who has been set up to take the fall.
My thoughts: I'd give this one three stars. It was just okay.
By the Sword by Swelwyn Jepson
First sentence: Alfred Caithness stayed on for Christmas for two reasons, quite apart from the cold weather, which he found easier to support at Dingle House than alone in his Baker Street flat.
Premise/plot: A family holiday gathering goes horribly wrong when a murder is committed...it has to have been a family member...but who and why?!
My thoughts: I'd give this one two stars. I liked it even less than the first one in the story.
The Christmas Card Crime by Donald Stuart
First sentence: With a long hiss of escaping steam that sounded like light relief the Western Express came to a halt beside the platform at Bodmin Station. From a first class compartment a tall, thin man alighted, and turned to assist a middle-aged lady, whose ample proportions were enveloped in a voluminous coat of some mysterious black, furry material. “I hope there’s a waiting room,” she remarked, shivering violently as a blast of icy wind came whistling along the platform. “This weather is bad for them what’s got rheumatics.”
Premise/plot: When a train is stalled by the weather, the travelers set out on foot to search for a warm place to stay the night...but someone on the train has less than pure motives...will all the travelers reach their destination alive?!
My thoughts: I LOVED this story. I'd give it 5 stars.
The Motive by Ronald Knox
First sentence: “A certain amount of dust is good for a juryman’s eyes. It prevents him going to sleep.” Sir Leonard Huntercombe is probably responsible for more scoundrels being at large than any other man in England.
Premise/plot: The narrator is weaving quite a story...but is it a true story or the work of his imagination?
My thoughts: I liked this one. I'd give it three stars.
Blind Man's Hood by Carter Dickson (aka John Dickson Carr)
First sentence: Although one snowflake had already sifted past the lights, the great doors of the house stood open. It seemed less a snowflake than a shadow; for a bitter wind whipped after it, and the doors creaked.
Premise/plot: I wish I could tell you about what makes this atmospheric story so delightful....but the less you know the better. But think Twilight Zone.
My thoughts: I LOVED this one. I'd give it 5 stars.
Paul Temple's White Christmas by Francis Durbridge
First sentence: Steve stopped talking about Switzerland, tore up the Winter Sports brochure, and went out shopping. She said that she would meet Temple at the Penguin Club at a quarter past four. “I shan’t be a minute later than four-fifteen,” she said gaily. That was two hours ago.
Premise/plot: Paul Temple is married to a woman named Steve...and they have an unexpected white Christmas.
My thoughts: This is the most disappointing of the bunch. It was so SHORT that it was confusing and pointless. Like why even include it if the characterization, the plot, the story was so short it was stunted?! I'd give it one star.
Sister Bessie Or Your Old Leech
First sentence: Hilda Trent turned the Christmas card over with her carefully manicured fingers as she read the idiotic lines aloud. “Did you ever hear anything so completely palsied?” she asked her husband. “I wonder who on earth they can get to write the stuff. Timothy, do you know anybody called Leech?” “Leech?” “Yes—that’s what it says: ‘From your old Leech.’ Must be a friend of yours. The only Leach I ever knew spelt her name with an a and this one has two e’s.”
Premise/plot: Timothy, the narrator, is trying desperately to figure out which family member is blackmailing him...and he'll do anything to stop it...
My thoughts: I did NOT like this one. Though I suppose I liked it more than Paul Temple's White Christmas. I'd give this one two stars.
A Bit of Wire Pulling by E.C.R. Lorac.
First sentence: “It’s a very rare thing for a murder to be committed actually in the presence of a police officer,” said Inspector Lang, the old C.I.D. man. “I should think it’s unique,” growled Dr Walton, and Harland (a rising young barrister) put in: “Tell us the yarn, Inspector. We’re a safe audience, and it’s just the night for a yarn.”
Premise/plot: An Inspector tells an eager audience a story...
My thoughts: I definitely liked this one. Three stars.
Pattern of Revenge by John Bude
First sentence: Thord Jensen was the finest man on skis in Levendal. Englishmen of the pre-war era, holidaying in our Norwegian mountains, may remember Thord—for after the tragedy he set up as a ski-ing instructor and did exceeding well for himself. So well, in fact, that when he died in 1945 as the result of an accident, Thord was in a position to leave over three thousand pounds to his hated rival, Olaf Kinck. That, of course, was by way of compensation for what he’d done to Olaf—for when the poor fellow was released from an Oslo jail, three months after Thord’s confession, it was not only his heart that was broken but his faith in his fellow-men.
Premise/plot: A dying man regrets taking revenge on a rival....
My thoughts: It was short but thought-provoking. 4 stars.
Crime at Lark Cottage by John Bingham
First sentence: The weather was foul. It had been snowing, off and on, for some days, but during the last few hours the temperature had suddenly risen, and with the departure of the cold had come the rain, pitting the smooth snow, causing it to fall with soft rustles and sighs from the branches in the coppice which surrounded the cottage on three sides.
Premise/plot: This is a great example of a case where the LESS you know going in...the better the story reads.
My thoughts: I LOVED this one. 5 stars.
'Twixt the Cup and the Lip by Julian Symons
First sentence: “A beautiful morning, Miss Oliphant. I shall take a short constitutional.” “Very well, Mr Payne.” Mr Rossiter Payne put on his good thick Melton overcoat, took his bowler hat off its peg, carefully brushed it, and put it on. He looked at himself in a small glass and nodded approvingly at what he saw.
Premise/plot: Appearances can be deceiving...
My thoughts: I don't know how to talk about this one without spoiling it. I really enjoyed how it was written...and it was quite satisfying...even if it was a bit predictable after the initial surprise. 5 stars.
Overall thoughts: I enjoyed these stories. The earliest appeared in 1909 and the latest circa 1965. I didn't love, love, love all the stories--at least not equally. But the week I spent reading this one--several stories each day--it was enjoyable, satisfying, FUN picking this one up to see what was next.
I would recommend this one.
© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews