Ah, the holiday season, filled with food and gifts and peace on earth and . . . crime? It may sometimes seem, if you’re a mystery fan, that all this sweetness and light and peace on earth stuff makes it harder for you to find the kinds of reads you really like, but have no fear. Two of our best mystery authors have just published Christmas books that include all the seasonal stuff, mixed with crimes to be solved.
If you’re a mystery fan, you’re probably familiar with Rhys Bowen, and if you haven’t read her, then you’re definitely missing out. She has two current series, the Molly Murphy one (set in New York in the early 1900’s), and the Royal Spyness series (set in Britain in the 1930’s), and she also wrote the delightful series involving Constable Evan Evans (set in a village in Wales). Depending on your tastes, you definitely want to read one or more of those series, but her current Christmas-related mystery, The Ghost of Christmas Past, happens to be in the Molly Murphy series.
You don’t need to have read any of the other novels in the series to jump into this one; Bowen is very good at bringing you up to speed (though of course if you enjoy this one you should definitely go back and read the others). Molly is recovering from her recent experiences in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and her recent miscarriage when she and her husband are invited to spend the Christmas holidays with a family who has a mansion on the Hudson (hmm, wonder where that might be). The family’s Christmas spirit is a bit strained, though, because ten years ago, Charlotte, the daughter of the family, wandered off in the snow and disappeared without a trace. Molly, an investigator by trade and sympathetic to the sorrow of a mother yearning for her lost child, wants to help but can’t really come up with anything the police didn’t already, though she does suspect the people in the house know more than they’re admitting about the events of ten years ago. Then comes Christmas Eve, and the appearance of a young girl at the door, claiming to be Charlotte. Who is she? If she really is Charlotte, where has she been and what happened to her for all these years? And if she isn’t really Charlotte, who is she and why is she here?
Anne Perry needs no introduction to mystery fans either. She’s the author of multiple series of historical mysteries, from William Monk (a particular favorite of mine) to Thomas and Charlotte Pitt, to Joseph Reavely (set in World War I). She has also been writing Christmas themed novellas for years, set in the Victorian era in Great Britain. Her newest Christmas book is A Christmas Return, whose protagonist is Mariah Ellison, the grandmother of Charlotte Pitt. When Mariah receives an ominous Christmas present that revives memories of a 20 year old murder which estranged her from her friend, the widow of the victim. In the spirit of the season, Mariah heads out to Surrey to join with the murdered man’s grandson to unearth new evidence, discover a suspect for the murder, and find out that the picturesque Surrey hills and the happy spirits of the Christmas season are only masks for the dark and disturbing secrets hidden beneath.