Midwinter Murders: Six of Britain's Best Christmas Crime Novels
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Christmas is the time of good cheer, peace among mankind, and, it would seem, solving murders. There has been a long literary tradition of writing crime stories for the festive season, and this continues in strength today. However, rather than the gritty and terrifying stories so popular in modern fiction, recent years, and more specifically recent Christmases, have seen something of a vogue for vintage crime fiction. In these kinds of murder mysteries the focus is on the setting, the clueing, and the plotting, as Robert Davies from British Library Publishing commented:
For years, publishers have been concentrating on dark, violent, psychological crime novels, but we spotted a gap in the market for readers seeking escapist detective fiction with superb plots and period atmosphere.
Davies and his team certainly succeeded in this area, in 2014 the British Library brought out a long forgotten book by J. Jefferson Farjeon called Mystery in White about a group of people stuck on a snowbound train over Christmas. It was a runaway success, outselling popular paperback competition from Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. This has set editors and publishers diving back into the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, to unearth and retrieve stories, many of which have been out of print for almost a century.
However, you don’t necessarily have to look too far to find some classic Christmas crime solving. Many of the world’s most beloved detectives have had their opportunity to enjoy the season. Agatha Christie has given us Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, and similarly Georges Simenon has Maigret’s Christmas while Colin Dexter brings us on some New Year's celebrations in his Inspector Morse novel The Secret of Annex 3.
Aside from these famous names, we hope to recommend some more Christmas crime books to get you in the festive spirit. For this list we’re going to focus on British authors; as the imagery surrounding Christmas is often very Victorian and Dickensian, it’s perhaps no surprise that there’s something quintessential about the British landscape to the genre of Christmas crime fiction. With these stories you can expect plenty of country-house parties, snowy villages, and foggy London streets, the ideal fare of Christmas, as well as the usual Golden Age plots full of twists and turns, red herrings and surprising reveals. The following books, we hope, will both chill your spine and warm your heart.