With the countdown to 25th December in just hours now, here’s a little help with eleventh-hour preparations:
From Sunday until Christmas Eve, the Christmas cozy paranormal mystery, Amanda Cadabra and The Flawless Plan is free on Amazon Kindle. For 72 hours, this is for you to download, send as a last-minute gift, stocking filler or reward to yourself. After all, you deserve a treat, especially now.
Here’s a little video you might like to send to someone who needs to beat the clock. Or they may be a fellow fan who loves a humorous British whodunnit with a wandful of magic and a hint of romance sprinkled on the top.
This is the last special offer of the year. Still, I will have news of one for January 2020, especially for anyone who would like to start on the Amanda Cadabra series. More of that next time.
Meanwhile, here is my latest article for the Books Go Social Magazine – Holiday Reads. If you’d like inspiration for seasonal literary indulgences, follow the link where you can read or download the magazine and enjoy a wealth of recommendations and ideas.
And so to conclude, may I wish you the very best of the holidays, love, friendship, sumptuous food, beautiful settings, merriment and all that is fine and light and of good cheer.
Back next week,
The poisoned sherry, the gunshot from the snow-covered terrace, the knife beneath the festive tree, the blackmail note inside the gift-wrap. How can we resist?
With mystery, thrillers and crime topping the Kindle charts only just behind romance, what is the appeal of the genre at this time of year?
People gather who customarily avoid one another like the plague, but under familial pressure, a sense of duty, or fear of isolation, duly attend the party. Let us set aside the convivial ideal gathering, and inspect instead the potential for delightfully deadly conflict.
Hosts prepare exceptional food, guests dress up and bring presents: all potential pawns in the battle for status, approval and a place in the family head’s will! The cooking of an ambitious feast causes tension in the kitchen. Old feuds are rekindled. Light the blue touch paper … and stand back.
The writer will set us up with apparent comfort and joy. The fairy lights, candles, tinsel and baubles on the tree, sparking wrapping and satin ribbon adorn the setting. Cards are exchanged, full of sentiment, heartfelt or spurious. Seasonal music fills the air, carols in the village church, singers with lanterns outside the door, old favourites around the piano and on the radio. The banquet is rolled out, to oohs and ahhhs as the turkey or goose in all its golden splendour is borne from the kitchen. The pops of the crackers sound, the laughter at the awful jokes, paper crowns. perched comically. The tastes of the savoury and sweet are relished. A feast for the senses. Smiling faces, goodwill … and then ….
The sudden, shocking interruption. The dive into a world of plots, suspicion, passion and dark deeds until the awful truth is revealed. Contrast follows again with the happy ending, the victim given justice, and the innocent exonerated. The lights come back on, the toast is drunk, and the Christmas spirit is all the greater for the drama that has unfolded.
For an example, I reach for a Christmas crime by the godmother of the cozy mystery: Dame Agatha Christie.
Interestingly her prime cozy sleuth Miss Marple is unavailable for the winter celebration. However, her Belgian private detective, Hercule Poirot, comes to our rescue in a short story. The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding is the one Christie that could only have unfolded during that time of year.
Poirot rejects the whole idea of the traditional rural English Christmas. The countryside signifies the damp and chill of old stone mansions, and, he declares, the occasion is, in his native land, reserved for children. However, the plight of a hapless prince and royal scandal are in the balance. The young man has been robbed of a priceless family heirloom: a suitably red ruby.
The trail leads to Kings Lacey. With the promise of efficient central heating and hot water, our beloved Belgian agrees to join a family party there. Dinner brings a dazzling surprise with an unexpected object in the plum pudding. How did it get there? Soon there is a more pressing question as the red and white of yuletide turns to blood on the snow. Who is responsible for the footprints leading out to the body lying in the garden?
Christie throws in twists and turns to bring the path to a satisfactory conclusion. Not the best written, but it is her most Christmassy and tosses us from interest, to anticipation, to engagement, to shock, to resolution and back to seasonal joy.
However, I would suggest that our attachment to Christmas crime goes back far earlier than Christie. At the dawn of our human consciousness, the first mystery surely would have been why nature died, the days darkened, the air chilled. And then, a further curiosity, why the earth revived, lightened and warmed.
It is innate in us all to seek cause and effect. Could it be that at this time of year we have some genetic, tribal memory linking us to that first puzzle? Our forebears attempted to explain it, with what we still do: telling stories. An example is the tale of the battles at the solstices between Oak, king of summer and Holly, lord of winter.
Isn’t that what a mystery is? Not cause and effect, but effect first: a dead body. Who or what caused it? Whodunnit.
So as the death of nature resolves into the beginning of the lengthening of days, what better genre to celebrate with than a mystery? In harmony with the seasonal spirit, what better than a cozy mystery?
As a global event, the solstice is celebrated or has a history of celebration in some form or another across the world. Whether with tinsel and glitter, candles and bonfires, smiles and laughter, add a mystery, and let there be light.
Cat adorer and chocolate lover, Holly Bell is a photographer and video maker when not writing. Holly lives in the UK and is a mixture of English, Scottish, Cornish and Welsh, among other ingredients. Her favourite cat is called Bobby. He is black. Like the hat in her cupboard. Purely coincidental.