8 December 2010

Virtual Advent Blog Tour

The Virtual Advent Blog Tour is the creation of Kailana from The Written World and Marg from Adventures of an Intrepid Reader
This is the fifth year that we have hosted and we hope that the event has become an integral part of the book blogging community's holiday traditions.

I'm currently running a meme related to Christmas "reading" (any genre, not just crime fiction)
Do you try to read Christmas-related titles at this time of the year?
Do you have some reviews on your blog?
You can add them to the meme on MYSTERIES in PARADISE at Invitation: Suggest a Christmas Title
I ran this meme also in 2009 with 45 great suggestions made. 

Regular visitors to my blog will know that my passion is crime fiction.

I was reminded when reading HERCULE POIROT'S CHRISTMAS by Agatha Christie recently that Christmas can be a stressful time.

Hercule Poirot is staying with the Chief Constable for Christmas. The CC is an optimist and thinks Christmas is usually a quiet time crime-wise but HP points out how stressful it can be.
    And families now, families who have been separated throughout the year, assemble once more together. Now under these conditions, my friend, you must admit that there will occur a great amount of strain. People who do not feel amiable are putting great pressure on themselves to appear amiable. There is at Christmas time a great deal of hypocrisy, honourable hypocrisy, hypocrisy undertaken pour le bon motif, c'est entendu, but nevertheless hypocrisy.
    I am pointing out to you that under these conditions - mental strain, physical malaise - it is highly probable thta dislikes that were before merely mild and disagreements that were trivial might suddently assume a more serious character.
If you are looking for a good crime fiction read, then HERCULE POIROT'S CHRISTMAS is certainly one to consider.

This theme of a tension filled time comes out also in other books you might enjoy.

WATER LIKE A STONE, Deborah Crombie
The first Christmas with your partner's parents is never an easy one, and Gemma James is not sure she is looking forward to the one that she and Duncan Kincaid and their two boys will be spending with his parents in Cheshire.
However on the eve of their arrival, Duncan's sister Juliet finds the mummified body of a baby concealed in the wall of a barn she is renovating, and everything takes on a different twist. Duncan finds the investigating officer called to the scene is someone he was at school with.

When I scoured my records for this year I discovered that I have actually read a number of books in 2010 that relate to Christmas.

4.6, A CHRISTMAS CAROL, Charles Dickens
I know, I know, I can can hear you! This is not crime fiction! This audio book came to me as a Christmas gift from Audible.com.
The book is presented in five parts, and you probably all know the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, whose name is synonymous with penny pinching, mean-ness, and all enjoyment of Christmas being dashed as humbug. He is visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, the present, and the future, and brought to his senses before it is too late.
This is a most enjoyable performance by Tim Curry.

4.5, TIED UP IN TINSEL, Ngaio Marsh
Every member of the staff at Halberds, but one, is a convicted murderer. Troy Alleyn, wife of DI Roderick Alleyn of Scotland Yard, is spending Christmas there, her husband out of the country. She is painting the portrait of Hilary Bill-Tasman, the rather eccentric and enormously wealth landed proprietor of Halberds Manor.
The other members of the Halberds Christmas houseparty, Hilary's Aunt Bed and Uncle Flea, his uncle Bert, and his fiance Cressida Tottenham, round out a rather unusual cast of characters.
Bill-Tasman has organised an elaborate Christmas Day treat for local children in which an ancient bewhiskered and bearded Druid arrives towing a sledge of presents. But after the event the Druid can't be found, and other pranks seem designed to cast the blame for his disappearance on the murderous staff.
Enter Roderick Alleyn just returned from Australia.

Nothing in Fethering happens unseen. There's always someone watching.
Christmas is approaching in the seaside village of Fethering and Jude is horrified that her neighbour Carole Seddon, retired public servant, has chosen such dull presents for her immediate family. To make matters worse Carole's son Stephen, his wife Gaby and her baby grandaughter Lily will be coming down for Christmas Day.
So Jude takes Carole off to a newly opened trendy shop called Gallimaufray. A few days later, when the shop is burnt down fire investigators find the body of a young woman in the burnt out premises. By this time Carole has met the owners of the shop at Jude's pre-Christmas open house party, and so neither she nor Jude have any hesitation in becoming personally involved in finding out what really happened.
Jude and Carole are a formidable investigative team, and their pursuit of the truth is no longer the casual observation that it was a few books back. They meet often to compare notes and formulate new plans of attack on their suspects.
One character, quite a nasty one, has it right: "You are just two nosy old women who have no authority at all", but he underestimates their acumen for sleuthing.
THE SHOOTING IN THE SHOP is a quick and enjoyable read, unmistakeably a cozy, with plenty of red herrings, and just a bit more character development for our two sleuths. [I have been thinking about who I would cast in their roles: perhaps Patricia Routledge and Sylvia Sims??]

4.3, A CANTERBURY CRIME, Brian Kavanagh
Antiques dealer Hazel Whitby and her Australian companion Belinda Lawrence have been asked to catalogue and value the contents of a deceased estate, the Manor House. It is just a few days to Christmas and Hazel and Belinda will be spending Christmas in Canterbury.
Professor de Gray died nearly six months earlier, supposedly from a heart attack. But Hazel and Belinda hear stories of there having been "blood on his head" and the Professor's body was cremated with almost indecent haste, the day after his death.
They have been commissioned by Miss Mowbray (who reminds Belinda of a modern Mrs Danvers) to evaluate the contents of the Manor House, which turns out to be a virtual Aladdin's Cave. Shortly after they begin work, Miss Mowbray goes up to London, and there meets with an accident.
As with the other 3 titles in this series, I enjoyed the historical background that Kavanagh uses to give depth to the story. Belinda's romance with the handsome Mark (who appeared in #2) and her partnership with Hazel provide continuity from one novel to the next. (If you are new to the series, I strongly suggest you read them in order). Like its precursors A CANTERBURY CRIME is a pleasant whodunnit in the true cozy tradition.

4.3, WINTER OF SECRETS, Vicki Delany
It's Christmas Eve at Trafalgar in the Kootenay area of British Columbia and there's lots of snow. It's the storm of the decade and the roads are icy. Constable Molly (Moonlight) Smith, recently off probation, is on duty overnight, and it promises to be a busy one. Just after midnight a car goes into the river.
The occupants are tourists, a couple of young men staying at a local B&B with friends. They've come to Trafalgar for the skiing. They are both pronounced dead when the car is retrieved from the river. The only trouble is that the pathologist discovers a day or two later that the passenger had been dead when the car went into the water.
I enjoyed renewing my acquaintance with Molly Smith, her mother Lucky, and her colleagues. Molly has moved on a bit since the previous title in the series: VALLEY OF THE LOST. She's now left home and living above the baker's shop. In WINTER OF SECRETS we learn what a good skier she is, and she is certainly becoming a good police woman. It was a nice solid read.

4.3, FORBIDDEN FRUIT, Kerry Greenwood
For those who haven't yet made her acquaintance Corinna Chapman is an accountant turned baker who has a shop in Melbourne, just off Flinders' Lane.
FORBIDDEN FRUIT is #5 in the Corinna Chapman series (you may already be aware of Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series which also has a new title out this year).
It is December in Melbourne, in the lead up to Christmas. As it often is at this time of the year, Melbourne is in the grip of a heatwave, with north wind days every day: hectic, invasive, dust-bearing wind like dragon's breath. Corinna and her assistant run a boutique bakery in the ground floor of an old building named, Roman style, Insula, with apartments in the floors above populated by a range of interesting/weird characters.
The Corinna Chapman books are light cosy reads, sure to be popular with those who like food with their mystery. In this one Corinna's talented assistant (and Corinna is no mean cook herself) is in search for the perfect recipe for glace cherries. Everyday their bakery ""Earthly Delights"" serves up a mouth watering range of muffins and breads. As always, in the final pages of the book, Corinna delivers some tried and true recipes for readers to try. The ones at the end of FORBIDDEN FRUIT are for glace cherries, Christmas cakes, Vegie delights, and variety of muffins. One of the things I think Kerry Greenwood gets right is a taste of Melbourne weather at this time of the year.


Marg said...

I don't tend to read a lot of Christmas themed fiction normally, but this year I am on my third one!

Thanks for participating in the tour again this year!

Caroline said...

There are some very tempting titles in your post, some "old friends" like the Deborah Crombie one and some new ones to discover. I am tepmted by Vicky Delany. Wonderful post. Thank you.

Chrisbookarama said...

I have the Agatha Christie one. I should give it a read this year.

Armchair_Archives said...

Thanks for the suggestions! I'm already a big fan of "Hercule Poirot's Christmas" and "A Christmas Carol", and am now looking forward to discovering "A Canterbury Crime"!

Anonymous said...

I didn't realise there were so many crime books with a Christmas theme. Thanks for sharing.

I will be reading my first Christmas-themed book next week. It's Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Picher. No idea what it's going to be like, but it's not crime, I believe.

Jodie Robson said...

In the last couple of years I've found Christmas-themed books quite irrestible, though I do try only to read them in December! There are several titles here to add to my list :-)

kayerj said...

Christmas reading is a big part of my traditions. I have a huge box of books that I get out only for Christmas. My grandchildren love picking the stories out and having Grandma read to them. I have books for adults and short stories that can be read in a short time. I love seeing one of my grown children or my husband reach into the box and read through a story.

I just read a new story this year that I'm adding to my box. "The Paper Bag Christmas" by Kevin Alan Milne. One of the best Christmas stories I've ever read.


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