To all of you who celebrate Christmas, my warmest and best wishes for a Happy Christmas and a prosperous, safe and healthy New Year.
Here, just because I couldn’t resist, are a few tips to make your holidays more enjoyable ; ):
1. Be careful of the people you visit…
Don’t forget what happens in Ngaio Marsh’s Tied Up in Tinsel, when Inspector Alleyn solves the murder of Alfred Moult, servant of F. Fleaton Forrester. In that novel, Alleyn’s wife, Troy, is commissioned to paint a portrait of Hillary Bill-Tasmin, and goes to his home, Halberd’s Manor, to do the work over the Christmas holiday. Bill-Tasmin’s asked his uncle, F. Fleaton “Uncle Flea” Forrester, to dress up as a Druid for Christmas. At the last minute, “Uncle Flea” falls ill and Moult takes his place. Just after the gifts are distributed, Moult disappears and later turns up dead. It turns out that most of the members of Bill-Tasmin’s household have motives; his servants are all “rehabilitated” (or are they?) criminals, and even his other houseguests aren’t nearly as respectable as they seem.
2. Be nice to your relations – they may be dangerous….
Simeon Lee finds that out in Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (AKA Murder for Christmas and A Holiday for Murder). Lee is a very unpleasant but wealthy patriarch who invites all of his relations to visit the family home for Christmas. No-one believes his claim that he wants to “mend fences,” but no-one dares refuse the invitation. On Christmas Eve, Lee is brutally murdered, and Hercule Poirot, who is staying nearby, is called in to investigate. Poirot finds that all of Lee’s relations had strong motives for hating the old man, and one them acted on that motive…
3. Be nice to your colleagues – they may be dangerous, too…
Unfortunately, Hortense Calabash doesn’t learn that lesson, and she’s murdered in Isis Crawford’s A Catered Christmas. Hortense Calabash hosts the popular Hortense Calabash Cooking Show. She invites several local caterers, including sisters Libby and Bertie Simmons, to compete in a cooking contest. The Simmons sisters, who own and run A Little Taste of Heaven, a bake shop and catering company, are only too happy for the publicity. On the first day of filming, though, one of the ovens on the set explodes, killing the much-disliked Hortense Calabash. Now the Simmons sisters have a murder mystery to investigate, besides the stress of holiday business. There are lots of suspects, including the five cutthroat competitors, the show’s employees, and the show’s producer.
4. Be careful what you eat and drink – you never know what may be in it.
In M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin and Kissing Christmas Goodbye, that’s exactly the problem that Phyllis Tamworthy faces. She writes Agatha Raisin a letter in which she claims that one of her relatives is going to kill her before the year is over. Agatha’s got other problems on her mind, including getting ready for Christmas and what she’s going to do about her ex-husband, James Lacey and her on-again/off-again feelings for him. Agatha takes on Phyllis’ case and goes to meet her and her family. At first, it doesn’t seem possible that any of Phyllis’ children would kill her: they’re all squarely under her thumb. But when Phyllis dies of hemlock poisoning, Agatha realizes that Phyllis was right.
5. Play safely….
Pathologist Joel Hoffman, Arthur Porges’ sleuth, could tell you that. In Porges’ short story Horse-Collar Homicide, Hoffman investigates the murder of the patriarch of the Lakeland family. It seems that Lakeland insisted on playing an archaic game in which an antique horse-collar is suspended from a rafter in the barn, and competitors make faces through the collar. The stranger the expression, the better, as the competitor who gets the most laughs is the winner. When Lakeland suddenly dies while he’s making his own faces, Hoffman is called in to investigate. He finds that, far from the heart attack he’d suspected, Lakeland died of electrocution in an ingenious crime.
Have a wonderful holiday!