The Very Merry Murder Club
Today it is my turn to write about a Christmas themed book for the 'Let's Get Festive' Blog tour.
I have to be completely honest and admit that I'm not the most Christmassy person in the world, which may have influenced my choice of book. It seemed perfect for me-a brilliant book chock full of fantastic stories, with just a hint of Christmas!
I chose 'The Very Merry Murder Club' a selection of 13 short stories set at Christmas or Winter time and all of them crime or murder mysteries.
I was attracted to the book mainly because of the vast array of brilliant authors who have written a story for it, (not just because it wasn't too Christmassy, honest!).
It includes stories from authors I am familiar with and love like: Elle McNicoll, Benjamin Dean and Sharna Jackson, but also has a host of other well respected names that, although I hadn't read their work before new them by reputation and I was looking forward to finding out more about their writing.
The book does not disappoint, in fact it delights in it sheer diverse range of stories. I wasn't sure what to expect before I started reading, but I guess I thought that all of the stories would be of a similar mould of the classic murder mystery but they aren't. The stories range from historical mysteries set in eighteenth century London, to fantasy stories and pretty much everything in between.
There are a few stories that fit the classic type and I loved the Agatha Christie vibes I got from the amateur sleuths solving the mysteries in stories such as: Shoe Dunnit (Elle McNicholl), Scrabble and Murder (Nizrana Farook) and No Piste for the Wicked (E.L.Norry). Each story had a murder to solve and a satisfyingly observant amateur detective who stands slightly apart from the crowd and puts the clues together. I found myself trying to solve the crimes alongside them (but not putting it together as well as the characters did).
And there were other stories that had a more classic crime feel to them as well. I loved The Cove(N) at Christmas (Sharna Jackson) which had the feel of a classic thriller where the tension gradually ratchets up as the protagonist uncovers a mystery and realises they are in danger. The paranoia raises to an almost unbearable level as the story reaches it crescendo. Then there was The Beast of Bedleywood (Annabelle Sami) which was another mystery story, this time involving corruption and potential sabotage in a building development that was threatening beloved woodland.
It Takes a Thief to Catch a Thief (Maisie Chan) reminded me of Hitchcock capers and was a lot of fun to read, involving a retired cat burglar and a potential kidnapping. The Christmas Heist (Abiola Bello) had a bit of an Ocean 11 vibe in that their was a heist and a host of entertaining characters in the crew. Cool for Cats (Patrice Lawrence) was a quirky, funny mystery that almost felt like a sitcom with the set up of going to feed their friends cat called 'The Hammer' and discovering some strange things at the house. Silent Night (Serena Patel) was another story written with a lot of humour and a mystery that reminded me of Rear Window.
Then there were the stories that surprised me more as I wasn't expecting to see the genre melding that I did. There was It's Snow Crime (Roopa Farooki) which was a spy story as much as a mystery which felt a bit like Spy Kids (but with old age pensioner spies!). I was not expecting a fantasy story but the Frostwilds (Domenique Valente) is very definitely one of these, and a brilliant one at that. I loved the mystery in it and I loved the departure from the classic crime capers that many of the stories are. The Ticking Funhouse (Benjamin Dean) is more of a horror story and is deliciously weird, it was like an episode of the twilight zone with shades of 80's horror movies. Fire and Ice (Joanna Williams) is set in 1776 during the frost fairs in London and is a mystery that has a touch of social commentary, looking at issues of corruption, poverty and elitism whilst also being a brilliantly engaging mystery.
With so many diverse stories there is a risk that some will appeal more than others but I can honestly say that they are all absolute crackers. Every single story hits the mark. They all engaged me as a reader and drew me into their worlds and their mysteries.
One of the things I loved about the book was that it represented a wide range of people and experiences. It is a book that is reflective of modern society and every child that reads it should be able to see themselves represented somewhere.
I am a big fan of short story collections and this one is right up there with the best of them. It will have pride of place in my classroom. I can recommend this for anyone from age 8 and above (I think plenty of adults will probably enjoy this book as much as children will).
If anyone is interested in buying the book here are a couple of links: