Well, the weather outside is boiling, and at work we’re sadly toiling…so why not get into the festive spirit a little early this year with some Christmas murder mystery books? Like the Christmas ghost story, the Christmas detective novel is a staple of literature and a fun read to dip into when the nights are getting longer — or to cool you down in the summer, when a snowy, scary story might be the perfect read.
There are a huge number of Christmas murder mystery books out there, from cozy mysteries set against the backdrop of local businesses preparing for the festive season, to older classics that use the country-house mystery to full effect. And it’s not surprising that many murder mysteries are set at Christmastime — wintry weather can be both a useful obstacle that the author can throw in their sleuth’s path, or a medium for clues (footprints in the snow aren’t just the province of true crime). Add to that the tension caused by families coming together, the confusion and stress of holiday travel, and the backdrop of Christmas parties or events, and you have the ideal setting for a cracking murder mystery. Here are some of the best Christmas crime novels and short story collections, with fiendish mysteries for you to solve.
A Mistletoe Murder by Necole Ryse
A Christmas romcom with a murderous twist, A Mistletoe Murder is the story of recently-divorced Ashton and mischievous Mikayla, who are thrown together when their Christmas train journey is interrupted by a murder. When Mikayla is accused, the two must work together — and realise their new feelings for each other — before the killer strikes again.
Silent Nights: Christmas Mysteries edited by Martin Edwards
With a selection of well-known and lesser-read stories by a variety of different crime writers, Silent Nights is a fantastic festive murder story collection. Short stories are the ideal way to dip into a genre, particularly when it’s something as specific as Christmas murder mysteries, and Silent Nights will introduce you to many mystery authors so you can build up your TBR for the real Christmas period.
Baby, It’s Cold Outside by Abby L. Vandiver
Cosy mysteries don’t get much cosier than this. Brigitt VanBuren is trying to get her event-planning business up and running in time for the festive season, but her plans are scuppered when she finds a body in the basement of her new home. Worse still, Brigitt’s sister is the prime suspect — so Brigitt must clear her name or prepare for the worst Christmas ever.
Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie
One of my favourite Poirot stories, Hercule Poirot’s Christmas has everything — a locked door mystery, a richly-imagined stately home, and a cast of characters so grotesquely awful that you can’t wait to find out whodunnit. Poirot is staying with a very dysfunctional family in the countryside when the patriarch, Simeon Lee, is murdered. Everyone has a motive, but, it seems, no-one had the opportunity — fortunately, Poirot is there to unravel the mystery.
Merry Christmas Murder by Rachel Woods
Maybe not one to read when the kids are around, Merry Christmas Murder deals with the whodunnit of a lifetime — who shot Santa Claus? Journalist Roland Bean and his nemesis, a homicide detective, have to investigate and solve the murder, along with a kidnapping and even more mayhem.
The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories by P. D. James
P. D. James was a veteran crime writer and author of many novels and short stories. The Mistletoe Murder collects four of the Christmas murder mystery stories that she was commissioned to write for magazines wanting to publish a good, festive murder. Two of the stories are standalones, while the other two feature her famous detective Dalgliesh, making it an ideal read for newcomers and fans alike.
Blackmail and Bibingka by Mia P. Manansala
Third in the Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery series, Blackmail and Bibingka opens with a not-so-merry Christmas for Lila Macapagal as her notorious cousin Ronnie returns to town for the holidays. Things take a turn for the worse when Ronnie is accused of murder, and Lila has to clear his name — if he is in fact innocent.
Christmas is Murder by Val McDermid
Another collection of short mystery stories, Christmas is Murder contains festive tales from Scotland’s leading crime author Val McDermid. Full of haunting, creepy stories, each with a macabre or murderous twist, Christmas is Murder is a fun read for any fan of wintry detective stories.
If this has whetted your appetite for cozy mysteries set at the end of the year, try our rundown of 5 Winter Mysteries That Are Cozier Than a Cup of Tea. To round out your crime reading, check out our list of 15 of the Best Mystery Books of All Time.