Christmas is murder: a chilling short story collection by Val McDermid

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Sphere, 2020. ISBN: 9780751581775.
(Age: Secondary/Adult) Highly recommended. In a few pages, award winning crime writer McDermid is able to create a scenario, characters and a crime, enticing an already enthralled reader to keep going, wanting to see where the story heads. Twelve short stories all framed by Christmas, are tantalisingly brief, but each is complete in itself, dealing with a murder, and sometimes making a point along the way. In 'A wife in a million', a detective investigates a series of murders: someone is spiking condiments at supermarkets with arsenic, while her unemployed partner scans the papers each day searching for work. It is her suggestion that brings the investigation to a close.
Another tale reprises the Holmes' stories as Watson and Holmes go to Sarajevo to stop a killing (not the one you think!). In another a young girl unsure of whether Santa Claus is real or not, pushes a burglar down the stairs on Christmas Eve, after she finds him with her Christmas presents. In 'Happy Holiday', DCI Jordan and Dr Tony Hill solve a murder, while another story has a couple cycling through Scotland, finding a remote folly, and after her partner is killed, she lures the driver to the folly to exact revenge.
Settings are so different: the Scottish Highlands, Scottish towns, various castles, lochs and coastlines, while the characters inhabit many guises. A thoroughly involving set of stories, sure to keep readers amused and absorbed over Christmas.
Themes: Short stories, Christmas, Murder, Investigation, Crime fiction, Scotland.
Fran Knight