In 1993, Otto Penzler, owner of The Mysterious Bookshop, began asking authors to produce a mystery story with a Christmas season theme. Over the years he amassed an amazing variety of authors including “big names” like Anne Perry, Ed McBain, Mary Higgins Clark, and Lawrence Block. CHRISTMAS AT THE MYSTERIOUS BOOKSHOP is a collected work of all these stories put together in one handy volume. What results is a collection with a little something for everyone.

I have mixed feelings about this volume, not really bad, but mixed. I like a story with a little more meat on its bones, and because of their length, none of these really have a chance to become meaty. That works against some of these writers, too, even though they’re at the top of their craft they’re used to having more space to stretch.

On the flip side of the coin, those very drawbacks, which I agree might not be drawbacks for everyone, make this a great book for the season. The stories are short enough that you can settle in and get a complete taste of whatever story you choose to read in one sitting, even in the midst of holiday insanity. There is also a wonderful mix of styles, though they all fall within the genre. Humor, suspense, pure mystery, its all there, giving you the chance to enjoy whatever you are in the mood for at any particluar moment.

I did appreciate the darker bits, as you might expect, and some of the lovely satire that a few of the authors offered that, honestly, might not have worked in a longer piece. There were one or two stories that were a little overly sweet, but this is the kind of book trying to offer something for everyone and you have to expect some sweet in there with everything else.

All in all, if you are looking for a nice escape this Season, Christmas at The Mysterious Gift Shop is a great choice. The stories are a quick enough read that you can plan activities around them. Mix the cookies dough, put in the first batch, read, take out the first batch, in goes the second batch, finish the story and decorate the cookies with a happy Mysterious Bookshop filled heart.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars | Publisher: Vanguard Press | Pages: 256 | Source: Purchased | Buy on Amazon

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