As the acknowledged "Queen of Crime," P. D. James was frequently commissioned by newspapers and magazines to write a special short story for Christmas--and here, together, are four of the best.
P. D. James's understanding of human nature illuminates each of these stories, making them ideal reading for the darkest days of the year. Each treats the reader to her masterfully atmospheric storytelling, a mystery to be solved, and enjoyable puzzles to keep the reader guessing. With wry humour, she pays tribute to her English crime-writing forebears, delighting in the secrets that lurk beneath the surface at enforced family gatherings and in old country houses--from the title story about a strained family reunion on Christmas Eve, to another about an illicit affair that ends in murder, and two cases that introduce James's poet-detective Adam Dalgliesh as a young detective sergeant.
The four previously uncollected mysteries in this collection show that James (1920 2014) was just as adept at the short form as she was at novel length; they efficiently introduce characters and create atmosphere, while posing fair challenges to readers eager to match wits with her. The title story presents a solution to a very cold case, provided by a mystery author who was in the house where an antiques dealer was bludgeoned to death. The author subtly conceals the signpost to the truth in "A Very Commonplace Murder," the most complex selection, in which an alibi witness dithers over coming forward to clear an innocent man. In "The Twelve Clues of Christmas," Adam Dalgleish, her series lead, comments, "I don't think I'll ever have another case like it. It was pure Agatha Christie." Such a comparison isn't gratuitous the puzzles are sure to please Christie fans, while offering enough psychological depth to satisfy those who want to emotionally invest in the characters, even if they appear for just a few dozen pages.