Turns out I already knew five of the ten stories in this anthology:
Ellis Peters's The Trinity Cat
Julian Symons's The Santa Claus Club
Ian Rankin's No Sanity Clause
G.K. Chesterton's The Dagger With Wings
and Marjorie Bowen's Cambric Tea.
So I skipped those (though I do really like the stories by Ellis Peters, Julian Symons and Ian Rankin -- care somewhat less for the other two, though) and just read the remaining five entries:
Michael Innes: The Four Seasons
John Dickson Carr: The Footprint in the Sky
Val McDermid: A Wife in a Million
Lawrence Block: As Dark as Christmas Gets
and Marjorie Allingham: On Christmas Day in the Morning
Of these, far and away my favorites were the stories by Michael Innes and Lawrence Block (Marjorie Allingham's On Christmas Day in the Morning came somewhat close because of its bittersweet solution): Innes's The Four Seasons is a variation on the country house mystery set in the Fen Country and centering on a painting -- actually, it's a country house story within a country house story, because the actual story is being told by a guest at a country house holiday party in turn --; and Block's As Dark as Christmas Gets is an extremely cleverly conceived hommage to Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries, in everything from tone to characters, setting, plot, book title name checking, and even solution.
Since this book has a(n, umm, mostly) black and white cover, for 16 Festive Tasks purposes I'll be using it as my read for All Saints' Day.
Ohhhh...December! I had very good Christmas, and I hope you all did too. I even managed to read a few books. I'm having a difficult time reconciling the end of 2017. Not sure why that is??? I just can't believe the new year is here, already. On to my re-cap...
(Audiobook) The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka
Finish Date: 12/01
4.3/5 STARS - GRADE=A-
(Audiobook) Marrow by Tarryn Fisher
Finish Date: 12/08
4.5/5 STARS - GRADE=A-
(Kindle eBook) Undone by Wendy Higgins
Finish Date: 12/13
4.8/5 STARS - GRADE=A
(Audiobook) Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little
Finish Date: 12/14
3/5 STARS - GRADE=C
(Kindle eBook) The Butterfly Project by Emma Scott
Finish Date: 12/19
5/5 STARS - GRADE=A+
(eBook Novella) Down to the Liar by Mary Elizabeth
Finish Date: 12/20
(Audiobook) Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Finish Date: 12/20
3.7/5 STARS - GRADE=B
(Audiobook) RoomHate by Penelope Ward
Finish Date: 12/23
3.8/5 STARS - GRADE=B
(Audiobook) Undertow by Michael Buckley
Finish Date: 12/29
4.2/5 STARS - GRADE=B+
(Netgalley eArc) Pretty Dead Girls by Monica Murphy
Finish Date: 12/30
2.5/5 STARS - GRADE=D+
Plus 1 DNF...I just couldn't get into this.
11 BOOKS TOTAL
6 Audiobooks, 1 Novella, 2 eBooks, 1 DNF eBook and 1 Negalley eArc.
Truman Capote's charming, magical memories of his childhood Christmas and Thanksgiving with his mother's Monroeville, Alabama family -- particularly his much elder and much-beloved cousin Miiss Sook, who thanks to her own child-like nature was mother, grandmother and elder sister to him simultaneously; but, most importantly, the greatest source of warmth, love and compassion of his entire childhood. In the book's second (individually, last-published) entry the Monroeville experience is contrasted with the one (sadly failed) attempt by Capote's father to make up for years of non-parenting, and seeing all three stories published together, the contrast -- and the boundless warmth of Capote's Monroeville home, and of Miss Sook -- is brought out in an even brighter light, (As an aside, it is easy, too, to recognize the place, and the traits of individual personalities, in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, which was inspired by the same community.)
Since this book doesn't merely include two Christmas but also a Thanksgiving memory, for 16 Festive Tasks purposes I'm going to use it as my book for the Thanksgiving holiday book joker.
Well, well -- nothing like ringing in the New Year (albeit a day early) with Charles Dickens: What he did for Christmas in the story about the old miser Scrooge, he did again a year later for New Year's Eve with this story; which is, however, quite a bit darker than A Christmas Carol. Once again, a man is swept away to see the future; this time, however, it's not a miserly rich man but a member of the working classes, a porter named Toby (nicknamed Trotty) Veck eeking out a living near a church whose migihty bells ring out the rhythm of his life -- as if Dickens had wanted to remind his audience that the moral of A Christmas Carol doesn't only apply to the rich but, indeed, to everyone. Along the way, the high, mighty and greedy are duly pilloried -- in this, The Chimes is decidedly closer to Hard Times, Our Mutual Friend, A Tale of Two Cities, and Bleak House than it is to A Christmas Carol -- and there are more than a minor number of anxious moments to be had before we're reaching the story's conclusion (which, in turn, however, sweeps in like a cross breed of those of Oliver Twist and Oscar Wilde's Importance of Being Earnest).
Richard Armitage's reading is phantastic: at times, there are overtones of John Thornton from the TV adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South, (or in fact, both John Thornton and Nicholas Higgins) which matches the spirit of the story very well, however, since workers' rights and exploitation are explicitly addressed here, too, even if this story is ostensibly set in London, not in Manchester.
In the context of the 16 Festive Tasks, The Chimes is an obvious choice for the New Year's Eve holiday book joker, so that it is going to be.