Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop
Otto Penzler, ed.
Otto Penzler opened the Mysterious Bookshop over 30 years ago. The independent bookstore specializes in mysteries (although I would bet they'd order other titles if requested). Not only does Penzler's store sell newly published books, but also deals with collector's and rare editions and manuscripts. Over the years Penzler has become friends with readers, publishers, editors, and authors.
For many years he has sent out a special collection of Christmas short stories to his customers. He asked mystery authors to write a short story for these editions. There were two guidelines - the short mystery store must be set around Christmas and include the Mysterious Bookshop somewhere in the story. After reading this collection, I wouldn't mind being on that mailing list every year.
In Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop, Penzler has taken 17 short stories written for his Christmas collections for this book. Fortunately, this book has been expanded beyond his select audience. These stories are by known mystery writers.
Some authors had fun with words when they wrote their stories. S.J. Rozan ("The Grift of the Magi") and Ruport Holmes ("The Long Winter's Nap") both wrote their stories tongue in cheek. Donald E. Westlake uses a humorous twist in his story ("Give Til It Hurts"). These stories will tickle the reader.
Many of the stories are, of course, murder mysteries. Ed McBain's "I Saw Mommy Killing Santa Claus" is a good example of the classic genre. We can't ignore organized crime. Andrew Klavan fills that gap with "The Killer Christian". "The 74th Tale" by Jonathan Santlofer presents the story from the killer's point of view.
Michael Malone uses his ongoing mystery novel character in this short story. Cuddy Mangum is his sheriff from North Carolina who just happens to be in New York City over Christmas (Christmas Spirit). Mary Higgins Clark also brings back Alvira Meehan in "What's In a Name?".
The rare books and manuscripts that Penzler collects are integral to the mysteries. Jeremiah Healy ("The Holiday Fairy"), Lawrence Block ("As Dark As Christmas Gets", George Baxt ("Schemes and Variations") and Charles Ardai ("Cold Reading") all use rare or unpublished manuscripts. Lisa Michelle Atkinson ("Yule Be Sorry") focuses on rare editions and collectors.
There are a few stories that don't fit into some of the above groups. Check out Anne Perry's "My Object All Sublime", Ron Goulart's "Murder for Dummies" and Edward D. Hoch's "The Theft of the Rusty Bookmark". They are all classic mystery stories. Then there is Thomas H. Cook's "The Lesson of the Season" isn't a mystery at all. Instead it's one to make the reader think and reflect
Penzler has a party on Christmas Eve for his friends and employees that includes the publishers and authors mentioned earlier. The party makes a great background for some of these stories. It also makes me wish I could be there. I would be happy just sitting back to watch and listen.
If I get back to New York City, I'll have to check out the Mysterious Bookshop. In the meantime, I'm happy with the independent mystery and science fiction bookstore I use in San Diego. Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop is not only a fun collection of good mystery authors' stories but also a testimonial to independent book sellers everywhere.
Now, can anyone tell me how to get on Penzler's Christmas mailing list?
Notice: Non-graphic violence
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