When the days grow colder and darker, my mother seems to accumulate stockpiles of books.
There are old ones from our collection that are battered and torn, others that came from the library and are dusty and laminated, and there are even brand new ones, which are pleasantly crisp and eager to have their spines cracked.
Each year they are always the same genre. They are always murder mysteries.
“Nothing like a cup of tea and a good murder around Christmas,” my mother would say. To an eight-year-old it was devastating. Now, 14 years later, I can’t think of any other type of book I’d rather read around the holidays.
And here’s a list of some fabulous ones.
1. Still Life by Louise Penny
Written by Canadian author Louise Penny, Still Life may not be the most intricate of mysteries, but Penny has the uncanny ability to write believable and relatable characters. The story takes place in the mythical Three Pines, a fictional small village south of Montreal. When one of the beloved locals is found shot with an arrow in the woods, Chief Inspector Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec and his team disrupt quiet life in the village in search of the murderer.
What really set this novel apart from others are the descriptions of characters and locations. There is a little café filled with mismatched furniture, beautiful art and delicious delicacies that will have you running over to My Dog Joe to compare atmospheres.
2. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
Penned by the legend herself, Dame Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None is an instant classic in any collection. Ten seemingly unrelated strangers are invited to a remote island and are slowly killed, one by one, in accordance to an old nursery rhyme. The novel is short and sweet, but also chilling and calculated and could be considered equal parts horror and mystery. Almost 80 years later, Agatha Christie is still the best in the business.
3. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Roger Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)
The Cuckoo’s Calling is a modern mystery novel written by Robert Galbraith. Haha. Just kidding. This murder mystery novel is actually written by J. K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame in probably what is the worst kept secret in modern literature. Seriously, her name is printed on the inside cover.
The Cuckoo’s Calling follows a bitter private investigator named Cormoran Strike, who, in the last year, has returned to London from a tour in Afghanistan minus one leg, been dumped by his girlfriend and accumulated a massive amount of debt. The adoptive brother of a recently deceased supermodel acquires Strike’s services, and wants Strike to investigate the nature of her death.
If you are a fan of intriguing mysteries, Harry Potter, and a dash of House M.D., this is the novel for you.
4. An Unsuitable Job for a Woman by P. D. James
When I asked my mom what who her favorite mystery writer was (sans Agatha Christie, of course), she instantly pointed me in the direction of P.D. James and her Cordelia Grey series.
An Unsuitable Job for a Woman is the first novel in the series and follows Private Investigator Cordelia Grey, a 22-year-old sleuth in 1972 London. Using only her intellect Ms. Grey attempts to solve the death of her former partner by outsmarting not just the murderer, but also the entirety of Scotland Yard.