Book Review: A Surprise for Christmas: And Other Seasonal Mysteries by Martin Edwards (Editor)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Genre: Mystery Anthology
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: October 12th, 2021
Pages: 320, paperback
Source: NetGalley

A Postman murdered while delivering cards on Christmas morning. A Christmas pine growing over a forgotten homicide. A Yuletide heist gone horribly wrong. When there’s as much murder as magic in the air and the facts seem to point to the impossible, it’s up to the detective’s trained eye to unwrap the clues and neatly tie together an explanation (preferably with a bow on top).

Martin Edwards has once again gathered the best of these seasonal stories into a stellar anthology brimming with rare tales, fresh as fallen snow, and classics from the likes of Julian Symons, Margery Allingham, Anthony Gilbert and Cyril Hare. A most welcome surprise indeed, and perfect to be shared between super-sleuths by the fire on a cold winter’s night.

Anytime a new British Library Crime Classics comes out is like Christmas. A Surprise for Christmas and Other Seasonal Mysteries (bit of a mouthful, that), edited by Martin Edwards, is like a box of Christmas crackers. There’s something for everyone, and twelve stories in total, one for each day of Christmas.

There are the usual authors – Gilbert (as Malleson), Allingham, and Chesterton, but also a Loveday Brooke by Pirkis that I hadn’t seen before, and a Cyril Hare that I had, but still enjoyed. Like most anthologies, some of the stories are stronger than the others, and this isn’t one of the better Christmas collections by BLCC, but it’s well-worth a read, especially on a snowy Winter’s night.

Book Review: The Repeater Book of the Occult: Ten Tales from the Darkside edited by Tariq Goddard

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Genre: Horror Anthology
Publisher: Repeater
Publication Date: February 9th, 2021
Pages: 350, hardcover
Source: NetGalley

A selection of Repeater authors choose their favourite forgotten horror stories for this new anthology, with each also writing a critical introduction for the story of their choice.

Edited by novelist and Repeater publisher Tariq Goddard and “horror philosopher” Eugene Thacker, The Repeater Book of the Dead is a new anthology of horror stories, selected and introduced by Repeater authors.

Includes selections from Repeater authors like Graham Harman, Leila Taylor, Carl Neville, Adrian Nathan West and Rhian E Jones, with forgotten horror classics from authors such as W.W. Jacobs, Mark Twain and Sheridan Le Fanu.

Anthologies where authors select the stories are usually more varied than those where one editor chooses all the stories, and such is the case in The Repeater Book of the Occult, with stories chosen by the authors of the Repeater Books publishing house.

There are a number of well-known stories, such Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Jacobs’ “The Monkey’s Paw,” and two LeFanu stories. Mark Twain and Virginia Woolf were a pleasant surprise, and I had not previously heard of Francis Stevens.

Dotard’s “Par Avion” was a miss for me. It didn’t feel like it belonged with the others, even as loose as the theme of the anthology was.

The authors provide introductions to each story, some of which were longer than a couple of the stories, and more likely essays. While there was a lot of good information in some of them, they detracted from the stories themselves.

I would encourage the authors to choose lesser-known works that haven’t had the readership of some of the selections in this book, but the choices were good, and this is recommended.