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Christmas at The Mysterious Bookshop Paperback – October 4, 2011
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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Every year since 1993, Penzler, founder of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York, has asked a different genre writer to produce a short story to be published and given away as a Christmas gift to customers. The only requirements: the story must be set around the Christmas season, and it must involve the bookshop in its action. This very entertaining anthology contains all of the stories published so far, by such writers as Donald E. Westlake, Lawrence Block, Anne Perry, Mary Higgins Clark, Andrew Klavan, and Ed McBain. The stories—every single one of them—are delightful, and there’s something for everyone, too: funny stories, serious stories, charming stories, silly stories. Any time writers of this caliber are collected between the same covers, it’s a can’t-miss opportunity for mystery buffs. Even those who might find the Christmas trappings on the treacly side will enjoy the stories as stories. --David Pitt --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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This book was published in 2010, and contains all 17 of those stories plus one extra. I had great fun reading these stories. Some are more literary, such as Thomas H. Cook's "The Lesson of the Season." Some are more for fun, such as Jonathan Santlofer's "The 74th Tale". And Ron Goulart's "Murder for Dummies" is in the O'Henry vein, with a great one-line ending.
Following the short stores in this collection, Penzler offers some lists: "The Ten Greatest Christmas Mystery Stories of All Time (not counting those in this book)", "The Ten Greatest Christmas Mystery Novels of All Time" and "The Ten Greatest Christmas Movies of All Time."
Lots of oldies but goodies on the last list, including one of my favorites, the hard-to-find "The Shop Around the Corner" with a young Jimmy Stewart, TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Holiday (Christmas in Connecticut / A Christmas Carol 1938 / The Shop Around the Corner / It Happened on 5th Avenue)
If you haven't read any of Otto Penzler's anthologies before, you're in for a treat. I have a few of them (including this one), and the Locked Room collection is my favorite – to date! The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard Original).
A good collection. Not every story was a home run for me, but overall, lots of enjoyment in this set.
Finally putting them together into a single publication is another master marketing stroke, making the quite collectible NYC item available world-wide. In his introduction, Otto admits it's for personal profit and he says, "will thrill my creditors." I wish I could meet this bookseller, see his store, but preferably the old store location.
The downside is the fact that this is not these author's greatest works. They are good, mind. Clever and follow the guideline with "Mysterious Bookshop" location in the story. That makes the collection worthy, like being chapters of one story, but characters changing, except for the frequent appearance of Otto. If Otto had been killed off in story one, it would have been a disaster. Just remember, it's a way to sample authors, not judge them. Search on to find their best works.
I still recommend this book to mystery lovers. And it is Christmas stories, of a sort. Nothing like a good Christmas murder to cheer the family get-together. But please bear in mind that ALL of these authors have better books to read. But for packing in a lot of short Christmas Mystery into a doable holiday span, a set easily put aside between authors, this is a must-own.
It's a good addition to a Christmas book collection since this adds a bit of suspenseful tartness to the typical Christmas book fictional sugar-plumness. A well balanced Santa is a jolly fictionally-fat man.
Merry Christmas all, and middle America thanks you, Otto.
Christmas in the Mysterious Bookshop includes a Dortmunder story by Donald E. Westlake, and a story by Lawrence Block (author of the Bernie Rhodenbarr series). This collection can be used as a sampler, to get an idea of authors you like, then to check out the authors' books.
This could be a great gift for mystery fans. You might want to give it or get it before Christmas, so it can be read in the days leading up to Christmas. Because the stories are secular, not religious, I believe this book could be enjoyed by people who don't celebrate Christmas as well as people who do.
You might have a nice little treat in store for you. Enjoy!
UPDATE: I just re-read the story in this book by Lawrence Block. This story is a tribute to the Nero Wolf / Archie Goodwin books by Rex Stout. There are a lot of funny "inside joke" references - for instance, the Wolf character, Haig, breeds tropical fish. Wolf, in the original stories, has thousands of orchids in the top floor of his brownstone.
I own last year's offering "Christmas Mysteries", also edited by Otto Penzler,(2012), which is massive! 59 short stories, 650 pages, which known authors had written earlier. Great fun.
However, this year's "Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop" is even better because of the perimeters prescribed in crafting each original story by known authors. Each tale had to take place in or around the Mysterious Bookstore, mention the proprietor (Otto Penzler) and be Christmas themed. Every story is a gem.
Did I say I LOVED it? Well,I do!