I always find it a bit hard to review mystery anthologies. The stories are quick, plot-driven snacks that don’t have any particular depth to them. Which is precisely the reason I like them—they are a nice distraction from reading that requires more heavy lifting. The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries, edited by the ubiquitous Otto Penzler, was a fun book to read for the holidays. The majority are not cozy mysteries, which was what I was expecting and was a tad disappointed not to find. I always like to snuggle in at Christmas. Nevertheless, this was a solid collection of stories.
The stories were from different time periods, which I always enjoy, except for one Nero Wolfe story filled with awful Asian stereotypes; I can’t imagine what Penzler was thinking including this particular story in a modern mystery collection. The book is divided into different sections, such as a straightforward “A Traditional Little Christmas” to a more puzzling “An Uncanny Little Christmas.” There was a good variety of lengths, from a couple of pages to 15 or so. This is a big book –it’s over 600 pages and the stories are printed in smallish fonts, two columns per page. Still, it was a relatively quick read. It started and ended with Agatha Christie, as all mystery anthologies should.