Book Reviews | December 2010 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Mistletoe & Mayhem

'Tis the season for this collection of mystery stories edited by Otto Penzler, editor, collector, and longtime owner of the Mysterious Bookshop in New York City. Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop contains seventeen zippy tales by the likes of Ed McBain (Evan Hunter) and Mary Higgins Clark. For lovers of mysteries, or just bookshops, this is a top-notch set of stories. Manuscript dealers are murdered, collectors take hostages, and authors kill for a good story. "The Theft of the Rusty Bookmark" by Edward D. Hoch is a fun read in which a murder weapon is lost when the deceased's personal library is sold. "My Object All Sublime" by Anne Perry is full of tingling tension, as a rejected writer confronts Penzler in his private study. "The 74th Tale" by Jonathan Santlofer is a genuinely creepy account of a loner who buys a mystery and uses it as a manual.

For collectors, there is an interesting backstory to the book. Every holiday season since 1993, Penzler has commissioned an original short story from a leading mystery writer. The only directive: some of the action in the story must take place in the Mysterious Bookshop. Penzler printed each story in pamphlet form, limited to 1,000 copies, and mailed them out as gifts to customers. A hot ticket for mystery collectors today! All of these tales are collected in this volume.

And if you are simply dying for a signed edition, there's a holiday party this Thursday (Dec. 9th) at the Mysterious Bookshop (now located downtown at 58 Warren St.) at which Penzler and many of the authors in this anthology will be present to autograph copies.