The Christmas Carol Murders by Christopher Lord

Christmas CarolIt’s Christmas in Dickens Junction, a bizarre town in Oregon where Charles Dickens is venerated in almost every way, shape and form. Simon Alastair, owner of the local bookshop, finds his sleuthing skills called into action when a mysterious stranger arrives in town and shortly afterwards is murdered, his body presented as part of a Dickens pageant.

As the town – and the murder – attracts more attention, notably from followers of Ayn Rand’s Objectivist movement, Simon finds himself distracted by the handsome Zach, a reporter who is just as determined as Simon to find the murderer. But the murderer hasn’t finished their work – and the body count begins to rise…

This is the first in the Dickens Junction mysteries, featuring Simon and Zach, each based on a Dickens novel. The second novel in the series, The Edwin Drood Murders, was reviewed by me a couple of months ago and it was rather good, marred by my complete lack of knowledge of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. It has distinctive characters, a clever plot, it demonstrated some real potential for the series.

To be honest, I think it’s probably best that I read that one first as I didn’t enjoy this one as much. The central characters are engaging – as I mentioned last time, it makes a pleasant change for there to be homosexual main characters that are written so matter-of-factly, rather than making their sexuality the focus of the story.

But this time, the mystery didn’t feel as clever. The misdirection attempted was fairly slight and the motive comes completely out of nowhere (unless I missed something) and the characters didn’t seem as clearly defined as before. It may be due to the fact that I’ve been reading in small chunks due to workload over the last few weeks. But it wasn’t an issue with some other books… this one just didn’t really grab me. And the parallels with the original Christmas Carol seemed fairly slight.

So overall, I didn’t enjoy this as much as The Edwin Drood Murders – I’d recommend starting with that one.

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About Puzzle Doctor

I'm a mathematician by nature and as such have always been drawn to the logical side of things. Hence my two main hobbies being classic mysteries and logical puzzling. Oh, and cats. No logic there, I'm afraid.
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9 Responses to The Christmas Carol Murders by Christopher Lord

  1. Santosh Iyer says:

    Just a few minutes back, I submitted the following review at amazon.com:
    Dickens Junction is a small town supposed to be founded on the principles and values of Charles Dickens. I do not know what these principles and values are. Do these include a liberal attitude to homosexuality and male striptease?
    The main character Simon is a gay who keeps a male lover in his house. He has the habit of sexually appraising males he sees. There is also a lesbian couple. A resident, in order to raise money, participates in a “male erotic dance”. All these activities raise no eyebrows and are treated as matter-of-fact by others. A very liberal community, indeed!
    Let us consider the mystery aspect. In this regard, I consider the second book “The Edwin Drood Murders, though I had some problem with its solution, as much, much, better than this one. I regard this book as mediocre.
    First, the number of characters is too large. It is confusing and difficult to place them all in the mind. A pen and paper are required to jot down the names and the various places they were supposed to be present at different times.
    There are no proper clues. The only clue which enables Simon to infer the identity of the murderer is a pair of contradictory statements by two persons on different dates. With so many characters who make so many statements, it is not possible for a reader to isolate these two statements and realize their significance. A good mystery writer will never hide clues in this manner.
    The motive for the first murder is based on facts which are not known to the reader till the solution is revealed. Hence this book cannot be treated as a fair-play mystery.

  2. Like you, very attracted to the idea of having a character whose homosexuality is handled so straightforwardly – makes you realise just how ridiculously uncommon that still is in mystery fiction – what century is this again? Cheers mate – and in case i don’t get another chance, have a great Christmas.

  3. TracyK says:

    I have been reading some mysteries set at Christmas, and will be putting out a post today listing a few Christmas mysteries. Had not heard of this one. It sounds interesting just because it is different.

    • Some others that you might have missed:

      Christmas Mourning by Andrea Frazer;
      The Dark Winter by David Mark;
      The Holiday Murder by Robert Gott;
      The Lord of Misrule by Paul Halter;
      Death At Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn (technically, just after Christmas)
      The Finishing Stroke by Ellery Queen

      All reviewed on a blog near you! And Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, obviously…

      Interestingly, only one of them (Dark Winter) is particularly good. Again, apart from the Poirot.

      Happy Christmas!

      • Santosh Iyer says:

        I would like to suggest Thou Shell Of Death by Nicholas Blake, which is quite good (in my opinion).

      • TracyK says:

        Oh my gosh, you reminded me that I meant to link to this post. My apologies, At this time of year, my brain is frazzled and overloaded. I may add some to my post or have a brief additional post. Or save them for next year.

        You have mentioned many here I was not aware of. I have read Death At Wentwater Court, and did not remember the timing. She has a later book in the series that is Christmas themed, which I had not read. I did read Dark Winter, agree it is good, and also had forgotten the time setting. Thanks for all the suggestions. And Santosh Iyer’s suggestion is also a good suggestion; I am sure I have read that one, but many, many years ago.

      • No worries. You gave your readers plenty to think about. If any of my readers haven’t checked out Tracy’s post, please do so. Loads of good Christmas mysteries to choose from.

  4. Pingback: The Puzzly – The ISOTCMN Book Of The Month – December 2013 | In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel

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