For the fourth consecutive year, Wolfmont Press has released an anthology designed to raise money for the “Toys for Tots” program. Edited by John M. Floyd, this year’s anthology is made up of many familiar names to anyone who reads short mystery fiction and novels. Austin Camacho Bill Crider, Earl Staggs, Randy Rawls, Deborah Elliot-Upton and the other usual suspects are also familiar to readers who participate in the various online writing groups. Just reading the author names involved should tell you that the content of the book is going to be good.
The anthology opens with “The Seven Dollar Clue” by J.F. Benedetto. Private Eye Mark Sauer doesn’t want to be a murder victim the week before Christmas. But, when Madame Zhu Li, head of the Jade Dragon Criminal Triad in New York’s Chinatown, wants to see him and won’t take no for an answer, he worries this could be his final dinner.
“Red Christmas” by Stefanie Lazer follows next in a tale about just how far a parent has to go to get the right toys for Christmas.
Written from the perspective of a child, the story, “The Christmas Caper” by Stephen D. Rogers tells what a child will do to get the toy he must have at nearly all costs.
“Twas The Night” by Anita Page brings the ongoing economic crisis into focus for a recent layoff victim. Having retreated to his cabin after his job and his marriage crashed, the narrator becomes involved in a local disappearance.
If you haven’t read the Ace Edwards, Dallas Private Investigator series by Randy Rawls you are really missing out. For this anthology, there is a prequel of sorts to the series via the tale “Jingle Bell, S. I.” Beyond explaining a little early history, the tale is silly and light hearted and reflects the occasional mood of the series.
“Caught On Christmas Eve” by Earl Staggs has more than a couple of twists in this shoplifting tale. I had the pleasure of reading this story in advance a few months ago since Earl and I are both in the same local writer’s group and I knew then it was a winner.
“The Gift Of The Margi” by Peg Herring proves that, in the end, during the holiday season sometimes family is all you can count on.
Deborah Elliott-Upton crafted a rather disturbing story with her “An Unexpected Gift.” Impossible to describe without ruining it for readers, I can safely say this one surprised me. It also proved to be a harbinger of several darker in tone stories in this anthology.
Known primarily for his excellent Sheriff Dan Rhodes series, Bill Crider is writing of werewolves again in “The Werewolf’s Christmas.” Imagine the holidays with a full moon and you are a werewolf. A guarantee of trouble on the home front.
“Yule Be Sorry” by Carolyn J. Rose shows just how mad a woman can be when she thinks her husband is cheating on her.
In a nod to her excellent novel “Death Will Get You Sober” released last year author Elizabeth Zelvin brings back Bruce, Jimmy and Barbara in a quick little holiday tale. Recovering alcoholic Bruce manages to help with a murder case and still make a quick run to the store in “Death Will Trim Your Tree.”
Everyone has relatives they don’t care for. Gwen seems to have more than her share in “The Worst Noel” written by Barb Goffman. Enough is enough and she finally does something about the issue in this disturbing tale.
The Hannibal Jones series of novels written by Austin S. Camacho are quite good. It isn’t any surprise that the tale “No Place To Spend Christmas” involves Hannibal and his latest case.
The media constantly warns folks to beware of strangers trying to help you during the holiday season. Elmer finds out why in “One Good Turn” by Steve Shrott.
I’m not sure what the folks at Amazon will think if they read “The Kindle Did It” by Gail Farrelly. I am pretty sure I don’t want a Kindle anymore.
For a police detective the late night phone call, especially during the holiday season, can mean only one thing. Ben Barker isn’t thrilled when he is summoned in “An Inconvenient Killing” written by Herschel Cozine and isn’t going to like what he finds in this disturbing tale.
Detective Julie Garcia of Cottonwood, Arizona finally gets a chance to deliver the ultimate Christmas gift in “The Gift Of Christmas past” by Kris Neri.
The final story is the “Sprit of Spadena Street” by Marian Allen. When a neighbor is mugged during the holidays, it is time for the other residents to rally around and find the perpetrators.
268 pages including author bios, the anthology features a variety of writing styles and tones along with a variety of crimes during the holiday season. From the lighthearted type of stories typically seen in these anthologies in years past to the dark and disturbing ones included this year there is something for nearly every reader. John M. Floyd is to be commended for expanding the scope of the anthology this year to stories that probably would not have made the cut in past years. Unlike past anthologies, silly cleverness and puns regarding the crimes and events during the holiday season were kept to a bare minimum. Readers who prefer syrupy silliness might be disappointed, but those who prefer a harder edge, even during the holiday season, won’t be disappointed with this good anthology.
As in past years, sale proceeds after publishing costs will be donated by Wolfmont Press owner and publisher Tony Burton to the “Toys for Tots” campaign.
The Gift of Murder: An Anthology of Holiday Crime Stories to Benefit Toys for Tots
Compiled and Edited by John M. Floyd
Paperback (also available in e-book form)
268 Pages (including 4 pages of author bios)
Material provided by Tony Burton in exchange for my objective review.
Kevin R. Tipple © 2009