Having had the pleasure of reading last year’s offering “By The Chimney With Care” published by Wolfmont Publishing to benefit the Marine Corp “Toys For Tots” campaign I have been eagerly awaiting my copy of this year’s effort. It finally arrived and was well worth the wait. The anthology titled, “Carols and Crimes, Gifts and Grifters” is a real treat for mystery readers and serves a great cause with proceeds going to the campaign.

Carols and Crimes, Gifts and Grifters

Edited By Tony Burton

Wolfmont Publishing

http://www.wolfmont.com/

October 2007

ISBN # 978-1-60364-002-2

260 Pages

Large Trade Paperback

This anthology of fifteen stories kicks off with “Ho Ho Homicide: An Odelia Grey Short Story” by Sue Ann Jaffarian. Odelia Patience Grey did what any daughter does when her father asks. She took her step mother Gigi shopping. If that wasn’t enough, like some spy novel, Odelia is soon confronted at the mall by a woman with a gun and man in a trench coat and fedora with a heavy European accent. Not to mention being hassled by a Santa whose beard is certainly not white as snow as well as the cops. And she thought escorting the non stop talking Gigi would be the worst part of her day.

Earl Staggs offers the charming story, “Robbery On Christmas Eve.” It tells the tale of a theft of church money. For Sheriff Mollie Goodall, it is particularly annoying as it is Christmas Eve with her own husband out of town and a church and adjacent community hall full of suspects. One gets the feeling readers might just see Sheriff Mollie Goodall again.

Also using Christmas Eve as a backdrop to events is Thomas H Cook’s story titled, “The Lesson Of The Season.” Veronica Cross works part-time at the Mysterious Bookshop and is just fifteen minutes away from closing when a frequent customer walks in. In this personal favorite from the anthology and powerfully moving story, Veronica deals with her own echo of the pain. You simply have to read this work to understand because it isn’t going to be explained here.

Redemption is a frequent them of most of the stories in this anthology and is certainly at work in “Santa And The Poor Box” by Gail Farrelly. The story is about how a local Santa was accused of stealing from the poor box at the church. Pushed by her daughter Lily, Roberta Mchlugh has connections and begins to work the case with Lily’s eager help with a plan to clear him by Christmas.

“The Proper Trimmings” by Nick Andreychuck plays off a concept frequently reported in the media regarding men in prison and the women who begin romances with them. Russ just got out of prison after ten long hard years and meets his female pen pal, Anna. He comes to her home for dinner and something more if she meets expectation and she does and then some.

“The Grinch and I” by Herschel Cozine revolves around George. An average man, George took the job of Mall Santa for one simple reason. A plan honed by years of practice always works best when you are Santa.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading the “River City” novels from Frank Zafiro or many of his stories in various anthologies and elsewhere, you have another chance. Police officers have a hard time getting time off, especially during the holidays. Something that Detective Katie Macleod’s mother doesn’t get in “Home For Christmas.” Crime doesn’t take a holiday and before very much of Christmas Day passes; Detective MacLeod is hard at work on the trail of a thief.

Traditions are important and they certainly take precedence for George Grimble in “The Christmas Tree Thief” by Chris Grabenstein. Before his three young sons can open their gifts on Christmas morning, George always lights up the baby Jesus as a reminder to all of the real purpose of the day. Something someone apparently didn’t understand when they cut down part of his pine tree in his yard and ruined Christmas morning.

“A Piece Of Christmas” by Deborah Elliot-Uptown is the story of Arlen. Arlen isn’t very happy working as private security for rich folks. But, you do what you have to especially with Christmas next week and at least the rich folks in this case pay in cash. When you destroy your won police career, your marriage and just about everything in your life your options are few and everyone deserves their own piece of Christmas booty.

Jan Christensen often creates tales that are just a little off in a way that isn’t easy to put a finger on and always delight readers. In “Santa Solves A Murder” the gorgeous Mrs. Cary MacIntyre hires private investigator to find her husband Jimmy MacIntrye who disappeared three days ago. She had no idea that he also worked a second job down at the local mall playing Santa. He does and while dressed in full Santa regalia spots the missing husband and the chase is on. Something Mall Manager Ingrid Scruggs isn’t thrilled about but you don’t tell Santa what to do while he is checking his list and adding up the clues.

“Mystery On Capital Street: A Hannibal Jones Short Story” by Austin S. Camacho also appears in this anthology. All four of the novels featuring Hannibal as well as the two thrillers were good ones and this is no exception as Mr. Camacho has penned an excellent story. Just two nights before Christmas, Private Detective Hannibal Jones has plenty of things to do before being detoured by events on his way home. Events, like dominoes, that once set into motion lead Hannibal in a new direction down a dark and twisting trail.

Editor Tony Burton offers his own story, “The Christmas Cut Out Caper.” The for local teenagers called themselves “The Fantastic Four” but as far as most adults in the area were concerned they are known by worse names for very good reason. Since a year has passed since the last prank, some of the adults are starting to relax. When the Christmas crèche figures suddenly are missing from the outdoor display at the church, the suspects are obvious.

Virtually any woman is afraid of being confronted by a man with bad intentions on his mind in an empty building. That is precisely what happens in “Ballet Exercises” by Gay Toltl Kinman when she is confronted by a perverted Santa who wants to deliver a present she does not want.

Margaret Fenton offers “Christmas Every Day” where lifting the wallet was the easy part. For the thief, it set into motion events she never foresaw in her wildest dreams.

The anthology closes with “Have A Harpy Christmas” by Peggy Jaegly. A kidnapped Rebecca is found backstage at the Theater by her agent Manny. Despite her ordeal, the show must go on and Manny intends to find out who was behind everything.

The anthology this year while not darker in tone does not have the humor that the one last year had. Which isn’t to say this one is a bad one. If anything, the effort is superior in terms of the quality of the stories as well as the diversity in styles and tones. The really nice thing is the proceeds still go to a wonderful cause. Copies may be ordered directly from Wolfmont Publishing at http://www.wolfmont.com/CCGG.htm and you can help make Christmas a joy for a little girl or boy and get a very good anthology in the process.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2007

Book Reviews and more http://kevintipplescorner.blogspot.com/

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