Category Archives: Christmas

Eight Christmas Mysteries for a Snowy Day

Any time is the perfect time to read a mystery, but there’s something about reading in winter—with a cup of tea, curled up by the fire—that is especially delicious. (And if the mystery you’re reading features bitter, snowy weather, so much the better.) If you’re looking for a good Christmas/winter mystery, I’ve compiled a list of eight terrific ones. Some are these books are cozy and some are spooky, some are old and some are new, but all provide the perfect winter-night-in-front-of-the-fire read. (All plot descriptions are from Amazon.com.)

1. Christmas in Absaroka County: Walt Longmire Christmas Stories. In these four stories, “readers glimpse a softer side of Sheriff Walt Longmire as he grapples with the death of his wife, Martha, and his sometimes turbulent but ever-loving relationship with his daughter, Cady.” Fans of Johnson’s Longmire mysteries will love this.

2. Set in the village of Three Pines, Quebec, How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny is the ninth book in the Chief Inspector Gamache mysteries—in my opinion, one of the best mystery series out there: “When Gamache receives a message from Myrna Landers that a longtime friend has failed to arrive for Christmas in the village of Three Pines, he welcomes the chance to get away from the city. Mystified by Myrna’s reluctance to reveal her friend’s name, Gamache soon discovers the missing woman was once one of the most famous people not just in North America, but in the world, and now goes unrecognized by virtually everyone except the mad, brilliant poet Ruth Zardo.”

3. Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie is, of course, a classic: “It is Christmas Eve. The Lee family reunion is shattered when the tyrannical Simeon Lee is found dead in a pool of blood, his throat slashed. When Hercule Poirot offers to assist, he finds an atmosphere not of mourning but of mutual suspicion. It seems everyone had their own reason to hate the old man.”

4. Aunt Dimity’s Christmas by Nancy Atherton. The Aunt Dimity mystery series is the very definition of cozy, in all the best senses of the word: “Shortly before Christmas, Lori Shepherd’s idyllic holiday plans are shattered when a derelict collapses in their snowy driveway. While the nameless man lies comatose in a local hospital, the late Dimity, who communicates from the other side by writing in a special journal, encourages Lori to pursue the man’s identity.”

5. Winter Ghosts: Classic Ghost Stories for Christmas, an ebook at a bargain price, was published in September 2014 and contains wonderfully wintry short stories by Amelia B Edwards, M.R. James, Charles Dickens, J.M. Barrie, Louisa Baldwin, and others: “Set during the Christmas period, these atmospheric Victorian and Edwardian ghost stories by masters of the genre are perfect reading for the long winter evenings!”

6. Jerusalem Inn by Martha Grimes is book 5 in the Richard Jury mystery series: “From the rough but colorful pub that provides the book’s title, to the snowboard Gothic estate nearby, the chilly English landscape has never held more atmosphere—or thwarted romance. And Jury will never have a more mysterious Christmas.”

7. Good Tidings by Terri Reid is book 2 in the Mary O’Reilly Paranormal Mystery series: “Mary O’Reilly, Private Investigator, is decorating her office for the holiday season when the newly installed bell over her door jingles. She looks over to see a six year-old boy standing next to her desk. His name is Joey Marcum and he wants to hire Mary to find his baby brother.”

8. Holiday Grind by Cleo Coyle is book 8 in Coyle’s cozy Coffeehouse Mystery series: “Coffeehouse manager Clare Cosi has grown very fond of Alfred Glockner, the part-time comic and genuinely jolly charity Santa who’s been using her Village Blend as a place to warm his mittens. When she finds him brutally gunned down in a nearby alley, a few subtle clues convince her that Alfred’s death was something more than the tragic result of a random mugging—the conclusion of the police.”

And if you’re looking for a ninth Christmas mystery, try my first Anna Denning mystery, The Witch Tree, set in Colorado in the four days leading up to Christmas. It’s on sale now for 99 cents at Amazon, Kobo Books, and Barnes & Noble.


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Atheists and Unicorns

The atheists are out in full force again this Christmas season (or as some atheists call it, “buy a billboard season”). And the same old stories are in the news: Major retail chains are telling their employees to greet customers with a colorless “happy holidays,” an atheist group in Wisconsin is trying to remove a nativity scene in a small Texas town, some goofy governor wants to call a Christmas tree a “holiday tree.” It’s the same old thing. Only the details change from year to year.

And all the usual atheistic arguments are rearing their sad and tiny heads. It’s fascinating to watch some hapless atheist on TV try to explain his aversion to God and those who follow Him. In a sort of atheistic Tourette syndrome, words like “unicorns” and “Tooth Fairy” make frequent appearances. Not in service of a real argument, of course, but as talismans. Their mere mention is supposed to make Christians admit the error of their ways: “Unicorns? Yes, I see your point. I’ve been wrong all along.”

Do I sound harsh? I mean to. Atheists have become bolder and more downright fascist with each passing year, and largely because so many Christians have allowed themselves to be bullied by secularists—and a minority of secularists at that. And here’s the thing: These bullies—the rabid ones, in any case—aren’t atheists at all. They’re not a-theistic, they’re anti-theistic and, truth be told, anti-Christian.

Anger is always directed toward something, and these atheists are a very angry bunch. I can’t stand basketball, and it annoys me when TV shows I like are delayed or taken off the air altogether for basketball games, but I don’t spend my time urging others not to watch basketball. I don’t even mind if some people’s entire lives revolve around basketball. So what drives an atheist to expend so much energy combating a nonexistent entity?

Some atheists say they want to protect us from the evils of theism because religion has caused more deaths than anything else in the course of human history. They often add that Christianity has been the cause of more death and misery than any other religion. Really? Do they read history? Can they count? If their concern is the historic human death toll, why isn’t socialism a target? Why isn’t communism—in places where it still clings to life with its grimy little hands—a target?

Why isn’t North Korea a target? For the past fourteen years reports of people resorting to cannibalism to stay alive have come out of that country. Surely cannibalism is more of a threat than a nativity display. Although the North Korean government recently warned that it would “retaliate” if South Korea displayed Christmas lights near the border. Near the border, not on or over it. It makes you think. Why is North Korea afraid of a harmless light display by a bunch of fools who believe in unicorns?

The fact is, most atheists specifically target Christianity. They don’t mass like irritated termites during Ramadan or disrupt Buddhist festivals. A genuine atheist wouldn’t be bothered with a nativity display in a small Texas town. And if he were bothered, if he chose to make anti-theism his life’s crusade, he would rattle his saber evenhandedly. You can’t fight a multi-front battle by facing in only one direction. Unless you’re not fighting the battle you say you are.

And that’s the secret. That’s what they don’t want you to know. Because if Christians understood that atheists’ target was Christianity, they might fight back.

In the spirit of Christmas, atheists need to know a secret too: Most Christians have at one time or another been angry, even furious, with God. We understand anger with a Being who sometimes seems so distant and uncaring, who holds our lives and the lives of those we love in His hands. In an odd way, that anger is one proof of faith. No one wastes time being angry with unicorns.

So hold onto that anger, my atheist brothers and sisters. At least for a while. It brings you closer to God than you think.

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Pagan Origins, My Donkey

Pagan Origins, My Donkey

This time of year I can’t get enough of Christmas trees. I love all Christmas decorations, really—except for big plastic snowmen—but trees are the quintessential decoration. Apparently, the first Christmas trees date to the fifteenth century in Estonia and Latvia and the sixteenth century in Germany. Some say the Christmas tree has pagan origins, butContinue Reading