Book Review · Books

Christmas is Murder by Val McDermid [BOOK REVIEW]

Christmas is Murder by Val McDermid [BOOK REVIEW] As a whole collection of short stories, I quite enjoyed Christmas is Murder.

As a whole collection of short stories, I quite enjoyed Christmas is Murder. As I do with every book that contains multiple stories, I rate them all individually and my final rating is the average rating of them all.

Christmas is Murder by Val McDermid [BOOK REVIEW] As a whole collection of short stories, I quite enjoyed Christmas is Murder.

Pages: 246

Genre: Christmas, Short Stories, Crime, Mystery, Thriller

Publisher: Little, Brown Group

Format I read it in: Paperback

Rating: ★★★★

Christmas Is Murder wasn’t very Christmassy and festive as a whole, but it was very atmospheric, cold, spooky, and with a few stories indeed set during the holidays. This is the type of book you would read next to your fireplace, or Christmas tree, wrapped in a warm blanket with a cup of hot chocolate. It has a lot of twists and will keep you entertained until the very last story. 

Huge thanks to the team at LoveReading, for sending me a copy of the collection.

Below is a breakdown of my thoughts and ratings for all the stories in Christmas Is Murder, and to end on a beautiful note, special credit to Angela Harding, who illustrated the cover. Her artistic style in “October, October” was so beautiful that as soon as I laid eyes on this cover, I could immediately guess who the creator was.

01 – Happy Holidays – ★★★★

A great introduction to Tony Hill and Carol Jordan, although in retrospective, this is the only short story featuring them. I liked the plot and the immediate mystery. The only reason it’s not a 5 star is because I felt the ending was slightly rushed. However, despite that, I loved the mystery, the part where they profiled the killer and the Christmas spirit. 

02 – A Wife in a Million – ★★★★★

What an incredible short story that managed to touch on unemployment and what it can make a person do out of frustration. Very fast pace, with an unexpected twist at the very end.

03 – A Traditional Christmas – ★★★★★

Amberley House is a place full of traditions. And when someone wants to change the status-quo, not everyone in the family will allow it. But where tradition comes into place, not all disputes are resolved in a traditional way. The story was spooky, with a twist at the end, and I really enjoyed it.

04 – The Long Black Veil – ★★★★

“Everybody here in Mariott knows where and when Kenny Sheldon died, and most of them think they know why.”

I loved the small town vibe in this story, the atmosphere was intriguing and exciting. It was beautifully crafted into two different timelines, and with a short story, that can be quite hard to achieve, but Val McDermid did it beautifully!

05 – The Girl who Killed Santa Claus – ★★★★

I found this story quite funny and wholesome. The girl knows Santa doesn’t exist, and when a burglar turns up to her house on Christmas Eve, everything escalates. One thing I didn’t expect from this collection of short stories was to make me laugh out loud, but I am so glad it did!

06 – Holmes for Christmas – ★★★★

I was pleasantly surprised to see Holmes and Watson in action, especially with a nod to my lovely Balkans. It was a story inspired by the First World War assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by Gavrillo Princip. It was an interesting read and slightly longer than the rest of the stories.

07 – Ancient and Modern – ★★★★★

Wow, this story was something else! The raw emotion and the vivid descriptions blew me away. The emotional love story between Ellie and Alan. And when Alan is killed in a traffic collision, the unfair justice system strikes and brings Ellie so much pain and not nearly enough justice. Then the ultimate plot twist happens and I am so impressed by how the author manages to piece everything together so neatly. This is my favourite short story in the collection so far, without a shadow of a doubt.

08 – The Devil’s Share – ★★★★★

Waterfalls, a barrel of whiskey and a secret lying dormant for 50 years is a hell of a good plot for a story. I enjoyed this one so much, the present and the past meeting in a very powerful way, with great characters. I quite liked the fact that George Orwell was indirectly involved in the story as well, and our character inadvertently helped him finish “1984”. A lovely story with a slightly sad ending that touched my heart.

09 – Ghost Writer – ★★★★★

Intriguing story with a paranormal element. Gavin wants to be a writer, but for the love of God, cannot think of a plot line. One day, he goes to a writing course and meets Natasha. She can’t write, but she has the best story ideas and they start working as a tandem. I won’t say what happens next to keep the suspense up and avoid any spoilers, but I liked the plot twist and the ending as well. Very spooky and completely unexpected. Also, the author has a weird fascination with people dying on bicycles, it seems. 🙂 

10 – White Nights, Black Magic – ★★★★

Very cold story, like the Russian winter nights, but full of emotion. I was invested in the long distance love story of the two doctors, and how revenge is a syringe best served cold.

11 – Heartburn – ★★★

Short and sweet, and a very evil story. It took me a moment at the end and then I gasped. What a reveal, and how cleverly executed (pun intended). I enjoyed this one, but it was slightly too short, and a bit underwhelming, except for the very end.

12 – Four Calling Birds – ★★★★

Lovely story about the harsh reality miners were facing during the reign of the Iron Lady. A story about four ladies working as Bingo callers and the change of management that creates all sorts of chaos. Despite this chaos, I saw a son, whose love for his parents and justice is so strong, he is willing to do everything to make things right again.

About The Author:

Christmas is Murder by Val McDermid [BOOK REVIEW] As a whole collection of short stories, I quite enjoyed Christmas is Murder.

Val McDermid is a No. 1 bestseller whose novels have been translated into more than thirty languages, and have sold over eleven million copies.

She has won many awards internationally, including the CWA Gold Dagger for best crime novel of the year and the LA Times Book of the Year Award. She was inducted into the ITV3 Crime Thriller Awards Hall of Fame in 2009 and was the recipient of the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger for 2010. In 2011 she received the Lambda Literary Foundation Pioneer Award.

She writes full time and divides her time between Cheshire and Edinburgh.


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Book Review · Books

All That’s Left Unsaid by Tracey Lien [BOOK REVIEW]

All That’s Left Unsaid by Tracey Lien [BOOK REVIEW]

If you are looking to try a different take on mystery, All That’s Left Unsaid is a great book to start. It has the right amount of mystery and emotion to get you invested and keep you intrigued until the very end.

All That’s Left Unsaid by Tracey Lien [BOOK REVIEW]

Pages: 400

Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

Publisher: HQ Stories

Format I read it in: Paperback, Uncorrected Proof

Rating: ★★★★


Just let him go. These are the words Ky Tran will forever regret. The words she spoke when her parents called to ask if they should let her younger brother Denny out to celebrate his high school graduation with friends. That night, Denny–optimistic, guileless, brilliant Denny–is brutally murdered inside a busy restaurant in the Sydney suburb of Cabramatta, a refugee enclave facing violent crime, an indifferent police force, and the worst heroin epidemic in Australian history.

Returning home to Cabramatta for the funeral, Ky learns that the police are stumped by Denny’s case: a dozen people were at Lucky 8 restaurant when Denny died, but each of the bystanders claim to have seen nothing.

Desperately hoping that understanding what happened might ease her suffocating guilt, Ky sets aside her grief and determines to track down the witnesses herself. With each encounter, she peels back another layer of the place that shaped her and Denny, exposing the seeds of violence that were planted well before that fateful celebration dinner: by colonialism, by the war in Vietnam, and by the choices they’ve all made to survive.

My Thoughts:

“You can’t be there for everyone. You can’t be everything to everyone. People will make their own choices, no matter what you do.”

My goodness, this book is beauty and heartbreak, brilliantly put together. It will hold a special place in my heart. All That’s Left Unsaid is quite close to me, not because Ky will lose a brother. I’ve never felt such loss and I hope to never feel it. But Ky speaks to me because of who she is and where she comes from. Being an immigrant myself, I could connect with Ky’s story in a way that I didn’t anticipate I would. I’ve read many books with this topic before, and didn’t quite click with a character in a way I clicked with Ky. The culture differences and the lost sense of belonging casts a shadow on every written page.

“When I’m away from Cabra, I feel like I’ve shed my own skin. But whenever I come back here, it’s like I didn’t shed anything at all. It’s like I’ve just flipped a switch, you know? And my old self was there all along.”

I devoured this book, because it entwined these motives into an interesting and emotional mystery. Ky is trying to find out who her brother has become in her absence from home. And why he is now suddenly dead. Everyone is keeping secrets and Ky is not sure who to trust.

“It wasn’t the punishment itself that Ky feared. It was the look. The look that said, I expected more from you. I’m disappointed in you. You should be ashamed of yourself.”

I also enjoyed how her past friendship ends up having a role in her present life. The author can portray broken relationships in a very relatable way. Drug abuse and drug dealing are a main topic in this book and they often come up – so please be aware if this may trigger you whilst reading.

“Would an explanation of why something was not done in the past make you feel better? Because if it would change your life for the better and put happiness in your heart, pull up a chair and I will explain everything I have never done.”

About The Author:

All That’s Left Unsaid by Tracey Lien [BOOK REVIEW]

Tracey Lien was born and raised in southwestern Sydney, Australia. She earned her MFA at the University of Kansas and was previously a reporter for the Los Angeles Times. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. All That’s Left Unsaid is her first novel.


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