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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Blog Tour · Book Review · Books

The Nothing Man by Catherine Ryan Howard [AMBASSADOR BOOK BUZZ]

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I am so excited to be part of the Ambassador Book Buzz for The Nothing Man by Catherine Ryan Howard. Thank you to the amazing team at LoveReading and Corvus for this opportunity. 

Needless to say, this book made me stay up all night, just to find out how it ends. 

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I was the girl who survived the Nothing Man.
Now I am the woman who is going to catch him…

You’ve just read the opening pages of The Nothing Man, the true crime memoir Eve Black has written about her obsessive search for the man who killed her family nearly two decades ago.

The Nothing Man starts when Jim is at work, walking through the supermarket, and he notices that a girl has a book with the name “The Nothing Man” with her. His heart starts racing – because he knows what it means. The Nothing Man is a mysterious man that has assaulted and killed many people in the area, and even after twenty years, no one has found him yet. But Jim knows the truth – because he is the man who did all these crimes. 

Eve Black is one of the survivors, that managed to escape his attack by hiding in her bathroom. She writes a book about her experiences and the experiences of the other victims. With her whole family dead and nothing to lose, she is set to find out, once and for all, who the mysterious man is.

I loved the writing style – the book within the book – it was unusual and very interesting for me to engage with. I was so intrigued and invested, and that did not change at all. There are many twists and turns in this book, and you will enjoy them all, especially the very ending, where everything just comes to a big climax. It kept me glued to my seat, and I want more. 

I loved the difference between Jim and Eve – their different recollections to how things happened, and why they did. In her book, Eve is explaining how the attacks and murders took place, and right after that, we also witness Jim’s reaction to Eve’s writing, and whether he agrees or not with how correct her facts are. It was very scary at times, to read from the killer’s perspective, and the reasons of why he made some choices. 

The more Jim reads, the more he realizes how dangerously close Eve is getting to the truth. He knows she won’t give up until she finds him. He has no choice but to stop her first… 

Usually, in our standard crime books, we have a crime scene, then suspects, and then we figure our way to finding the murderer. But here – we already know who the murderer is at the beginning of the story. But the rest of the world doesn’t. And this is a concept that I haven’t encountered yet, but really enjoyed it. Because this is something we don’t think about often – when we have a crime, and we don’t know who did it, the person that is guilty is out there somewhere, and knows he’s deceived us. 

The other important message from this book is to remember the victims.

Everyone remembers the name of a serial killer – but only few remember the victim’s names. 

“It’s fine to be fascinated by serial killers,” she tells me in her office after the lecture. “I am myself, obviously. They are fascinating because even though they look just like the rest of us, they do things the rest of us would never, ever do. But they are not especially intelligent. They don’t outsmart authorities. You know David Berkowitz? Son of Sam? They caught him because he got himself a parking ticket at the scene of one of his crimes.

They are boring, ordinary, failures of men – not always men, of course, but predominately – who can’t even manage to live, love and process their feelings in a world where the rest of us have all managed to master it by the time we’re in our teens. These are no dark magicians. They have no special skills. People seem to forget that we know their names because they got caught. In fact, the only remarkable thing about them is what they took from the world: their victims. It’s their names we should know.”

Eve’s book and her investigation behind the book had some powerful psychological lessons, and I enjoyed learning everything. If you already love true crime, and psychological thrillers, you have to absolutely read this and soon. This book is too good to be skipped.

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