First up, Sleep No More by P.D. James which is, I believe, the last anthology of crime stories the author wrote. There are six stories in this volume.
2. The Victim. An assistant librarian marries an extremely pretty shopgirl. Before long she gets a new job, falls for her boss and leaves him. The librarian sets out to get revenge. Nicely told story with a good twist at the end.
3. The Murder of Santa Claus. Another schoolboy story with a Christmas theme. The boy concerned, Charlie, is sixteen this time and sent to spend Christmas with a step-uncle. Various people are present, strangers, so he's not comfortable at all and his uncle's oddness adds to the boy's unease. It seems the uncle like to dress up as Santa and visit his guest's rooms at one in the morning. But more than one person is abroad in the dead of night and when the uncle is found dead the next morning there are quite a few suspects... Another good story with quite a creepy atmosphere. I liked the 'anyone could have done this' aspect and had no idea who'd done it until the end.
4. The Girl Who Loved Graveyards. A ten year old girl is taken to live with her aunt and uncle after some kind of trauma but she seems to have blanked it from her mind so the reader has no idea what it is. Next to the house is a graveyard and the girl becomes obsessed with it. As she grows up she also becomes obsessed with finding her father's grave and sets about this task when her aunt and uncle emigrate to Australia. I think this was the best story in the book. It's nicely written and recounted, beautiful detail and a nice twist at the end.
5. A Very Desirable Residence. Harold Vinsom is on trial for attempting to murder his wife, Emily. The narrator of the story is a fellow teacher who is one of the few friends the married couple have. He observes that he hadn't known them very long before he realised that Harold was a sadist, subjecting his timid wife to constant verbal and mental abuse. So it came as no surprise when he learnt of the attempt on her life by her husband. Nice twisted little story this, very good observations of a marriage turned sour.
6. Mr. Millcroft's Birthday. A brother and sister, Rodney and Mildred Millcroft, are driving down to spend some time with their father on his birthday. He lives in a retirement home but is not happy there - he wants to move to another, more luxurious and relaxed place. There's plenty of money, he's given his fortune to these children, but they're being mean and keeping him in the cheaper, more regimented, place. During a picnic lunch Mr. Millcroft suddenly announces that he killed his brother who was about to change his will, leaving the famly fortune elsewhere. But is he telling the truth? Nice vein of humour running through this story. I like the vengeful father getting his own back on his selfish adult children.
This small volume of crime based short stories is excellent. Each one is very individual, very well told, and a joy to read. The writing is absolutely superb. I liked it so much I bought another of P.D. James' Christmas short story collections, The Mistletoe Murder and other stories.
The Distant Echo by Val McDermid, my book 4 for Peggy's Read Scotland 2017 challenge.
Margaret at Booksplease has been reading this Val McDermid series and inspired by her I thought I would try this, book one, of her 'Karen Pirie' series which are, I believe, all based on cold-cases. The surprise for me was that Karen Pirie was not in this book a lot, the centre of attention all the way through was the four boys. I'm thinking this is perhaps an introduction sort of a book and perhaps she'll feature more in future books of this series. Anyway, regardless of that, this was an excellent read. Quite complicated, quite a lot of people to keep tabs on and a lot of history of the original case to get through before it was brought up to date for the reopening of the case. I must confess here that I guessed the culprit quite early on. Of course, I didn't know if I was right so the books was not spoilt... to be honest it's so well written and so much in it that it couldn't be spoilt anyway. Possibly this book is not for everyone. The exploits of four uni students in the seventies are a bit eye-rolling and, if I'm honest, none of them were really likeable, not awful, but not terribly sympathetic characters. But I didn't mind that, I got very involved in the mystery aspect and the deatils of the investigation, and enjoyed the book very much indeed.