P.D.James, who died in 2014, was one of the queens of British crime writers. James was best known for her mystery novels featuring Adam Dalgliesh, a poet-detective. “The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories” is a departure from the novel format. It features four short stories that were originally written to be published in newspapers or magazines at Christmastime.
Obviously, each of these stories deals with a murder. What makes them so readable is that because they are written as short stories. James focuses on the crime and those who might have committed that crime. Setting, and character descriptions are dealt with succinctly.
Each of the four stories deals with different murders and, for the most part, different characters. In two of the stories, a young Adam Dalgliesh is an important character. Each of the four stories has a plot twist that is not relieved until the last pages. “A Very Commonplace Murder” is an especially well-crafted story that most readers will probably say that they didn’t see that ending coming.