Review: The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories by P. D. James

The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories by P. D. James



As the acknowledged ‘Queen of Crime’, P. D. James was frequently commissioned by newspapers and magazines to write a special short story for Christmas. Four of the best of these have been drawn from the archives and published here. P. D. James’s prose illuminates each of these perfectly formed stories, making them ideal reading for the darkest days of the year. While she delights in the secrets that lurk beneath the surface at family gatherings, her Christmas stories also provide tantalizing puzzles to keep the reader guessing.

P. D. James embraces the challenge of the short-story form, and ingeniously weaves the strands of plot, setting, characterisation and surprise to create a satisfying whole within only a few thousand words.

From the title story about a strained country-house party on Christmas Eve, to another about an illicit affair that ends in murder, and two cases for James’s poet-detective Adam Dalgliesh, each treats the reader to James’s masterfully atmospheric storytelling, always with the lure of a mystery to be solved.



I read this novel as my BookBum Club book for November! Check out this page to find out more about my very own Book Club!

I decided I wanted to read a seasonal book this year and I found this one lurking on my shelf from last year when I also decided I wanted to read a seasonal book… but didn’t.

I’ve reviewed each of the short stories one-by-one. There’s only 4, so it’s not a massive post, don’t worry!


The Mistletoe Murder

I really loved the writing in this one! It hooked me straight away. I instantly connected with our narrator, even though she’s a bit of an enigma. With short stories, you rarely get to know the characters very well, but I liked how our narrator was strong willed and sassy.

This story is a classic whodunit murder mystery. Not as complex as Christie, but definitely gives off those vibes. The conclusion to the story was pretty obvious, but the last little paragraph bought a smile to my face!


A Commonplace Murder

This one takes on a completely different tone from the story before it. Rather than being a cosy murder mystery, this one is that little bit darker. You’re introduced to a not very likeable narrator who holds an innocent mans freedom in his hands.

The story for this one is grittier and dirtier and comes to a shocking conclusion. When I first finished this one, I was adamant I didn’t like it, but after letting it brew for a while, I realised that this one is very clever, and since it was published in 1969, was probably innovative for it’s time, and I can appreciate that!


The Boxdale Inheritance

This one was definitely my least favourite of the batch. It was definitely still a nice old school mystery to read about but it wasn’t exactly exciting like the last two. This one took me a little longer to read than the others because I was getting distracted by various bits which didn’t happen when I read the other two stories.

It was a nice introduction to Dalgliesh, and I think the conclusion of the crime was actually more intricate than the others, but it didn’t gel with me like the others did.


The Twelve Clues of Christmas

I really liked this story in the collection! I connected with Dalgliesh in this one much more than I did in the other beforehand. I also liked how the characters in this one were sassy and outright with each other.

Even though the crime in this was easily guessable, I really enjoyed the way it was set out and how we came to know about the 12 clues of who committed murder!


Even though I hate a modern cosy mysteries, when it comes to old-school ones, I love them! This short story collection was exactly what I needed to help me on the track to enjoying reading again. I read it one sitting, and even though it is a short book, that’s not something I do very often, so it really had me hooked!

*Buy it here: Amazon UK | Book Depository | Wordery

15 Replies to “Review: The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories by P. D. James”

  1. It’s funny how a book (or short story, like the Commonplace Murder) can rankle the reader so badly sometimes, but then once they’ve stepped away from it for a while, they realize that it actually was pretty good (in it’s own way). That happens to me sometimes, and for me, those are the hardest to discuss with other people, because I can’t pin down the things that I like and dislike about them.
    Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Sometimes that’s just how it goes, I guess! I remembered reading a short story–actually, it was more of an essay or reflection, really–about furniture. Something about it just planted itself in my brain. I still remember it quite well.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Short stories have to be spectacular to stick in your mind because they’ve got such a small amount of time to make themselves memorable. I find a lot of short stories more enjoyable than longer ones!!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I think you’re right about that. I don’t necessarily enjoy them better, but I do find that I remember them better. Maybe part of that is that they often seem to be based on quirky ideas–at least in my reading experience.

        Liked by 1 person

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