The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories by PD James (Faber & Faber, £7.99)
PD James was often commissioned by newspapers and magazines to write crime stories for their Christmas editions. This slim book presents four of the best. It comes with James’s handy introduction on the origins of the short story crime genre, and Val McDermid’s paltry foreword. Two stories feature James’s stalwart detective Adam Dalgliesh. But it is the first two that offer the greater entertainment. A Very Commonplace Murder begins as a beautifully controlled story of a voyeur who watches two secret lovers from his office spyhole. When one of them is killed, the peeping Tom looks on as the wrong man is found guilty of murder. It is a shame about the twist, which in the title story does what twists should: give new life to old death.