Daily Mirror

The 12 reads of Christmas

Mernie Gilmore shares festive reads full of Yuletide spirit


Hercule Poirot’s Silent Night Sophie Hannah HarperColl­ins, £22

Agatha Christie’s moustachio­ed Belgian detective is back for another adventure written by crime author Sophie Hannah.

It’s December and Hercule and his friend, Inspector Edward Catchpool, are getting ready for Christmas when they receive an unwanted visitor in the shape of Catchpool’s dreadful mother Cynthia.

She insists they accompany her to Norfolk to help solve a recent murder – that of Stanley Niven who was an inpatient at St Walstan’s Cottage Hospital when he was bashed over the head with a vase.

The husband of one of Cynthia’s friends is about to go into the same hospital for treatment but his wife is convinced that he’ll be murdered too.

Despite their protestati­ons, Poirot and Catchpool find themselves on a train to Norfolk in a race against time to solve the crime. Tightly plotted and with plenty of humour, you’ll be gripped until the last page.

The Christmas Appeal

Janice Hallett Viper, £12.99

In this fast-paced, amusing whodunnit, an amateur dramatics group staging a pantomime discovers a mummified Santa hidden in Jack’s beanstalk. Lawyers Femi and Charlotte must sift through the group’s emails, texts and the occasional pamphlet to work out who is responsibl­e.

Hallett captures the gossip, politics and intricacie­s of life in a small, well-to-do English town.

Imagine Margo from The Good Life transporte­d to 2023 and you have the measure of snobbish Celia, who constantly tries to undermine SarahJane, the level-headed, long-suffering co-chair of the group.

Celia’s acts of sabotage are as entertaini­ng as they are vile – and the way other members of the group play the two women off against each other is as appalling as it’s realistic.*

Winter Lights Deborah Jenkins Fairlight, £9.99

Looking for light in the darkness and peace in hard times are the themes of these heart-warming festive short stories set in the small town of Henford.

From an exhausted teacher involved in a devastatin­g road accident, and a family whose house sale looks set to collapse just before Christmas, to a little boy who feels detached from the world but doesn’t know why, each story explores disconnect­ion and loss, friendship and love, and how tiny acts of kindness bring hope to the darkest days.

You’d have to be a serious Scrooge to be unmoved by Winter Lights.

It will definitely get you in the Christmas spirit.

Christmas By Candleligh­t Karen Swan Pan, £8.99

There are old friends, lost loves and longburied secrets at the heart of this gripping festive read.

When Libby reluctantl­y agrees to attend a university reunion at the country estate of a well-to-do university friend, she plans to simply pop in, say a quick hello, and then head home for Christmas. But her plans end up scuppered when poor weather leaves them all snowed in.

This forces the group to confront some uncomforta­ble truths and hidden feelings. With well-drawn characters and plenty of romance and drama, this page-turner will leave you with a warm festive glow.

The Christmas Guest

Peter Swanson Faber & Faber, £10

This dark and twisty murder mystery is told through the diaries of Ashley

Smith, an American student studying in London in 1989.

She’s invited to spend Christmas with fellow student Emma and her family in their crumbling stately home in the countrysid­e and she couldn’t be more excited – especially when she meets Emma’s handsome brother Adam. But rumours swirl around Adam. After a local girl was murdered, he was linked to her death, and Ashley can’t shake the feeling that all is not well with the Chapman family – but will she uncover the truth before it’s too late?

The Sh!te Before Christmas Serena Terry HarperColl­ins, £14.99

Tara Gallagher is on a mission to arrange the perfect Christmas for her family – but she’s heavily pregnant, her teenage daughter has been suspended from school for vaping, her younger boys are causing chaos, husband Paul is strangely distant and she’s having issues with her sleazy, patronisin­g boss. All in all, nothing is going to plan.

Derry-based comedian Serena Terry is the alter ego of Mammy Banter, whose hilarious social media antics have won her millions of followers.

The one-liners come thick and fast in this comedy of errors that perfectly encapsulat­es the chaos of a family Christmas.

Four Weddings And A Christmas Phillipa Ashley Avon, £8.99

Running a successful business prepping holiday homes in the Lake District, Freya is getting ready for a busy Christmas season when her ex-boyfriend Travis appears out of the blue.

As teenagers, they got engaged, but Freya backed out at the last minute as her mother disapprove­d of the relationsh­ip.

However, there is still a spark between them. Is Freya as averse to commitment as she fears? Or could there be a Christmas love story on the cards? Romance fans will love this “will they, won’t they?” tale.

Stories For Winter

Various authors British Library, £9.99

Stellar names feature among this seasonal collection of 20th century stories by women. It’s chronologi­cal, opening with Edith Wharton’s The Reckoning (1902) in which a “modern marriage” is put to the test on a short winter’s day in New York. It ends with Angela Carter’s The Smile Of Winter (1974), about a desolate woman taking a vividly evoked walk on a chilly beach.

In between are stories by Katherine Mansfield, Elizabeth Bowen, Shirley Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor but you’ll discover forgotten writers too. They all turn a gimlet eye on women’s experience­s, reflecting how they evolved over the course of a turbulent century.

Mistletoe Malice Kathleen Farrell Faber & Faber, £9.99

It wouldn’t be Christmas without families behaving badly and you won’t find more badly behaved characters than the cast of this waspish tale of dysfunctio­nal relationsh­ips.

As matriarch Rachel, her niece Bess and their relatives gather for Christmas, tensions bubble up. Among the vicious barbs thrown into conversati­on are “You look nice but much older” and “You would be very personable if only you would diet a little”.

A reissue of the 1951 novel, it’s a darkly funny palate cleanser if you’ve had your fill of festive sentiment and schmaltz.

And So This Is Christmas Brian Bilston Picador, £12.99

The unofficial poet laureate of Twitter is back with a new collection of poems designed to embrace, poke fun at and occasional­ly despair about the festive season.

With wit and humour, Bilston takes aim at everything from our obsession with a white Christmas and The Snowman to office Christmas parties.

Prufrock’s Christmas is a particular­ly witty take on TS Eliot’s “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock”. It winds its way through a family Christmas with delights such as “The days grow old… the days grow old/I shall offer around the Terry’s All Gold”.

Clever and witty, the poems range from laugh-out-loud funny to surprising­ly moving.

That Festive Feeling Heidi Swain Simon & Schuster, £8.99

When her marriage breaks down,

Holly faces the unappealin­g prospect of moving back in with her parents.

Then she’s offered a lifeline when a friend asks her to house-sit.

Holly moves into Nightingal­e Square in the run-up to Christmas and it’s not long before sociable neighbours are banging on her door and she ends up at a local pub quiz.

There, she has a run-in with Bear, a taciturn and grumpy local gardener. Despite this inauspicio­us start, there’s a connection between them that Holly just can’t ignore.

With plenty of romance and Christmas cheer, Heidi Swain will definitely give you that festive feeling.

The Dead Of Winter Various authors Profile, £9.99

There’s nothing better at

Christmas than curling up with a book of ghost stories and, in this collection, plenty of things go bump in the night. It opens with A Pair Of Muddy Shoes by Lennox Robinson, a chilling tale about a teacher in Ireland who is plagued by bad dreams in the run-up to Christmas.

When the dreams start blurring with reality, she realises she may be implicated in murder.

Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Case Of Lady Sannox takes an even darker turn as an arrogant doctor discovers all is not what it seems when he is asked to operate on a poisoned woman.

With esteemed writers such as Ruth Rendell and MR James in the mix, there’s much to enjoy. Just make sure you keep the lights on.

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