For the past seventeen years, Mysterious Bookshop owner Otto Penzler has commissioned a Christmas short story from a well-known mystery author, then distributed the bound pamphlets as Christmas gifts for his customers. The only requirements for the stories are that they be Christmas themed and at least a portion of the action take place at Mr. Penzler's famous bookstore. Contributors have included Lawrence Block, Anne Perry and Mary Higgins Clark. Mr. Penzler has now gathered all seventeen stories into one volume for us all to enjoy - even if we can't make it to New York to visit his fabulous store.
My favorite story was "As Dark as Christmas Gets" by Lawrence Block. I'm sure this has little to do with Mr. Block being one of my favorite authors and everything to do with his writing skill. Chip Harrison, star of four previous novels, is Mr. Block's answer to Rex Stout's Archie Goodwin. Chip works for Leo Haig, a slightly off-kilter investigator who believes that Nero Wolfe is real and will invite him to dinner if his detective skills prove clever enough. I am a huge fan of both Block's Bernie Rhodenbarr series and his Keller series, but was not familiar with Chip. After reading this short story, I immediately ordered two of Chip's earlier adventures.
The other stories in the group range from humerous to dark to quirky to just plain blah. Most of the stories contain obscure literary references and/or personal references to Mr. Penzler and his store. I know many of them flew right over my head, but I loved the ones I got, and a few made me curious enough to do some research.
The Mysterious Bookshop is on my list of places to see before I die, and this book should be on your list of books to read.