The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries by Otto Penzler: A Review

The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries edited by Otto Penzler is a massive anthology of mystery stories set during the Christmas season. Promoted as the “most comprehensive compilation of Yuletide whodunits ever gathered,” The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries instantly captures our interest. Encompassing a wide range of genres, from suspense to cozy mysteries and police procedurals, it presents Christmas cases involving iconic characters such as Miss Marple from Agatha Christie’s repertoire.

With 60 stories spanning over a century, the book includes contributions from some of the most famous mystery writers of all time, such as Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and Raymond Chandler, as well as lesser-known but equally talented authors.

The stories in The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries are as diverse as the genre itself, ranging from classic whodunnits to chilling ghost stories, lighthearted romps to suspenseful thrillers. There is something for every reader in this collection, and it is sure to get you in the holiday spirit.

What is included in the Big Book of Christmas Mysteries?


  • Unscrupulous Santas
  • Crimes of Christmases Past and Present
  • Festive felonies
  • Deadly puddings
  • Misdemeanors under the mistletoe
  • Christmas cases for classic characters including Sherlock Holmes, Brother Cadfael, Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Ellery Queen, Rumpole of the Bailey, Inspector Morse, Inspector Ghote, A.J. Raffles, and Nero Wolfe.


  • Puzzles by Mary Higgins Clark, Isaac Asimov, and Ngaio Marsh
  • Uncanny tales in the tradition of A Christmas Carol by Peter Lovesey and Max Allan Collins
  • O. Henry-like stories by Stanley Ellin and Joseph Shearing
  • Stories by pulp icons John D. MacDonald and Damon Runyon
  • Comic gems from Donald E. Westlake and John Mortimer
  • Many more diverse contributors
  • Almost any kind of mystery you’re in the mood for: suspense, pure detection, humor, cozy, private eye, or police procedural

Here are some of the highlights of the book:

  • “The Theft of the Royal Ruby” by Agatha Christie: This classic story features Hercule Poirot investigating the theft of a valuable jewel during a Christmas house party.
  • “The Shadow of Santa Claus” by Dorothy Sayers: Lord Peter Wimsey investigates the disappearance of a wealthy man who has vanished under mysterious circumstances on Christmas Eve.
  • “The Christmas Crime” by G.K. Chesterton: Father Brown investigates a murder that takes place during a Christmas pageant.
  • “The Snowman” by Raymond Chandler: Philip Marlowe must find a missing wife before Christmas Day.
  • “The Three Wise Men” by O. Henry: This heartwarming story tells the tale of three strangers who come together to help a young boy on Christmas Eve.

Overall, The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries is a must-read for any fan of mystery fiction. It is a well-edited collection of some of the best holiday-themed stories ever written. Whether you are looking for a quick and light read or a more substantial mystery to sink your teeth into, you are sure to find something to enjoy in this book.

Here are some of the pros and cons of the book:


  • A large and diverse collection of stories
  • Something for everyone
  • Includes stories by some of the most famous mystery writers of all time
  • Gets you in the holiday spirit


  • Some of the stories are quite short and don’t have much depth
  • The quality of the stories varies
  • Not all of the stories are set at Christmas
  • Some readers may find the book to be a bit too long

Overall, I would rate The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries 4 out of 5 stars. It is a great collection of stories that is sure to please fans of mystery fiction. However, the length of the book and the uneven quality of the stories may deter some readers.

About the Author: Otto Penzler

Otto Penzler is a prominent figure in the world of mystery fiction. Born on July 8, 1942, he is an American editor, publisher, and bookstore owner, with a particular focus on the mystery and crime genres. Penzler has made significant contributions to the literary world, especially in the realm of mystery and detective fiction.

Some key points about Otto Penzler:

  1. Mysterious Bookshop: Penzler is the owner of The Mysterious Bookshop, a well-known bookstore in New York City that specializes in mystery, crime, and suspense fiction. The bookstore, founded in 1979, has become a gathering place for mystery enthusiasts and a hub for all things related to the genre.

  2. Editorial Work: Penzler has edited numerous anthologies and collections of mystery stories. He is renowned for his keen editorial eye and has curated compilations that feature works by both classic and contemporary mystery writers. “The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries” is one such anthology, showcasing mysteries set against the backdrop of the Christmas season.

  3. Mystery Writer: In addition to his work as an editor and publisher, Penzler is also an author. He has written both fiction and non-fiction, with some of his works exploring the intricacies of the mystery genre.

  4. Publishing Ventures: Penzler founded The Mysterious Press in 1975, an independent publisher specializing in mystery and suspense fiction. The Mysterious Press has published works by acclaimed authors in the genre.

  5. Bouchercon: Otto Penzler has been actively involved in the mystery writing community and has been a part of Bouchercon, an annual mystery convention, serving as a guest of honor and participating in various capacities.

  6. Edgar Awards: Penzler has been associated with the Edgar Awards, an annual set of awards presented by the Mystery Writers of America, and has received recognition for his contributions to the mystery genre.

Overall, Otto Penzler has played a vital role in shaping and promoting mystery fiction, both as a bookseller and as an editor. His passion for the genre is evident in his diverse contributions to the world of mystery literature.

Books by Otto Penzler

Here are some of his most popular books:

The Best American Mystery Stories of the Century


The Best American Mystery Stories 2010


The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes


The Big Book of Edgar Allan Poe


The Big Book of Victorian Mysteries


The Big Book of Ghost Stories

This collection includes 20 chilling ghost stories from authors such as M.R. James, E.F. Benson, and Algernon Blackwood.

The Black Lizard Big Book of Crime


The Big Book of True Crime

This collection includes 20 of the most famous true crime stories of all time.

These are just a few of the many books that Otto Penzler has edited. His work has helped to introduce a new generation of readers to the joys of mystery fiction.

In addition to his editing work, Penzler has also written a number of books on the history of mystery fiction, including:

  • The Encyclopedia of Mystery and Detection
  • A History of Mystery Fiction
  • The Great Detectives: A Century of the Best Mystery Stories

Penzler’s work has been praised by critics and readers alike. He is considered one of the most important figures in the world of mystery fiction.

Here are some links where you can find more information about Otto Penzler and his work: