The Christmas season is one of comfort and joy, a season of goodwill to all men, as families and friends come together to forget their differences and celebrate the year together.

Unless, of course, you happen to be harbouring a grudge. Or hiding a guilty secret. Or you want something so much you just have to have it - whatever the cost. In A Very Murderous Christmas, ten of the best classic crime writers including Anthony Horowitz, Margery Allingham, G. K. Chesterton and Ruth Rendell come together to unleash festive havoc, with murder, mayhem and twists aplenty.

Editor Cecily Gayford tells us why murderous is much more fun than merry.

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murderous christmas

A Very Murderous Christmas
Cecily Gayford

What is it about Christmas that makes people think of murder? In the three years that I’ve spent searching for the most ingenious and elegant mysteries for my Murder at Christmas collections, I’ve come to realise that from crime writers, there is something uniquely inspiring about the festive season. 

Perhaps it’s because it’s a season of heightened emotion and loosened inhibitions, when the frustrations and irritations of the year are boiled up with alcohol and excess - often with explosive effect. But it might simply be all the opportunities: Christmas is, after all, a time in which you actively encourage a bearded stranger to come down your chimney while your family is asleep. Seen through a crime aficionado’s eyes, every turkey is simply an excuse for a carving knife, no Santa Claus is ever who he says he is, and if your country pile is still surrounded by deep, crisp and even snowdrifts in the morning, it’s because the murderer is still in the house.

Even if your Christmas is a perfectly innocent affair, and there’s nothing more sinister in your stocking than a slightly squashy tangerine, you might find yourself longing for an escape from all that comfort and joy … and find it in a tale of fiendish cunning and unexpected death. But as well as a deliciously chilling counterpoint to reality, crime fiction performs a more important function for its readers, allowing us to address and resolve our fears of death, loss and the unknown. It’s been pointed out by writers as diverse as Dorothy L. Sayers and Umberto Eco that, despite the chaos and violence that populates its pages, crime fiction is in fact a way of restoring order to a world gone bad. No matter how intractable - or impossible - the problem, in the final pages of a murder mystery, the solution will be presented, tied up in a neat ribbon. And what could be more Christmassy than that?

Most of us, of course, survive Christmas without being either murdered or murdering someone (or at least getting caught - it’s long been observed that there’s a seasonal, mainly unexplained spike in the death rate between Christmas Eve and the end of the first week of January). But if you’re a high society blackmailer, a beautiful but troubled heiress, or a cranky great uncle with disreputable relatives, my advice would be to book a Caribbean holiday this year - and don’t tell anyone where you’re going.