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Top Ten Tuesday: Christmas Theme Reads

Today’s challenge from Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl is a freebie. In other words, open to featuring something festive for the holiday season as in, wintery reads, or snow on the cover, that kind of thing. So, guess what I’m going to go with? Christmas-themed covers and stories.

THE DEAL OF A LIFETIME by Fredrik Backman

A holiday novella from the New York Timesbest-selling author Fredrik Backman, The Deal of a Lifetime is a father’s story to his son, told over Christmas Eve. In it, a man finds he may be able to help a little girl dying from cancer in a hospital, but not before making amends with his own son first. It’s a story that manages to get to the heart of what the holiday means—sacrifice, forgiveness, and love—in less than a hundred pages.

THE USUAL SANTAS a collection of crime fiction stories

A group of crime-fiction writers, including Helene Tursten and Martin Limón, put pen to paper for a collection of short stories ranging from foreboding to heartwarming, but all centered on the immortal focal point of the holiday: Kris Kringle. The forward is written by British detective novelist Peter Lovesey, and each of the 16 globe-trotting caper tales take place somewhere else on the globe, be it Thailand, Copenhagen, or Korea. So when you need to get away, well, here you go.


Samantha Silva pens a comical and haunting offshoot tale based on the man who wrote A Christmas Carol. Not to be confused with The Man Who Invented Christmas (Les Standiford), Silva’s version of the story goes a little something like this: As writer’s block sets in, Dickens heads to London for some inspiration. There, he goes on long walks, each scattered with the details that would become his Carol. Which, when you look at it, is almost the same as, The Man Who Invented Christmas.

HIDDENSEE: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker by Gregory Maguire

Having brought his legions of devoted readers to Oz in Wicked and to Wonderland in After Alice, Maguire now takes us to the realms of the Brothers Grimm and E. T. A. Hoffmann—the enchanted Black Forest of Bavaria and the salons of Munich. Hiddensee imagines the backstory of the Nutcracker, revealing how this entrancing creature came to be carved and how he guided an ailing girl named Klara through a dreamy paradise on a Christmas Eve.


No Christmas reading list can be complete without at least one Agatha Christie novel, and what better than Hercule Poirot’s Christmas to set the mood for murder. What starts with a family reunion and, of course, as with any Christie novel, always ends in murder. This one is the perfect antidote to all that good cheer of the holiday season. So why not jump in and solve a Christmas murder with that most famous of Belgian sleuths, Poirot, in this deviously devised whodunit.

A CUP OF HOLIDAY FEAR by Ellie Alexander

Ashland, Oregon, looks as pretty as a postcard this holiday season. The halls are decked, stockings hung, and eyes are all aglow-mostly thanks to the buttered rum. Jules Capshaw and her staff at Torte are busier than ever… still, even the town’s most in-demand bakers need to take a break. So Jules invites everyone to celebrate at the local Winchester Inn’s Dickens Feast, a six-course extravaganza with Yorkshire Pudding, Christmas goose, and all the trimmings. But as the weather outside becomes frightful, things inside turn less delightful when one of the guests ends up as dead as Scrooge’s doornail. Now it’s up to Jules and her helpers to make a list of suspects-and check it twice-to try to find out who’s naughty, who’s nice, and who’s guilty of murder.


January isn’t the season for the seaside, but the big Fire and Ice festival is keeping bookstore owner Addie busy. Amid the plans for a fireworks display and an ice-carving competition, she’s also dog sitting for a friend in the hospital. When Addie goes to her friend’s house to gather supplies, she notices an interesting item on the nightstand which belongs to her shop assistant, Paige: a very valuable copy of the beloved children’s book The Secret Garden. The next thing Addie knows, that first edition has gone missing. Is there a connection between the body and the treasured tome? If there is, it’s up to Addie to find a killer with a motive as hidden as Frances Hodgson Burnett’s famous garden.

19TH CHRISTMAS by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro

As the holidays approach, Detective Lindsay Boxer and her friends in the Women”s Murder Club have much to celebrate. Crime is down. The medical examiner”s office is quiet. Even the courts are showing some Christmas spirit. And the news cycle is so slow that journalist Cindy Thomas is on assignment to tell a story about the true meaning of the season for San Francisco.

Then a fearsome criminal known only as “Loman” seizes control of the headlines. Solving crimes never happens on schedule, but as this criminal mastermind unleashes credible threats by the hour, the month of December is upended for the Women”s Murder Club. Avoiding tragedy is the only holiday miracle they seek.

MURDER UNDER THE CHRISTMAS TREE: A collection of classic crime fiction

A locked room mystery solved with a flourish on Boxing Day.
Blackmail on Christmas Eve.
A missing jewel discovered in a very festive hiding place.
A body slumped in a chair on Christmas morning, still listening to carols.
The midnight theft of a gift intended for a saint.

Crime doesn’t take a holiday, so these – and many more – are the puzzles that make up Murder under the Christmas Tree, a collection of festive mysteries featuring fictional sleuths from Lord Peter Wimsey to Sherlock Holmes, Cadfael to Father Brown. This is the very best of Christmas murder and mayhem—so settle into your armchair, put another log on the fire and take a bite of your mince pie. Just make sure it’s not poisoned.

12 SLAYS OF CHRISTMAS by Jacqueline Frost

When Holly White’s fiancé cancels their Christmas Eve wedding with less than two weeks to go, Holly heads home with a broken heart. Lucky for her, home in historic Mistletoe, Maine is magical during Christmastime—exactly what the doctor ordered. Except her plan to drown her troubles in peppermints and snickerdoodles is upended when local grinch and president of the Mistletoe Historical Society Margaret Fenwick is bludgeoned and left in the sleigh display at Reindeer Games, Holly’s family tree farm.

When the murder weapon is revealed as one of the wooden stakes used to identify trees on the farm, Sheriff Evan Grey turns to Holly’s father, Bud, and the Reindeer Games staff. And it doesn’t help that Bud and the reindeer keeper were each seen arguing with Margaret just before her death. But Holly knows her father and is determined to exonerate him.The jingle bells are ringing, the clock is ticking, and if Holly doesn’t watch out, she’ll end up on Santa’s naughty list in Twelve Slays of Christmas, Jacqueline Frost’s jolly series debut.

And there you have it. Quite the eclectic mix of murder, mystery, and Christmas mayhem and, eh, maybe a little romance too—ten choices to choose from, to read over the holidays and keep you out of mischief. And you, dear reader, what made your Top Ten Tuesday today?

22 comments on “Top Ten Tuesday: Christmas Theme Reads

  1. Avatar
    Inge | The Belgian Reviewer

    That’s a great list Alex and I haven’t read any of them yet! I’m not fond of the typical ‘jolly’ Christmas reads so and I’m very happy to see they’re not full of holiday cheer but packed with murder and mystery :-). On my list there would be Dying for Christmas by Tammy Cohen. It’s about someone held captive and she receives a gift for each of the 12 days of Christmas. And then there’s an amazing twist that turns the whole story around!

    • Alex

      Thank you, Inge. Like you, I like a bit of murder and mayhem in my Christmas stocking. And felt this list really covered a lot of my favourite aspects. And, funnily enough, I’m looking forward to buying a reading a few of these myself.

      Oh, and a recommendation? Scribbles it down to add to my wish list, sounds like my cup of tea! Thanks, Sweetie.

  2. Avatar

    Mr. Dickens and His Carol sure sounds like an interesting read!

    My post.

    • Alex

      That’s what I though too, Lydia. It would be nice to read (even a fictional account) of what inspired him to write a Christmas Carol.

  3. Avatar

    Lots of ways to die during the holidays. Looks like some good reading.

  4. Avatar

    I really want to read Fredrik Backman’s book. I need to make it a priority this month. Nice list!

    • Alex

      Oh, you really should. Each one is so different and yet, his writing is so accesible, and his characters will touch you.

  5. Avatar

    I read Hercule Poirot’s Christmas last year and really enjoyed it. And that cover of The Usual Santas totally made me laugh. Fun list. 🙂

    • Alex

      Oh, that’s good to know because I went and ordered this one, as it’s one of Christie’s books I have yet to read.

      Ha! Ha! Yes, I agree with you about the Usual Santas cover, it really made me smile too.

  6. Avatar

    The Usual Santas looks fantastic! This is the first I’m hearing about it. And I always love seeing a Gregory Maguire book make a list.

    • Alex

      I’ve ordered this one along with a couple of others so I’ll be doing a review, I hope, in the New Year.

      I haven’t read any of Maguire’s work before, but this one really looks intriguing. I really have to grab a book or two of his. And soon.

  7. Avatar

    Oh, this is lovely. Cozy mysteries in the time of winter/ Christmas are perfect for the season. Not too grisly, not too light. Poirot is ever-reliable, of course. But the others were all new to me, and the blurbs seem fun too.
    ~ Lex

    • Alex

      That’s what I was looking for, Lex. I love me a cosy mystery and this lot sums up a little bit of naughty murder for the holidays! And no, you can never go wrong with a Christie novel at any time of the year.

  8. Avatar
    Louise @ Foxes and Fairy Tales

    The 12 Slays of Christmas was a big favourite of mine!

    • Alex

      Oh, you’ve read this one? Sounds like it needs to add it to my buy list. I love this kind of Hallmark cosy mystery reads with a little bit of everything thrown in, including a good pun.

  9. Avatar

    One day I need to read the Hercule Poirot books… 🙂

    Lauren @ Always Me

  10. Avatar

    I really want to read that Fredrik Backman book! I’m slowly working my way through everything he’s written, but I haven’t gotten to that one yet.

    • Alex

      Yeah, it’s one I hadn’t heard of and immediately thought I need to get it. They have all been moving, emotive, heartbreaking in places, and must reads.

  11. Avatar

    Who knew there were so many Christmas murder books?

    • Alex

      Oh, you bet. And this is only a tiny fraction of what’s out there. These are the one’s that I fancy reading. In the cozy mysteries section alone there are tens if not hundreds. 😀

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