A classic Christmas crime novel just wouldn’t be complete without the following features: a country house, a cast of secretive, eccentric suspects, peril, dead bodies in unusual places and an amateur-sleuth!
They make for perfect winter’s reading – so grab the mulled wine, curl up by the fire and indulge in one of the best.
13 of the best classic Christmas crime novels
Death Comes at Christmas by Gladys Mitchell
It is December and Mrs Bradley has left London behind for a relaxing visit to the countryside. Then, on Christmas Eve, a local solicitor is found dead by the river. Everyone believes that he suffered a heart attack – but Mrs Bradley is suspicious, and is soon investigating a series of disturbing clues. As the frost thaws and spring begins, the inimitable detective must work fast if she is to protect the people close to her from a resourceful killer…
Escape to wintry rural Oxfordshire with an unforgettable detective who’s truly like no other and investigate a series of disturbing clues in this hugely entertaining story.
Footsteps in the Dark by Georgette Heyer
When siblings Peter, Margaret and Celia inherit an old mansion from their uncle, they instantly fall in love with its rambling charm. However, it isn’t long before they realise there’s more to this house than they first thought. It seems as if something ghostly is walking the halls – and then tragedy strikes and someone turns up dead. But can a ghost really be to blame? Or is someone playing a sinister game?
Dark secrets, an unexplained death and an old country house lie at the heart of Georgette Heyer’s festive murder mystery. It’s a classic whodunit with old-fashioned charm, a host of delightful characters, wonderful period detail and an atmospheric setting.
Murder For Christmas by Francis Duncan
Mordecai Tremaine has been invited to spend Christmas in the sleepy village of Sherbroome at the country retreat of one Benedict Grame. Arriving on Christmas Eve, he finds that the revelries are in full flow – and as midnight strikes the party-goers discover that it’s not just presents nestling under the tree – there’s a dead body too. A dead body that bears a striking resemblance to Father Christmas.
With a cast of oddball characters, this is a wonderfully executed golden age country house murder mystery. Mordecai – both quirky and unassuming – makes for an excellent amateur sleuth, and with a limited cast of characters and suspects you’ll love attempting to figure out whodunit!
Silent Nights: Christmas Mysteries, ed. by Martin Edwards
Blending lively storylines with atmospheric evocations of the season, Silent Nights introduces readers to some of the finest Christmas detective stories of the past.
Martin Edwards’ selection of short stories blends festive pieces from much-loved authors with one or two stories which are likely to be unfamiliar even to die hard mystery fans. The result is a collection of crime fiction to savour, whatever the season.
A Maigret Christmas and Other Stories by Georges Simenon
It is Christmas in Paris, but beneath the sparkling lights and glittering decorations lie sinister deeds and dark secrets…
This collection brings together three of Georges Simenon’s most enjoyable Christmas tales, newly translated, featuring Inspector Maigret and other characters from the Maigret novels.
Murder in the Snow by Gladys Mitchell
Mrs Bradley, sharp-eyed detective and celebrated psychiatrist, has decided to spend Christmas with her nephew at his beautiful house in the Cotswolds. It isn’t long before a mystery unfolds. There are strange events occurring in the nearby wood and local villagers are receiving anonymous threatening letters. Then the snow begins to fall – and a body is discovered. Mrs Bradley is on the case, but she’ll have to hatch an ingenious plan to reveal the truth and find the culprit…
A glorious winter setting, a relentless and charming amateur detective, and a fascinating mystery make this classic crime treat perfect for the Christmas season.
A Christmas Party by Georgette Heyer
A country house, a locked room mystery and an old Scrooge make for the perfect vintage combination.
It is no ordinary Christmas at Lexham Manor. Six holiday guests find themselves the suspects in a murder inquiry when the old miser who owns the estate is found stabbed in the back. Inheritance provides the motive for this beautifully written classic but the real conundrum is how any of the suspects could have entered the locked room where the victim was found, to commit this foul deed.
A case for Inspector Hemingway of Scotland Yard…
Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie
At Christmastime we welcome old friends – and there is no one dearer to our hearts than mighty Hercule.
It is Christmas Eve. The Lee family reunion is shattered by a deafening crash of furniture, followed by a high-pitched wailing scream. Upstairs, the tyrannical Simeon Lee lies dead in a pool of blood, his throat slashed. But when Hercule Poirot, who is staying in the village with a friend for Christmas, offers to assist, he finds an atmosphere not of mourning but of mutual suspicion. It seems everyone had their own reason to hate the old man…
Crime at Christmas by C H B Kitchin
It’s Christmas at Hampstead’s Beresford Lodge. A group of relatives and intimate friends gather to celebrate the festive season, but their party is rudely interrupted by a violent death. It isn’t long before a second body is discovered.
Can the murderer be one of those in the great house? The stockbroker amateur-sleuth Malcolm Warren investigates in this brilliantly witty mystery.
The Santa Klaus Murder by Mavis Doriel Hay
Aunt Mildred declared that no good could come of the Melbury family Christmas gatherings at their country residence Flaxmere. So when Sir Osmond Melbury, the family patriarch, is discovered – by a guest dressed as Santa Klaus – with a bullet in his head on Christmas Day, the festivities are plunged into chaos.
Told from multiple perspectives as each suspect makes a statement, this novel lets the reader feel right at the centre of the action, and with a cast of suspects that each have their own plausible motive, you’ll soon be donning your own deerstalker.
Another Little Christmas Murder by Lorna Nicholl Morgan
When a snowstorm brings a group of stranded strangers to the door of Wintry Wold, a remote country house in a bleak and lonely area of Yorkshire, all is not what it first seems. When the morning brings news of the death of the house’s owner, one party member, Dilys Hughes, sets out to investigate. Was it a natural death, or was it murder?
This classic country house mystery, republished for the first time in nearly seventy years, is packed with suspense and wit and is perfect for fans of Murder at the Old Vicarage and Partners in Crime.
Mystery in White by J Jefferson Farjeon
‘The horror on the train, great though it may turn out to be, will not compare with the horror that exists here, in this house.’
On Christmas Eve, heavy snowfall brings a train to a halt near the village of Hemmersby. Several passengers take shelter in a deserted country house, where the fire has been lit and the table laid for tea – but no one is at home. Trapped together for Christmas, the passengers are seeking to unravel the secrets of the empty house when a murderer strikes in their midst. A chilling classic Christmas crime!
An English Murder by Cyril Hare
The snow is thick, the phone line is down, and no one is getting in or out of Warbeck Hall. With friends and family gathered round the fire, all should be set for a perfect Christmas, but as the bells chime midnight, a mysterious murder takes place.
First published in 1951, this Golden Age classic stars a cast of wonderful, well-written characters in a quintessentially British mystery.
What’s your favourite classic Christmas crime novel? Let us know in the comments below!