Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Book Review: Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays Edited by Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman, and Marcia Talley

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Entertaining stories in a year of criminal holidays
Cons: I’m not a fan of the revenge stories
The Bottom Line:
These holidays are
Entertaining if a bit
Criminal.  Enjoy!

Celebrating Holidays All Year Long with Crime after Crime

I had just mentioned to someone that I rarely read short stories when I got an e-mail asking if I’d be interested in reviewing Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays.  As I was reading about the book, I decided I just had to give it a try.

For their latest collection of short stories, the members of the Chesapeake chapter of Sisters in Crime have focused on holidays.  And the first few stories might just surprise you.  We get stories set on Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, St. Patrick Day, and even Talk Like a Pirate Day.  Of course, the majority of the book is set on the holidays you probably expected – Halloween and Christmas.

And quite a collection of tales there are, too.  We’ve got a plot to kidnap a rodent.  There’s a story of a spooky late night phone call that just might not be a dream after all.  A mother goes to her son’s in an attempt to reconcile.  A group of teens stumble upon clues to a decades old murder.  Working at a zoo on Christmas can be murder.  And you’d be surprised by what guilt can drive you to do.

With a short story collection, the stories can be hit or miss.  However, this time around, I found there were no truly weak entries in the book.  The characters were engaging and the plots were fun.  Being a short story, they were often a little easier to second guess than a book since there isn’t time for significant twists, but I didn’t really mind that at all.  They were still fun, and that’s all I cared about.

There were several stories that did bother me, however.  The common theme was someone, usually a woman, taking matters into their own hands to punish a person, usually a man, who they felt deserved it.  Now, I’m not arguing that these men weren’t scum balls who deserved to be punished.  I’m just uncomfortable with how these “heroes” went about doing it.  I guess I’m just too black and white for something like this.

However, there were more stories I really enjoyed.  Barb Goffman starts things out with the very funny Groundhog Day story.  I had to laugh at just how things played out, and the ending was perfect.  What actually sold me on this book was the inclusion of Talk Like a Pirate Day, and then it turned out the story was by my friend Cathy Wiley focusing on Detective James Whittaker, the boyfriend of her series sleuth Cassie Ellis.  It was just as much fun as I expected.  And you can’t go wrong with Donna Andrews, who closes things out with a different case for her series sleuth Meg Langslow.  (Although I do think she’s messed up her series timeline.)

Of special interest is a story of Art Taylor told in second person.  I’m not sure I’ve seen it employeed outside the Choose Your Own Adventure books I read as a kid.  This was a very short story, and it worked, but I don’t think I would have wanted to read anything much longer in this point of view.

With Halloween and Christmas coming up, now’s the perfect time to read Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays.  Or maybe you’ll want to save the stories and read them on the appropriate holidays.  Either way, you’ll enjoy this book.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.


  1. Hi, Mark — Thanks for the coverage of the anthology here and for that special attention to my story as well. I actually loved those Choose My Adventure Stories myself and always think about them whenever I try my hand at second person! Works best in small doses, agreed. (...though have you read Jay McInerney's BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY?)

    Much appreciate your time and attention to the collection!

    1. You are very welcome, Art.

      I do believe yours if the first non-Choose Your Own Adventure story I've read in second person. I'm not sure how I feel about it in a longer work, but if I get curious, I'll have to give the story you recommended a try.

      Thanks for stopping by and the comment.

  2. hey there westcoast..!!

    Found a link to your Google account and the link to this review while websearching "year's worth"

    Number 7 with a bullet..!!

    ' who just wanted to 'say hey' and did not stop to read this (surely) wonderful blog post . . .. '

    1. Great to know I'm landing so high up the Google hits! Thanks for letting me know.