Devoted independent bookstore owner Otto Penzler and some of today’s finest mystery writers have worked together for 17 years to keep New York’s Mysterious Bookshop open and its customers happy. Appearing as a collection for the first time, these original stories, which were once commissioned and given only to customers at Christmastime, can now be purchased in this single volume, with proceeds going back to the store.
Unscrupulous book collectors, jealous literary types, troubled bookstore employees and a dead Santa all find themselves entwined in crimes inside or near the vicinity of the Mysterious Bookshop. Ranging in length from seven to twenty-seven pages, each story takes place during the Christmas season and gives a glimpse into a bookstore that any mystery lover would love to visit.
In “Give Till it Hurts” by Donald E. Westlake, a masquerading thief almost gets away with a stash of valuable coins but makes the mistake of hiding among a group of money-hungry poker players. Finding a certain book turns deadly in “Schemes and Variations” by George Baxt and changes a life in “The 74th Tale” by Jonathan Santlofer. Entertaining to read for its out-of-the-ordinary characters (including one talented cat), suspenseful plots and shocker endings, this collection of seventeen short stories is a pleasurable read, and a meaningful purchase.
Mystery readers will certainly enjoy all the liberties each author takes in the creation of their version of a Christmas mystery involving this famous bookstore. I see this book generating new customers for Mr. Penzler and new readers for the writers involved in this uplifting project.