Monday, December 6, 2010

Crime for the Holidays: Kerry Greenwood

Mystery Readers Journal (volume 25:1) had a great issue on Crime for the Holidays in Spring 2009. Since we're in the throws of the Christmas holiday season, I thought it would be fun to post some of the articles from that issue. Mystery Readers Journal: Crime for the Holidays is available as hardcopy and as a .pdf download. Table of contents and ordering info.

The first in the series of "Christmas" holiday essays is from Kerry Greenwood. Kerry Greenwood writes mysteries set in 1928 starring the sublime Hon. Miss Fisher and in the present day featuring the cheerful fat baker, Corinna Chapman. Kerry is otherwise a public defender and in her spare time stares vacantly out the window, supervised by her familiar, Belladonna the black cat. She has fifty novels in print, is not married, has no children, and lives with a registered wizard.

Hail Our Dear Old Friend Kris Kringle
by Kerry Greenwood (Melbourne, Australia)

I've just written two holiday mysteries: one set in 1928, Murder on a Midsummer Night, and one set in the present, Forbidden Fruit, a Corinna Chapman novel. The process was instructive, since I was also writing one of them actually during Christmas.

And I had always liked Christmas, the tree, the decorations, the lights, the family, the food—especially the food—and the presents. I am the eldest in a family of four children and we still have a Christmas lunch at my brother's house, and drink champagne and eat prawn salad (Australian Christmases are hot weather holidays) and we have a lovely time. I like my family.

But one of my heroes, Corinna, turned out to really hate Christmas, noisy, commercial, intrusive. Corinna has no close family she cares to associate with. The people whom she feels are her family are the people who live in her apartment building, Insula. Exploring Corinna's feelings made me examine my own.

I actually went into the city during the Christmas rush to be exhausted and battered and stood on and partly deafened by the seventieth repetition of "I don't care who you are, Fatty, get those reindeer off my roof", "I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus", and Perry Como, God have mercy on him, moaning his way through "White Christmas"—which, on my continent, just isn't going to happen. And I understood much better why some people do hate holidays. It was Hell in there, I tell you. And every face was tired, stressed and miserable.

Though I still had a very pleasant lunch with my own family, so it hasn't soured me forever.

Phryne Fisher had a classic 1928 Christmas, which was a quiet little holiday, much more religious, and with only small token presents; nuts chocolates and oranges, perhaps, handkerchiefs and gloves. I liked her Christmas very much. I liked going to Midnight Mass, I liked singing carols, I liked the Advent calendar. Although in Phryne's time we Australians were still trying to eat a full English Christmas dinner: turkey, baked vegetables, suet pudding and custard. All in a temperature over 100 degrees.

So if you wonder what you think about holidays, write a novel about them. The results may surprise you.


Joe Richardson said...


Your 1928 Christmas sounds brilliant! I can't wait to read your book.

Your post is timely; I'm writing a mystery set at Christmas. It's contemporary, but with a strong sense of Christmas past--for the very reasons you mention.

Maybe we're romanticizing eras that were never as beautiful in life as they are in our imaginations. So be it.

It is, after all, a season for magic. What better place to find it than in days gone by, brought to life in the here and now, through the pages of a book.

Merry Christmas. And thanks for the wonderful post.

Becke Davis said...

Hi Kerry - I hope it's not too late to catch you here.

I moderate Barnes & Noble's Mystery Book Club over at and I have to thank one of our regulars for introducing me to your books. "Trick or Treat" was the first one I read, and I have more in my to-be-read pile.

Merry Christmas! (Or happy whatever-holiday-you-celebrate!)