I’m a little late on the holiday bandwagon, but I’m typing this the day before New Year’s Eve, so I’m hoping the Christmas cheer hasn’t worn off yet. I read C.C. Benison’s Eleven Pipers Piping over the Christmas break, which seemed quite fitting when I look back on my reading schedule, but not for the reasons you may think. Yes, the book has the subtitle “A Father Christmas Mystery”, and yes, the book has a certain holiday feel to it, although it doesn’t take place over Christmas, and really, it doesn’t have anything to do with the holiday season at all. It just feels like it does because of the setting (small English town covered in snow), the characters (gossipy, older crowd) and the abundance of festivities that are celebrated throughout its 4oo pages (Robbie Burns dinner, some pagan harvesting ritual, etc). Oh, and of course the subtitle, but I’m hoping you don’t need any further explanation to see that connection.
Before I get into why I like this book, I want to quickly talk about something else, as I would be remiss if I didn’t take advantage of the teachable moment that this particular post offers. Now that I’ve completed yet another mystery that I thoroughly enjoyed, I’ve begun to not only understand my reading tastes a bit better, but come across a label for this particular sub-genre as well. Let me explain: it’s no secret I’m a fan of Jessica Fletcher and the wonderful Murder She Wrote series, which I have just discovered is a perfect example of the sub-genre of books called ‘cozy mysteries’. What is a cozy mystery you ask? Well the wikipedia page is helpful, but I prefer this blog’s definition as it offers many examples as well. Here are some more traits of this mystery sub-genre: lack of sex and violence, small-town settings, overall light-hearted tone , likable protagonists, and victims who can be viewed as ‘having it coming’ (you feel bad saying it, but seriously there’s tons of characters like that). Examples of cozy mystery writers include Agatha Christie, Alexander McCall Smith, Alan Bradley, Gail Bowen and most recently Gloria Ferris.
Back to the book-Father Christmas is a really interesting character, as a religious figure he exhibited lots of conflicting emotions and impulses that are fun to read about, and his interactions with other people in his village are great fun to follow, most likely due to the sarcastic comments he makes to himself and the reader. What really makes this book are the aforementioned villagers, and the harmless joking and gossip that’s found within small-town communities. Again, these are all characteristics of the cozy mystery, so if this is beginning to sound a bit familiar it’s meant to.
Now that I’m aware of this genre, everything is beginning to fall into place for me. The cozy mystery is a genre I prefer reading in the winter-it literally makes me feel cozy when I’m curled up inside avoiding the snowy outdoors and enjoying my fireplace and feline companions. So, the more I think about it, the ‘holiday’ feel I’m referring to at the beginning of this post is the really just the effects of the cozy mystery genre. But I digress, and apologize that I ended up talking about myself more than the book in this post. So to end off on a high note, Eleven Pipers Piping is the second book in what is sure to be an exciting series, and I can’t wait to read the next one.