If the title of this book is confusing, the subtitle will make everything clear: A Collection of Soho Crime Christmas Capers. As you can see by the cover of the book, it’s all about ‘Christmasy’ stories of crime, and who doesn’t love to read a holiday-themed book at this time of year?

There are 18 stories in all; every single one of them written by an author I’ve never heard of (although that’s nothing special, I suspect there are many well-known crime writers that I’ve yet to come across), with every single story being extremely different from the last. The ‘holiday’ theme is a generous one, many of the stories having nothing to do with Christmas at all, other than the fact that it seems to be snowing in the background, or it may be December. Regardless, I still enjoyed this collection, and I do recommend it as a gift for those bookworms on your list that have everything already.

Editor Peter Lovesey

My favourite story is a cozy mystery that describes a huge super-mall that’s in the throes of Christmas, and its eight Santas on rotation are getting together for a special meal at the end of their shift. But, there seems to be one extra Santa among them, and because they are all costumed and prefer to keep their real identities hidden, they don’t know who the ‘imposter’ is. Together they decide the extra Santa must be the real Santa, come to teach them all the true meaning of Christmas. Now doesn’t that sound nice? Compare that to a dark tale about a young man who is in love with a drug-lord who he’s been ordered to kill on Christmas Eve, terrified of the possibility she may kill him first. There’s an extremely wide range of talent on display here, so do keep an open mind while reading.

There’s lots of historical fiction too, some stories take place during the reign of Sherlock Holmes, Machiavelli, and even Jane Austen. What’s fun about this book is that we’re whisked through so many different countries, we get a wonderful sense of the importance (or non-importance) of the holidays for various populations and time periods. My only problem with this collection is the unevenness of it, and by that I mean the fact that some stories are complete duds, and I was left scratching my head at the end of them. Some just didn’t fit the ‘feel’ of the rest, so reading them felt abrupt and uncomfortable. However these stories were few and far between, so I’d still recommend reading The Usual Santas because it definitely got me in the Christmas spirit, not to mention introducing me to some crime writers that are worth following up on.