Holiday Books

Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here, today thinking about writing books to include a particular holiday. Christmas, especially, is popular in mystery and romance novels. Some of that is due to publishers asking for Christmas-themed books. More, I think, has to do with the heightened emotions that holiday provokes. As anyone in law enforcement knows, a whole lot of people murder their nearest and dearest as a direct result of family gatherings at yuletide.

Homicide aside, there’s plenty of fictional fodder associated with holidays. I’ve exploited that in my books several times. The first instance was in the contemporary romance novel, Relative Strangers, in which my heroine, Corrie Ballantyne, runs away from home at Christmas to avoid facing her fractured family. She spends the holiday at the Sinclair House in Waycross Springs, Maine, a venerable old hotel that just happens to be haunted. The inspiration for the book came from real life, when my husband and I decided to skip Christmas with the family one year and instead spend the holiday at the Bethel Inn, enjoying an old-fashioned Christmas with total strangers. This was not a popular decision with our family, but it was a lot of fun.

A short time later, I wrote another Christmas book, this one in my historical Face Down Mysteries series. Face Down upon an Herbal sends my amateur sleuth, Lady Appleton, to a castle in Gloucestershire for the yuletide season. That three murders take place there does not keep the residents from celebrating the holidays in true Elizabethan fashion.

Another contemporary romance, That Special Smile, also has scenes at and around Christmas, and for other books (The Finder of Lost Things; Winter Tapestry; The Corpse Wore Tartan) I’ve dealt with the hazards of being snowed in. Hearth, Home, and Hope (retitled The Rapunzel Trap when it was reissued as an e-book) includes a scene on Valentine’s Day. Overkilt revolves around Thanksgiving, but it wasn’t until I started writing the Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries as Kaitlyn Dunnett that I was asked to write a book centered around a specific holiday. The second time, it was even called “untitled Christmas mystery” in my contract.

A Wee Christmas Homicide opens with Liss’s discovery that she and two other merchants in Moosetookalook, Maine have one of the last hoards of the gift everyone wants for Christmas—Tiny Teddies. Profit-mongering, mayhem, and murder ensue. I based this on the shortage of Beanie Babies one Christmas back in the 90s. They were even (gasp!) being smuggled in from Canada.

In the second Christmas book, Ho-Ho-Homicide, Liss and her husband, doing a favor for a friend, agree to spend some time on a Christmas tree farm, trying to discover what happened to its owner, who disappeared off the face of the earth some years earlier. Since my husband and I, at that time, had a Christmas tree farm of our own, I was able to bring first-hand experience to the story. We never, however, ran a body through the netter before shipping it off to New York in a load of Christmas trees. Honest.

using the netter the right way

Do you have a favorite mystery novel set at Christmas. Please share in the comments.

Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett has had sixty-four books traditionally published and has self published others, including several children’s books. She won the Agatha Award and was an Anthony and Macavity finalist for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category. She was the Malice Domestic Guest of Honor in 2014. Her most recent publications are The Valentine Veilleux Mysteries (a collection of three short stories and a novella, written as Kaitlyn) and I Kill People for a Living: A Collection of Essays by a Writer of Cozy Mysteries (written as Kathy). She maintains websites at and A third, at A Who’s Who of Tudor Women, is the gateway to over 2300 mini-biographies of sixteenth-century Englishwomen.


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3 Responses to Holiday Books

  1. Alan Price says:

    My favorite Christmas story is: Rest You Merry (The Peter Shandy Mysteries Book 1)
    by Charlotte MacLeod

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