Ten Seasonal Stories Unlike Any Others: Festive Mayhem

Nov 14, 2020 | 2020 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze, Sharon Tucker, Tales of Diversity

by Sharon Tucker

Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win either an ebook copy of this book or of Delia Pitts latest mystery Pauper and Prince in Harlem, and a link to purchase Festive Mayhem.

“The holiday season is a perfect time to reflect on our blessings and seek out ways to make life better for those around us.” —Anonymous

What I love about each holiday season is that each is unlike any other before. The celebrations themselves usually stay within certain parameters but including different people in the mix or going to a new place during the season adds verve and just might open our perceptions. This is true of reading holiday stories from a variety of authors’ points of view, and in Festive Mayhem: Ten Stories of Holiday Mystery, Crime and Suspense (2020), Carolyn Marie Wilkins has collected works that celebrate diversity. The stories have the bonus of being categorized into “cozy,” “cold,” and “chilling” as a heads up to the reader to gently guide them toward their favorite type of mysteries to read. Some of the stories have a definite twist so remember that what is a blessing to one may prove fatal to someone else.

New Year’s Hex by Carolyn Marie Wilkins starts off the collection taking readers to a small town in 1922 Indiana during a New Year’s celebration rife with political jockeying for leadership of the Negro Voters League where one person can see deception in the works thanks to her special gifts.

S.G. Wong’s Pipe Dreams: A Crescent City Story finds Minnie doing her vigilant best to pick up clues about how to be a private investigator from “gwai” Lola Starke. Minnie has dreams of becoming an actress, but if her guardian and uncle has any say-so, she will be an accountant—a safe, respectable profession. How will following Starke help Minnie’s acting career? Read and see.

Unpleasant clients are a necessary part of home health caretaker Brianna’s life in Elizabeth Wilkerson’s A Christmas Tip, but Brianna is in for a surprise when she takes a surprise Christmas gift envelope left her by an especially cranky, demanding client. Who could have guessed the contents?

A Stranger in the House by Stella Oni starts with a hotel cleaner window shopping at Harrod’s, noting the sometime absurdity of what window designers think will draw in customers. When our cleaner, Ade, meets a Nigerian billionaire and the supermodel down the hall who has a crush on him, somehow in the course of her duties she is set up to play cupid for them. Her own relationship experiences ill suit the assignment she’s expected to pull off, much less how it will affect her life.

Kia Dennis’s What Lies Inside concerns an academic who has led a contented, if not happy life with his less than perfect wife. He is surprised by infatuation, struck by the thunderbolt of it and mentally inundated with literary quotes that classic authors crafted to describe the phenomenon of love at first sight. Is it mutual connection or is something more chilling in the offing?

Unflappable veteran Police Detective Ike Coates was not expecting a locked room mystery in Forrest Isaac Jones’s A Pub, Bed & Breakfast & A Dead Body. The circumstances dictate the death was suicide, but Coates is unconvinced that the victim, David Jacoby, could have killed himself. The clues reveal incongruities between what the fellow guests and landlady all say about what has happened and what the evidence points to but isn’t that the soul of a good who-done-it.

It is a chill, gusty November evening on campus as A Deadly First by Delia C. Pitts begins, and private investigator S.J. Rook finds a dead academic after his office hours. He’s there in the first place to deliver an envelope but ends up suffering a barrage of insinuations disguised as questions from the investigating police officer. Rook has no easy answers but just maybe has a suspect to follow.

The Holiday Murder Mélange: A Sarah Doucette Jean-Louis Mystery by Myra Jolivet starts with freshly baked kale chips, a bottle of Luc Pirlet Cabernet, and a call from Sarah’s Mom inviting her to cook their family holiday dinner, but it soon takes a novel turn with the discovery of a dead body found parked outside her detective agency office door. Collin Burke (the DB) had asked for an appointment to engage her agency, but his current condition rendered the appointment rather moot. When one of Sarah’s detectives is discovered in the nearby public restroom with a bloody knife, it looks like the investigation is over. But Is it?

It’s a situation only a twenty-something could enjoy: two couples meeting on a California beach around the Thanksgiving holiday. As Those Holiday Blues by Jennifer Chow begins, two members of the foursome were once a couple, and our narrator began dating her former boyfriend’s roommate recently—talk about a small dating pool. The question is why are they even meeting. As we learn, they’re putting a positive spin on the loss of a parent one suffered same time last year, but I think it takes surfers to relish the idea of surfing or sand sliding as a holiday sport. As the plot twists, we discover some serious skullduggery.

The title of Paige Sleuth’s Holiday Holdup: A Cozy Cat Caper Mystery Short intimates that cats and robberies are involved, so it’s no surprise that it begins in a bank on Christmas Eve with one cranky and one obliging bank teller complaining to a late customer and wishing they could close the bank before the designated end of service hours. A yellow-eyed black cat has been seen around the bank in the alleys, and as they are either feeling sympathy or expressing disgust for abandoned felines, who should come in to rob the bank but Santa Claus!

It’s safe to assert that there’s nearly something for everyone in this collection. With its “mayhem at the holidays” theme, remember all is not sweetness and light, but you can sit down for a minute to chill between bouts of baking or decorating or whatever you’re doing during Thanksgiving and Christmas to take you away from hot ovens or tangled lights to just enjoy a variety of cultural experiences couched in mysteries with a twist.

To enter to win either an ebook copy of Festive Mayhem or of Delia Pitts latest mystery Pauper and Prince in Harlem, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “festive,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 21, 2020. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. BE SURE TO STATE WHICH BOOK YOU WANT. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify. A new episode went up this week!

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Sharon Tucker is former faculty at the University of Memphis in Memphis TN, and now enjoys evening supervising in that campus library. Having forsworn TV except for online viewing and her own movies, she reads an average of 3 to 4 books per week and has her first novel—a mystery, of course—well underway.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. Thank you so much for featuring Festive Mayhem!

  2. One of the perks of the Christmas
    season is all of the Christmas books.
    this one sounds great. thanks

  3. What a delightful round-up of the mysteries in Festive Mayhem! Thank you!

  4. Sounds interesting! Count me in!

  5. Thank you for the chance to win FESTIVE MAYHAM!!!

  6. Sounds like a great anthology. Would love to read “Festive Mayhem.

  7. Festive Mayhem sounds like an interesting anthology. Please count me in.

  8. We have a winner!


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