Looking for a few gifts so good they're practically criminal? Well, look no further. We've compiled a few Mystery Scene favorites perfect for stuffing those stockings.
Just perfect for slipping easily into someone’s stocking, and an ideal time killer for that interminable wait between the gift orgy and the arrival of the blessed bird, is Scandinavian Grand Master Helene Tursten’s An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed ($14.99, Soho Crime), the follow-up to her equally adorable An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good from a few years ago. Once again, it follows the charming homicidal problem-solving of cranky elderly Maud, a retired Swedish schoolteacher with absolutely no qualms about bumping off people who get in her way, this time journeying to Africa on a long-anticipated holiday. A pretty little hardcover decorated with seasonal and floral graphic embellishments that reek of innocence, it’s in reality a nifty how-to guide to homicide, with a tantalizing list of ways to set the world right (i.e., the way you want it), concluded with a couple of recipes for ginger snaps (in both “naughty” and “nice” versions). See? Perfect for the holidays!
The game is afoot when your Holmie toes the line with these always fashionable Sherlock Socks ($12; outofprint.com). Discreetly stylish, tastefully rendered as a series of tiny brown silhouettes of the Great Detective himself on a field of tan with reinforced toes and heels, they’re a sturdy blend of cotton, polyester, and spandex available in small or large sizes. As an added bonus, a portion of all proceeds go to funding literacy programs and book donations to communities in need.
Killers come and go and bad puns can mortally wound, but chapped lips are pure murder, especially for those in wintry climes. So pucker up and try some Murder on the Orange Express Lip Balm ($9; literarylipbalms.com). Billed as a seductive mélange of “alluring florals and sweet citrus,” this handmade, gently moisturizing balm made with organic shea butter, botanical extract, and pure essential oils hints at sophisticated intrigue with its ooh-la-la combination of sweet orange, mandarin, clary sage, rose geranium, and ylang ylang. And if it doesn’t conjure up sweet memories of the mysterious Orient Express that has influenced so many thriller writers, most famously Agatha Christie and Ian Fleming, then you’re just not trying hard enough. It comes in a classy recyclable tin containing a generous 10 ml of balm—about twice as much as those tiny ocean-clogging plastic tubes.
Another day, another murder. But with gun sales soaring and everybody mad at each other, it’s sometimes hard to keep track, which is why the 2022 edition of A Year of True Crime Page-a-Day Desk Calendar ($15.99; Workman Publishing) is thumbs-up for the murderino in your midst. Why worry about tomorrow’s headlines when you can kick off your shoes, double check the alarm system, and relax at home, poring over the bloody past? This handy-dandy desk calendar offers a full year of lovingly detailed homicidal highlights perfect for the Dateline-addicted, featuring darkly humorous takes on everything from murders dark and gory to bizarro headlines (“Headless Body Found in Topless Bar”!). Loaded with trivia, suggested crime documentaries, words of wisdom from serial killers and mystery authors, and career advice for would-be criminals, this is the ideal gift for those who think a Lester Holt tattoo is perfectly normal.
Jinkies! There’s always this cute but-to-the-point I Heart Mysteries Button ($2.99; RainbowPunchPress), featuring the brains of Mystery Incorporated herself, the one and only Velma Dinkley, originator of geek chic, a book and a message that says it all.
Despite my usual grinchiness and the sad admission that the world we all live in definitely needs some work done, I continue to believe, and finish off with something from the infinitely better world of my homie Louise Penny’s beloved Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. The tiny Livres Lac-Brome/Brome Lake Bookstore (bromelakebooks.ca) in Knowlton, Quebec (the real-life Trois Pins/Three Pines), offers the usual beaucoup of author merchandise, including “What the Duck” Greeting Cards ($15), Three Pines T-shirts ($30), a “Mélange Gamache” Coffee Blend ($7), and more. But to me, the most perfect gift is a simple white ceramic 12-ounce “Goodness Exists” Coffee Mug ($20), perfect for café-au-lait, tea, or Scotch, adorned on one side with the Three Pines logo and on the other with the author’s (and Armand’s) personal credo, cribbed from a poem by W.H. Auden: “Goodness exists.”
Excerpted from the "Mystery Scene 2021 Gift Guide" in the Winter 2021 Issue #170 print edition.