Hey there! It’s been a while. I hope you’re doing well and that the nights drawing in (as they say where I’m from) is giving you lots of time to snuggle in, shut the world out and catch up on all those books you’ve been meaning to read.

And with that in mind, I thought I’d share one I absolutely loved. It’s seasonal, gripping and a lot of fun and it’s out today! So without further ado (cos I can’t stand ad’s that go further than they should, can you?) I present THE PARTY SEASON by SJI Holliday

The festive season is in full swing – parties, mistletoe and Christmas crackers abound.
In a hotel bar, a woman approaches you. Her party dress glitters with sequins.
What you don’t know is that your life is now in her hands – and there’s only one thing that will determine whether you live or die.
Are you a good person? Are you really? . . .

The seasonal mystery has become a bit of a growth market segment in recent years ever since the British Library had a surprise smash hit in 2014 with “Mystery in White” by J Jefferson Farjeon.

The repackaged golden age mystery took everyone by surprise and resulted for several years in many publishers digging through their back catalogues for often long-forgotten seasonal crime stories to reissue. Christie, Georgette Heyer and even Ngaio Marsh were all remarketed and even lesser-known authors like Cyril Hare saw their Christmas books going into the charts decades after they’d gone out of print. Or they would have, if Christie, Heyer, Marsh and Hare hadn’t been pushing up the snowdrops for some years by the time their seasonal renaissance occurred.

Then – as always happens – they publishers realised they had lots of living authors who might enjoy a stab at the seasonal crime story and in recent years we’ve seen authors like Ann Cleeves  John Banville, and Alexandra Benedict turning their eyes on the long dark nights of the season though of the three only Benedict’s “The Christmas Murder Game” and “Murder on the Christmas Express” are explicitly Christmas murder mysteries while Cleeves’ “The Darkest Evening” and Banville’s “Snow” utilise the season rather than the holiday per se.

Back in 2017 SJI Holliday introduced DS Becky Greene and DI Eddie Carmine and their support team in The Deaths of December, a chilling little number about a serial killer who’s been killing, unnoticed, for twenty years. The procedural was like an English 87th precinct, with all the banter, politics and cultural touchpoints allied with a plot that just kept you turning the pages and a finale that was basically made for a Christmas Eve movie (think Cinnamon Hot Chocolate, comfy PJs and a Homicidal lunatic running amok as a small harried bunch of coppers try to persuade people that there’s a genuine threat there).

I loved that book and so of course I was really excited and happy when I heard that Holliday had finally gotten around to writing a sequel. In the interim she’s written creepy psych thrillers (The Lingering 2018) disturbing SWF thrillers (Violet 2019) the fabulous Hitchcockian murder-gone-wrong The Hike (one of books of the year in 2022) and the speculative thrillers Substitute and The Last Resort.

So I was a little worried: Would this new book stand up to The Deaths of December? Would it have the same brilliant portrait of a team up against it, the badinage and bravery, the light dusting of Christmas tropes and the race-against-time to defeat a creepy serial killer that the first book had?

Well I needn’t have worried. The Party Season is as dark as the winter solstice and as crisp as the frost underfoot. Carmine and Greene are joined by a cast of characters that ring true and are wonderfully funny (Miriam, the civil staff member without whom the whole station would, most likely, simply crumble to chaos) and wonderfully irritating (a senior officer and his staff officer who may have ulterior motives in visiting the station), as well as a boyfriend who truly isn’t the good guy he thinks he is, and a killer whose means and motive are both disturbing and entirely believable.

This is one of those Christmas Crime novels that isn’t afraid to dwell on the darkness in the season (it’s the darkest time of the year after all) and The Party Girls back story is filled with fury and sadness so that at times it’s hard to decide who to root for: The serial killer or the police trying to stop them.

The book is Chilling angry and unputdownable. A perfect escape from Christmas madness. And it’s out today, so pick it up here

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