CHRISTMAS CAN BE MURDER
By Peter Bartram
The turkey is too big to fit in the oven, the fairy lights have fused - and the cat has just been sick over the presents under the tree. It should never have been given that mince pie as a seasonal treat.
No wonder, for many, Christmas can be murder.
Not all, of course. For most of us it's a time when we forget about crime, have a tipple, and sing a few carols.
But for a few - a very few - death comes calling hard on the heels of Father Christmas. Geoffrey Carter was one of those unlucky few. He was murdered on Christmas Day five years ago.
He'd rowed with his partner about presents and she'd set his flat alight. The fire brigade rescued him but he died an hour later from the smoke he'd inhaled. His partner will be spending this Christmas - and at least another 13 - in jail.
It's not easy to work out how many people are murdered on Christmas Day. The Home Office tots up crime statistics by month rather than by individual days.
But a few years back, police in the Llanelli area of Wales kept a log of their Christmas Day crime. On the festive day, they totted up four "domestics", four noise complaints, three assaults, four minor car shunts, two missing people, three anti-social behaviour incidents, one theft, one burglary, and a lone hoax call. And there were six reports of "suspicious activity". None of them involved elves or reindeer.
One reason police suggest there is not much general crime at Christmas, is that most people are in a good mood and ready to party. But trouble breaks out if they knock back too much of the festive spirit.
But that's not to say, there aren't crimes in the days before Christmas. Pickpockets know shoppers will be carrying more cash than usual. Burglars have a gift-wrapped target - the presents under the tree.
When I was reporting on these kinds of newspaper stories, we'd always be on the look-out for crimes that had a seasonal touch. They provided a glimpse of hard-nosed reality behind the glitter of the tinsel.
I was thinking of those days of Christmas crime reporting when I started to write the latest of my Crampton of the Chronicle cozy mysteries, Front Page Murder. But in the real world, Christmas Day murder is often brutal.
Edinburgh man Alan Williamson found that out four years ago when his neighbour stabbed him to death. The neighbour claimed she'd been possessed by voices in her head. But that didn't stop her being packed off to prison.
For Williamson, murder was no laughing matter. But that's not the case in Front Page Murder where the plot focuses on comic postcard artist Archie Flowerdew who is sentenced to hang for the murder of a rival. Poor Archie is due for the drop on Christmas Eve - not the kind of present he'd been looking forward to.
But can crime reporter Colin Crampton find the evidence to save him - and bag himself a front-page scoop?
Cozy murder - with past TV series like Marple and Heartbeat - has become something of a Yuletide tradition. So whatever the reality of real Christmas crime, there's nothing more comforting after the turkey's been carved and the crackers pulled, than to curl up with a cozy mystery. So perhaps that kind of Christmas murder isn't so bad, after all.
ABOUT THE BOOK…
FRONT PAGE MURDER
A Crampton of the Chronicle mystery
It's December 1963 and Archie Flowerdew is sitting in a cell at Wandsworth Prison waiting to be hanged. On Christmas Eve. It's not exactly how he planned to spend the festive season. But, then, Archie was found guilty of murdering fellow comic postcard artist Percy Despart.
It seems there's nothing that can stop Archie's neck being wrung like a turkey's. Except that his niece Tammy is convinced Archie is innocent. She's determined he will sit down on Christmas Day to tuck into the plum pudding. She persuades Brighton Evening Chronicle crime reporter Colin Crampton to take up the case.
But Colin has problems of his own. First, that good turn he did to help out Chronicle sub-editor Barry Hobhouse has come back to bite him on the bum. Then Beatrice "the Widow" Gribble, Colin's trouble-prone landlady, needs him to sort out her latest faux pas - she's accidentally sent a Christmas card to her local butcher suggesting she's available for hot sex. And that's before Brighton cops clap Colin and girlfriend Shirley Goldsmith in jail on the charge of harbouring a fugitive from justice.
And, anyway, the more Colin investigates Archie's case, the more it looks like he is guilty… Pick up the third full-length novel in the Crampton of the Chronicle mystery series to get you in the mood for a murderous Christmas!
Front Page Murder e-book is on special offer until the end of December for 99p/99c
For readers who want to start the series at the beginning, there's a deal which includes Headline Murder, Stop Press Murder and Front Page Murder in e-book formats for £4.97/$4.97. This offer also closes on 31 December.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Peter Bartram brings years of experience as a journalist to his Crampton of the Chronicle crime mystery series, which features Colin Crampton, crime correspondent of the 1960s fictional newspaper the Brighton Evening Chronicle. Peter began his career as a reporter on a real-life local newspaper not far from Brighton. Then he worked as a journalist and newspaper editor in London before becoming freelance. He has done most things in journalism from door-stepping for quotes to writing serious editorials. He’s pursued stories in locations as diverse as 700 feet down a coal mine and Buckingham Palace. Peter's "Swinging Sixties" murder mysteries combine clue-solving with comedy - the laughs are never far from the action. Other books in the series, which has already logged more than 100 5-star reviews on Amazon, include Headline Murder and Stop Press Murder.