Naughty: 9 Tales of Christmas Crime by Steve Hockensmith

Genre: Short Stories, Mystery, Detective, Crime Fiction
Publisher: Originally published in Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazines, this collection is available as an ebook from Smashwords.
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 182
Source: Purchased

The Short Version:
A collection of primarily darkly humorous crime fiction stories all with a Christmas theme.

Why I Read It:
Jen at Jen’s Book Thoughts told me to and she’s never steered me wrong.

The Book
Nine short stories

  • Fruitcake: Life in a Florida trailer park full of retirees is a race for the next available widower and food is the bait. When Ethel is beat out for the affections of her target, she plots murder.
  •  I Killed Santa Claus: Home from college and working a mall Santa’s Workshop as an elf is a nightmare of a temp job for Hannah. It gets worse before it’s over because the Santa is vile and up to no good, and with the help of a likeable pothead of a co-elf named Arlo, she’s determined to find nail the creep.
  • Secret Santa: The old workplace Santa Santa tradition turns twisted in several different ways.
  • Humbug: A London detective investigates the death of Ebenezer Scrooge (ingloriously run over by a wagonload of trees) and his primary question is why was Scrooge behaving so out of character late on Christmas Eve? 
  • Naughty: Hannah and Arlo from “I Killed Santa Claus” are back, but this time, Hannah’s plans to teach a lecherous business man a lesson get complicated when Arlo brings in some small time crooks (named Reptile and Diesel no less) to assist with the plan.
  • Hidden Gifts: Less humor and more of a touching story of a young brother and sister wanting some Christmas magic to make their life with their Mom’s creepy boyfriend a little more tolerable.
  •  Red Christmas: The North Pole, Santa’s Elves, Mrs. Claus, a murder, a Santa-napping and the KGB? Hilarious and valuable lesson in ‘you don’t mess with Mrs. Claus’.
  • Naivete: Reptile and Diesel are back (from “Naughty”) with a plot to steal the church collection on Christmas Eve. Of course it goes wrong.
  • Special Delivery: It’s 1983 and everyone wants a cabbage patch kid doll and they’re harder to find than a needle in a haystack. Independent long haul trucker Bass is hired for an insane amount of money to make an overnight trip to bring back an shipment of the dolls if he can have them back in River City by 10am Christmas morning. It’s crazy, but the money’s too good to pass up, but things definitely go awry on the return trip.

    My Thoughts:
    I was laughing at the copyright page! Do NOT miss reading the copyright page. I read the introduction aloud to The Hubster even though he was falling asleep because I would have kept him awake with my laughter anyway.

    I enjoy dark humor and this collection has plenty of it.  There are also some tragic and sad elements to some of the stories, but the prevailing mood is wicked humor. There were several times when the stories intersected with crossover characters or minor mentions of events that happened in one of the other stories.

    I know the holiday season is over, but it’s still worth a read or at least getting so you have it next December when you need a break from the holiday chaos around you to read about some goofballs creating their own chaos.

    This is the first of Hockensmith’s work I’ve read, but I’m definitely planning on more. Cathy at Kittling Books recently reviewed the first of his wild west mystery series “Holmes on the Range” and I’ve added that one to my TBR list.

    Rating 4/5