Skip to main content

The Christmas Jigsaw Murders - Alexandra Benedict ***

We seem to be overwhelmed with Christmas murder mysteries this year - in this case in a puzzler-friendly format as Alexandra Benedict throws in a number of optional challenges for the reader, from spotting references to Fleetwood Mac songs (always a Christmassy activity) to Dickens novel anagrams in the text and a Christmas song puzzle in the chapter headings.

If, like me, you just want to get on with the story, then there's a tangled web of relationships and past dark secrets to sort out in tracking down a series of murders that are accompanied by jigsaw puzzle pieces as clues. The murderer has devised these hints for the crossword-setting main character, Edie. The murder mystery itself is satisfying, and Benedict manages the build of clues and red herrings well. But I did have two problems.

The lesser one is that Benedict's writing style can be a little uneven. There are some over-baked similes (think 'tree branches reached for them like the bony hands of hair-ruffling aunts'), while things can get a little clunky - for example the opening page of chapter 10 where we get five paragraphs in a row that start with either 'Sean' or 'Liam' making it distinctly 'tell' rather than 'show'. The bigger one is Edie.

We've had something of a flood of late, thanks in part to the success of Richard Osman's books, of murder mysteries where the detectives are infuriating but somehow loveable older characters. Stretching the imagination more than a little, these amateur sleuths manage to get to the solution before or with the police. Edie also sets out to find the culprit - but there is nothing loveable about this octogenarian - she is awful. What's more, at least the Thursday Murder Club work with the police, even if they sometimes hold things back a while. Here Edie's great nephew/stepson is a police inspector, yet she withholds vital evidence, resulting in dire outcomes that would have any real person locked away.

Edie seems based on the idea that if you are a 'character' you can get away with anything - but she was so unlikable it partially spoiled the book for me - I'm sure you can draw a parallel with Scrooge, but I don't like Christmas Carol much either. Plenty of good stuff going on here, but it's not a book I can wholeheartedly recommend.

One weird addendum - the page for this book describes totally different characters, which is, to say the least, odd.

See all of Brian's online articles or subscribe to a weekly digest for free here
You can buy The Christmas Jigsaw Murders from, and

Using these links earns us commission at no cost to you


Popular posts from this blog

Why I hate opera

If I'm honest, the title of this post is an exaggeration to make a point. I don't really hate opera. There are a couple of operas - notably Monteverdi's Incoranazione di Poppea and Purcell's Dido & Aeneas - that I quite like. But what I do find truly sickening is the reverence with which opera is treated, as if it were some particularly great art form. Nowhere was this more obvious than in ITV's recent gut-wrenchingly awful series Pop Star to Opera Star , where the likes of Alan Tichmarsh treated the real opera singers as if they were fragile pieces on Antiques Roadshow, and the music as if it were a gift of the gods. In my opinion - and I know not everyone agrees - opera is: Mediocre music Melodramatic plots Amateurishly hammy acting A forced and unpleasant singing style Ridiculously over-supported by public funds I won't even bother to go into any detail on the plots and the acting - this is just self-evident. But the other aspects need some ex

Is 5x3 the same as 3x5?

The Internet has gone mildly bonkers over a child in America who was marked down in a test because when asked to work out 5x3 by repeated addition he/she used 5+5+5 instead of 3+3+3+3+3. Those who support the teacher say that 5x3 means 'five lots of 3' where the complainants say that 'times' is commutative (reversible) so the distinction is meaningless as 5x3 and 3x5 are indistinguishable. It's certainly true that not all mathematical operations are commutative. I think we are all comfortable that 5-3 is not the same as 3-5.  However. This not true of multiplication (of numbers). And so if there is to be any distinction, it has to be in the use of English to interpret the 'x' sign. Unfortunately, even here there is no logical way of coming up with a definitive answer. I suspect most primary school teachers would expands 'times' as 'lots of' as mentioned above. So we get 5 x 3 as '5 lots of 3'. Unfortunately that only wor

Which idiot came up with percentage-based gradient signs

Rant warning: the contents of this post could sound like something produced by UKIP. I wish to make it clear that I do not in any way support or endorse that political party. In fact it gives me the creeps. Once upon a time, the signs for a steep hill on British roads displayed the gradient in a simple, easy-to-understand form. If the hill went up, say, one yard for every three yards forward it said '1 in 3'. Then some bureaucrat came along and decided that it would be a good idea to state the slope as a percentage. So now the sign for (say) a 1 in 10 slope says 10% (I think). That 'I think' is because the percentage-based slope is so unnatural. There are two ways we conventionally measure slopes. Either on X/Y coordiates (as in 1 in 4) or using degrees - say at a 15° angle. We don't measure them in percentages. It's easy to visualize a 1 in 3 slope, or a 30 degree angle. Much less obvious what a 33.333 recurring percent slope is. And what's a 100% slope