First Monday Crime Review – The Deaths of December by Susi Holliday

I absolutely love SJI Holliday’s Banktoun series (I say series rather than trilogy in the hope that she might write one more – you can’t leave it like that, Susi!). I adore her police officer, Davie Gray, so it was with some trepidation that I started reading The Deaths of December (written under Susi Holliday). Would I love her new characters as much? You’ll have to wait and see. Here’s the blurb first.

The Blurb

The Deaths of December

It looks like a regular advent calendar.

Until DC Becky Greene starts opening doors… and discovers a crime scene behind almost every one.

The police hope it’s a prank. Because if it isn’t, a murderer has just surfaced – someone who’s be killing for twenty years.

But why now? And why has he sent it to this station?

As the country relaxes into festive cheer, Greene and DS Eddie Carmine must race against time to catch the killer. Because there are four doors left, and four murders will fill them…


My review

I mused the other day that the new trend for gift advent calendars was perhaps getting a bit out of hand. I can understand chocolates (definitely) or even the beauty products or the whiskey bottles. But I draw the line at cereal and sausages (not in the same one, although it might work better if it did). When I was a child, I had a picture one that I used again and again. The Photographer in The Deaths of December clearly appreciates the old style advent calendar, except he uses negatives instead of pictures. Unfortunately, he’s focused a little too much on the Massacre of the Innocents, as each negative depicts a crime scene of a murder. All of the murders are unsolved and spread around the country. Nothing seems to connect the victims apart from one thing – they all occurred in December over a 20 year period.

This is such a great idea. Susi has used her usual style of multiple viewpoints but has also changed tenses for her characters, creating distance for The Photographer but immediacy for the police officers. And there’s that favourite little statement that gets used every Christmas – how many sleeps are left until the big day. As the sleeps tick down, so the tension increases. Will Becky and Eddie find the murderer in time?

So, having declared my love for Davie Gray, how did Becky and Eddie measure up? Actually, very well. I really enjoyed both characters and liked seeing the investigation from both their points of view. This is a partnership that could run and run (after another Dave Gray book of course). Although Susi Holliday freely admits that she doesn’t stay too close to correct procedures, she certainly creates authentic officers juggling the stresses of work with home life.

It’s hard to tell you about this book as I don’t want to give too much away. There’s a twist that I hadn’t spotted and it’s so clever. But I’m not going to give any spoilers! Suffice to say, this is a cracking read and would make an excellent Christmas gift. In fact, it could even be part of a new Advent Book Calendar. Now there’s an idea.

The Deaths of December is published today and you can buy it here.

Thank you to Susi for sending me a copy of the book. I choose to review it for First Monday Crime.


About the author

Susi Holliday

S.J.I. (Susi) Holliday grew up in East Lothian, Scotland. A life-long fan of crime and horror, her short stories have been published in various places, and she was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham prize. She has written three crime novels set in the fictional Scottish town of Banktoun, which are a mix of police procedural and psychological thriller. They are: “Black Wood”, “Willow Walk” and “The Damselfly” – all featuring the much loved character, Sergeant Davie Gray.

Her festive serial killer thriller “The Deaths of December”, featuring Detective Sergeant Eddie Carmine and Detective Constable Becky Greene will be published in November 2017.

Susi will be taking part in First Monday Crime on 4th December along with Chris Whitaker, Mel McGrath and Louise Jensen. To book your free place for this Christmas extravaganza, click here. As well as the panel, there will also be other authors pitching their best worst book ideas, free wine and cookies and a Secret Santa. Bring a wrapped book to take part.


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