October 2019 favorites

October 2019

The October stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘The Death Of Halpin Frayser’ by Ambrose Bierce
  2. ‘Rip Van Winkle’ by Washington Irving
  3. ‘Heat’ by Joyce Carol Oates
  4. ‘On The Hill’ by Elizabeth Spencer
  5. ‘In The Region Of Ice’ by Joyce Carol Oates
  6. ‘Ghost Girls’ by Joyce Carol Oates
  7. ‘The Heroine’ by Patricia Highsmith
  8. ‘High Lonesome’ by Joyce Carol Oates
  9. ‘The Nine Billion Names Of God’ by Arthur C. Clarke
  10. ‘The Swimmers’ by Joyce Carol Oates
  11. ‘The Tragedy At Marsdon Manor’ by Agatha Christie
  12. ‘Three Is A Lucky Number’ by Margery Allingham
  13. ‘La Moretta’ by Maggie Shipstead
  14. ‘The Doll’s Ghost’ by F. Marion Crawford
  15. ‘Afterward’ by Edith Wharton
  16. ‘The Leather Funnel’ by Arthur Conan Doyle

As always, join the conversation in the comments section below, on SSMT Facebook or on Twitter @ShortStoryMT.

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July 2017 favorites

July 2017

The July stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Death And The Compass’ by Jorge Luis Borges
  2. ‘Why I Live At The P.O.’ by Eudora Welty
  3. ‘Cathedral’ by Raymond Carver
  4. ‘The Whole Town’s Sleeping’ by Ray Bradbury
  5. ‘Water Liars’ by Barry Hannah
  6. ‘A Case Of Identity’ by Arthur Conan Doyle
  7. ‘The Mystery Of The Spanish Chest’ by Agatha Christie
  8. ‘Coming Close To Donna’ by Barry Hannah
  9. ‘The Blind Man’ by D.H. Lawrence
  10. ‘Midnight And I’m Not Famous Yet’ by Barry Hannah
  11. ‘The Oracle Of The Dog’ by G.K. Chesterton
  12. ‘Even Greenland’ by Barry Hannah
  13. ‘Republica Y Grau’ by Daniel Alarcón
  14. ‘Good Boys Deserve Favors’ by Neil Gaiman
  15. ‘North Coast’ by Thomas McGuane
  16. ‘Trek’ by Barry Hannah
  17. ‘Cowardice’ by Abdeslam Boulaich

As always, join the conversation in the comments section below, on SSMT Facebook or on Twitter @ShortStoryMT.

Subscribe to the Short Story Magic Tricks Monthly Newsletter to get the latest short story news, contests and fun.

December 2014 favorites


December 2014

The December stories organized solely by my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Jeeves And The Yule-Tide Spirit’ by P.G. Wodehouse
  2. ‘The H Street Sledding Record’ by Ron Carlson
  3. ‘A Christmas Memory’ by Truman Capote
  4. ‘A Christmas Tree And A Wedding’ by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  5. ‘The Adventure Of The Blue Carbuncle’ by Arthur Conan Doyle
  6. ‘Christmas At Red Butte’ by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  7. ‘Christmas Eve’ by Maeve Brennan
  8. ‘One Christmas Eve’ by Langston Hughes
  9. ‘The Gift Of The Magi’ by O. Henry
  10. ‘Powder’ by Tobias Wolff
  11. ‘The Ledge’ by Lawrence Sargent Hall
  12. ‘A Child’s Christmas In Wales’ by Dylan Thomas
  13. ‘The Adventure Of The Christmas Pudding’ by Agatha Christie
  14. ‘The Christmas Wreck’ by Frank Stockton
  15. ‘At Christmas Time’ by Anton Chekhov
  16. ‘Christmas Day In The Morning’ by Pearl S. Buck
  17. ‘The Little Match Girl’ by Hans Christian Andersen
  18. ‘Markheim’ by Robert Louis Stevenson
  19. ‘Christmas Is A Sad Season For The Poor’ by John Cheever
  20. ‘The Burglar’s Christmas’ by Willa Cather
  21. ‘Papa Panov’s Special Christmas’ by Leo Tolstoy
  22. ‘The Beggar Boy At Christ’s Christmas Tree’ by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  23. ‘A New Year’s Gift’ by Guy de Maupassant
  24. ‘The Christmas Banquet’ by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  25. ‘The Best Christmas Ever’ by James Patrick Kelly
  26. ‘Christmas Eve’ by Guy de Maupassant

‘The Adventure Of The Christmas Pudding’ by Agatha Christie

Christie, Agatha 1960

The Adventure Of The Christmas Pudding by Agatha Christie, 1960

The magic trick:

Rewarding the characters for making a decision based on sentimentality

Please, please, newcomers to Hercule Poirot, don’t make “The Christmas Pudding” your first installment. He is one of literature’s all-time great characters, and the Agatha Christie novels in which he features provide the template on which all murder mysteries are based. I promise you will love him. “Christmas Pudding,” however, is not his finest hour. Rather it’s an enjoyable enough little holiday lark. If you’re looking to combine Poirot and the holidays, Hercule Poirots Christmas is a wonderful novel.


Now that we’ve established that this is not a scintillating mystery, we can talk about what it makes it an enjoyable story nonetheless. Christie, who was pushing 70 when this was published, is clearly enjoying a trip down memory lane. Her introduction to the book is full of wonderful Christmas memories of her youth. The first half of “Christmas Pudding” follows in the same vein, with Poirot and the elderly Mrs. Lacey discussing the merits of a traditional family Christmas celebration vs. the unfortunate changes of modern society.

I really think Christie would have been happy to write an entire story of such syrupy nostalgia, but of course she has to get on with the mystery – a rather silly bit of gem thievery and children’s theatre. The mystery isn’t the point. The story works as a nice way spend a quiet hour by a fireplace during December. And that’s quite a trick on Christie’s part.

The selection:

“I hope you will enjoy our Christmas party here, M. Poirot. It’s only the family, you know. My granddaughter and a grandson and a friend of his and Bridget who’s my great-niece, and Diana who’s a cousin and David Welwyn who is a very old friend. Just a family party. But Edwina Morecombe said that that’s what you really wanted to see. An old-fashioned Christmas. Nothing could be more old-fashioned than we are! My husband, you know, absolutely lives in the past. He likes everything to be just as it was when he was a boy of twelve years old, and used to come here for his holidays.” She smiled to herself. “All the same old things, the Christmas tree and the stockings hung up and the oyster soup and the turkey – two turkeys, one boiled and one roast – and the plum pudding with the ring and the bachelor’s button and all the rest of it in it. One can’t have sixpences nowadays because they’re not pure silver any more. But all the old desserts, the Elvas plums and Carlsbad plums and almonds and raisins, and crystallised fruit and ginger. Dear me, I sound like a catalogue from Fortnum and Mason!”

“You arouse my gastronomic juices, Madame.”