Between the Lines: Titles of the holiday kind

(The Sacramento Bee, Dec. 1, Allen Pierleoni)

Is it the start of December already? We’d best get on with rounding up some holiday- oriented books, which include mystery, humor, feel-good and romance:

“Dashing Through the Snow” by Mary and Carol Higgins Clark (Simon & Schuster, 240 pages): The mother-daughter (respectively) mystery writers set their fifth yuletide suspense novel in a small New Hampshire town. Two visiting sleuths must solve a puzzle involving a multimillion-dollar lottery ticket and a missing person.

“The Spy Who Came for Christmas” by David Morrell (Vanguard, 220 pages): The award- winning thriller novelist tells a Christmas Eve story about a wounded American spy in Santa Fe, N.M. who is trying to keep a very special baby safe from kidnapping by the Russian mob. He finds help from a distraught single mother and her 12-year-old son, who are themselves in a different kind of danger.

“Six Geese a-Slaying” by Donna Andrews (St. Martin’s, $22.95, 288 pages): The 10th title in the series involves amateur sleuth Meg Langslow’s search for a Santa killer (she’s hoping he won’t spoil the Christmas pageant).

“A Christmas Grace” by Anne Perry (Ballantine, 224 pages): The veteran novelist’s sixth Christmas-themed book is serious, but fast-moving. At a priest’s request, a niece travels to the remote Irish coast to comfort an ailing aunt, and ends up solving a mystery that has long haunted the whole village.

“Holidays On Ice” by David Sedaris (Little, Brown, $16.99, 176 pages): The popular humor writer compiles a dozen wacky stories (six of which are new) that could happen only around the holidays and be recounted only in the inimitable Sedaris style.

“The Shepherd, the Angel and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog” by Dave Barry (Berkeley, 128 pages): The Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist’s twisted tale is reissued once again, and we’re happier for it. Barry returns to the 1960s to tell how a family’s new dog wrecks the church’s Christmas play.

“Immoveable Feast” by John Baxter (Harper, 288 pages): Bon vivant Baxter, who specializes in biographies of famous directors (Fellini, Spielberg, Lucas), recounts in 28 essays his amusing experiences with Christmases abroad.

“Nothing with Strings” by Bailey White (Scribner, 208 pages): Each year, White contributes a holiday story to NPR’s “All Things Considered” show. This collection of 13 tales tells of the accomplishments by extraordinary characters who live in small-town America (just like White herself).

“The Christmas Pearl” by Dorothea Benton Frank (William Morrow, 176 pages): In this perennial favorite, matriarch Theodora, 93, is surrounded by troublesome family members during Christmas and is missing her grandmother’s housekeeper, Pearl, who took charge of the holidays when Theodora was growing up in the 1920s. Who should show up but Pearl’s ghost, once again setting things right.

“Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances” by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle (Puffin, 400 pages): The trio of authors – who write young-adult fiction – interconnect their stories of chance meetings, destiny, romance and young love in a small-town setting.

“A Wallflower Christmas” by Lisa Kleypas (St. Martin’s, 224 pages): This historical romance takes readers to England’s Regency period, where a young innocent abroad – under pressure from his wealthy father – must choose between love and duty.

“Christmas on Jane Street” by Billy Romp, with Wanda Urbanska (Harper, 160 pages): The 10th anniversary edition of the sentimental true story is about the Romps, a family of Christmas tree growers who drive to Greenwich Village, N.Y., each December to sell their wares. Drama unfolds, but reconciliation follows.

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