Morgen’s story review no.169 – OxCrimes 25: Mark Billingham’s Under the Mistletoe Last Night

29 Mar

Today’s book review of a single short story (the twenty-fifth in the 27-story charity crime anthology OxCrimes collection) is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey.

I rarely read ‘proper’ books (paperbacks / hardbacks) and I’d wanted to read this collection for a while so bought it as a paperback so I could sit and read at least one short story a day. (I’m also writing short stories for competitions and submissions too and have sent three off in the last week!).

If you’d like your short story or writing guide reviewed, or to send me a book review of another author’s book, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.

Being a writer and editor, I read and review books with both hats. If you’re a writer reading this review and found it useful, do let me know.

The OxCrimes Collection

OxCrimesFor 2014, Oxfam and Profile Books have turned to crime in order to raise a further £200,000 for Oxfam’s work. OxCrimes is introduced by Ian Rankin and has been curated by Peter Florence, director of Hay Festival, where it will be launched in May. The stellar cast of contributors will include Mark Billingham, Alexander McCall Smith, Anthony Horowitz, Val McDermid, Peter James, Adrian McKinty, Denise Mina, Louise Welsh and a host of other compelling suspects. Profile Books have raised more than a quarter of a million pounds for Oxfam by publishing OxTales (2009) and OxTravels (9781846684968) (2011).

This collection is available via and

Review of Mark Billingham’s Under the Mistletoe Last Night

This is a short short story (13 standard book pages) so a short review…

As with all good crime stories, we have a dead body in the opening scene. It is then left to Tom Thorne – Mark’s usual detective – to work out what happened and find the criminal, and I love his blasé attitude: ‘Christmas Day was as good or bad a day to die as any other.’

Tom is a very dry individual, and I enjoyed the banter between him and the pathologist.

And now for writers…

  • Stephen King is notorious for his hatred of adverbs and one that could have been chopped in this story was ‘crept slowly’ because creeping is slow.
  • The only other pick I had are that we have two surname starting with the same letter (Thorne and Turnbull) and there were two ‘well’s as dialogue pauses. Readers of my previous reviews will know these are two of my bugbears.
  • I guessed the ending to the story because there were few characters to choose from. If you are going to write a crime story where you don’t want the reader to guess the ending, add enough red herrings e.g. actions, plot points, or other characters who could be suspicious but turn out to be innocent.


A very entertaining story that got to the point very quickly, saw the action through, and concluded without any unnecessary faff in between. It only loses a point as I guessed the ending.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I shall be back tomorrow with my review of John Connolly’s The Children of Dr Lyall, the twenty-sixth story in this collection.


Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a freelance editor, online tutor, prolific blogger, 2015 Head Judge for the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition, Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction CompetitionRONE 2015 Judge.

As well as a teacher of creative writing (and writing-related I.T.) for her local county council and online, Morgen will be one of five tutors at the 2017 Crime & Publishment alongside crime authors Lin Anderson and Martina Cole!

Morgen’s first love is writing and she is a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog,, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on TwitterFacebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page) and has created five online writing groups. She also runs a free monthly 100-word writing competition where you can win her online creative writing courses!

Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List ($0.99 / £0.77) and she has nine others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has eight collections of short stories available (also $0.99 / £0.77 each) – detailed on

She also helps other authors with an inexpensive freelance editing and critiquing service (free 1,000-word sample), and welcomes, and actively helps to promote, guest authors on her blog – see opportunities.


If you would like to send me a book review, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.

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Posted by on March 29, 2016 in critique, review, short stories, writing


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