'Crimson Snow' (splendid title) is this years Christmas collection from the British Library crime classics series. How I love these books. Martin Edwards has done a great job on finding stories with a suitably Christmassy/wintery setting and which range from the gently numerous to surprisingly chilling.
If I wasn't basically up to date with the entire series, these books, and especially the short story collections, would be precisely what I want to find in a stocking or under the tree. 'Crimson Snow' has some absolute belters in it - 'Death in December' features a castle in Derbyshire, ghostly goings on, a house party of riotous young things, a Death Room, and everyone getting snowed in with a murderer. It was a particular highlight. S. C. Roberts 'Christmas Eve' Sherlock Holmes skit is great fun too, as is Michael Gilbert's 'Deep and Crisp and Even'. Ianthe Jerrold's 'Off the Tiles' is rather more disturbing - there's a genuine sense that someone has died and that it's a tragedy (no bad thing to remember). Josaphine Bell's 'The Carol Singers' does that to, but at more length, and also reminds us how vulnerable the elderly and lonely are at this time of year.
It's that balance between cosy escapism along with glimpses of something distinctly un-cosy that make this such a strong collection. It's a must for any lovers of vintage crime out there.
Meanwhile, Boodles Mulberry gin is a new acquisition. M&S have lots of gin on offer this week, and this one proved irrisistable - they're generally worth a look for interesting liqueurs, spirits, and bitters. They have an imaginative range for the high street, and whilst not all of it appeals to me, there's generally something really interesting to be found.
In line with the general gin explosion, flavoured gins are obviously becoming a much bigger thing, with mulberry suddenly appearing all over the place (also rhubarb, raspberry, elderflower, damson, sloe, and so on). In the past I've made my own (damson) but it's increasingly tempting to buy a range rather than committing to quite a lot of one flavour.
More gins on the market has also meant more suggestions as to how you might want to drink it, and for mulberry/sloe/damson gin there are all sorts of mulling recipes around. The general idea seems to be to gently heat it with apple juice, a cinnamon stick, a couple of cloves, and maybe some cardamom (I might throw in some slices of orange or clementine as well). I meant to try doing this tonight but got sidetracked by making gingerbread for the Christmas tree. Maybe tomorrow.
I think more warm punches in the world are an excellent idea, and the apple juice versions which are going to be easy to make in smallish quantities, and could be made with relativley little alcohol, seem like a great idea all round. It's exactly the sort of cosy with a bit of a kick drink to settle down with to read 'Crimson Snow' (or last years 'Silent Nights') with.
*The wrench is because the bottle lid was extremely unwilling to be undone, there were almost tears of frustration, but fortunately it did the job without breakages so the day was saved