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Onyx reviews: Sleep No More: Six Murderous Tales by P.D. James

Reviewed by Bev Vincent, 12/17/2017

P. D. James is best known for her mystery novels starring Inspector Adam Dalgliesh. The short stories she published over the years are only now beginning to be collected. Sleep No More, a companion to last year's The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories, which contained four stories, brings together six more of them, originally published in the last quarter of the twentieth century.

Only one of these stories is a classic whodunit. The rest are tales of revenge, as befitting a collection whose title is drawn from MacBeth, and most are at least loosely associated with the Christmas season—including one in which the jolly old elf himself is a victim. Some of the most evil-doers in these stories are children, and there is usually a twist at the end of the tale.

Discovering a childhood treasure, a yo-yo, in a box of memorabilia, a now-retired judge reminisces about a murder that took place in his household some sixty years ago when he was a child, and about the lies he told the police at the time. An unpleasant uncle who dresses up as Santa is killed during a fraught family gathering in "The Murder of Santa Claus," the whodunit that features a character who is himself a crime writer, but not one who compares favorably—by his own admission—to P. D. James. The crime isn't solved until many years later, when a teenager present in the house puts the clues together.

There a story about an orphan girl who loves graveyards, and the reason why she has such a fixation for them. A jilted man plots his revenge in meticulous detail, and another complex murder scheme is undertaken to obtain a desirable residence. The collection ends with an apparent confession to a murder by an elderly man in "Mr Millcrofts Birthday."

But don't forget, there's always a twist! And not all evil-doers are caught. 

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