Marian Babson was the pseudonym of American mystery writer Ruth Marian Stenstreem (1929-2017). She lived most her life in London, England, where she held a variety of jobs including librarian and editor of a knitting magazine. She received the Crime Writers’ Association “Dagger in the Library” award in 1996. The Dagger in the Library is a prize for a body of work by an established crime writer that has long been popular with borrowers from libraries. She received the Malice Domestic Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2004. She published some 45 mysteries, some with series detectives but most stand alone.
The Twelve Deaths of Christmas (Walker, 1980) was her eleventh non-series book. So it seems there’s a serial killer on the loose in London, and right at Christmas too. There is no apparent pattern to the killings. The police are doing their best but without a trend or some kind of identification, they haven’t much to work with. Alongside their investigative attempts the reader has a view into the serial killer’s mind, which in another author’s hands would be quite grim. The third point of view focuses on an ordinary boarding house full of people going about their ordinary lives. As the story progresses, it becomes clear the killer has an association with the boarding house but not exactly in what way.
A sort of cozy mystery, something of a psychological thriller, and a kind of police procedural, this story is an amalgam of all three. The identity of the killer came as a complete surprise to me, although in retrospect there were a few clues that should have caught my attention. A fast absorbing read, just right to pick up between baking cookies and trips to the post office during the run-up to the holidays.