Saturday, December 9, 2023

A Christmas Mystery: Corpus Christmas by Margaret Maron


I enjoy the Christmas novels of my favorite mystery writers, none more than this 1989 one by Margaret Maron who wrote mysteries from the 1980s to her last one in 2017. Do you know her work? This sentence alone from a speech she once gave should tell you why I'm a fan:

"From the beginning, I loved language, I loved words, I loved the tricks that you could play with them." (Margaret Maron)

Maron's mysteries are the proof of that, especially those of one of her two strong women sleuths, Sigrid Harald of the NYPD.

While Louise Penny's mysteries are top shelf in this bookcase, Margaret Maron's take up the entire second shelf, the hardbacks on the left about Maron's other sleuth, Deborah Knott (Judge Knott--get it?) of North Carolina, and the paperbacks on the left that are about Lieutenant Sigrid Harald.

Corpus Christmas is a beautifully written, complex novel of a mystery that weaves together the fascinating story of a family home of the late 1800s to early 1900s that is currently an art museum of works collected in Europe by the family's son, and site of where the murder takes place, along with the story of Sigrid Harald, the investigating officer, and Oscar Nauman, described as "an artist of his own time and one who isn't afraid to leave the loose ends." 

While Sigrid's art appreciation belongs with pictures that look like what they are--as in the oil painting above that sits on my living room floor during the Christmas season (a story there) that my Aunt Teenie painted for us over 50 years ago--the older man Oscar Nauman is of the persuasion that "the high purpose of art is to remind us that something is always left undone."

Just as all the words in my beautiful old Webster Universal two volume dictionary weave together a language, Corpus Christmas uses beautiful words to weave together the story of the art world of the 1800s and the 1980s and the family life of a comfortably situated New York family from the past with the unfolding modern romance of two very different people.

This murder mystery, the ending of which was a complete surprise to me, is as pretty as the old Polish Fantasia Fish Scale ornaments I've collected for years.

Leaving one only to wonder how the relationship between the very confident self-assured Oscar and the very reticent reserved Sigrid will end.

Ah, only the last book in the series will tell.