The Winter Solstice. In the northern hemisphere it marks the shortest day, and thus the longest night, of the year. The solstice has long been seen as a time of change and uncertainty—the perfect atmosphere for modern writers to set stories that reflect the chill of the haunting dark with murder and mayhem as well as the light of more heartwarming themes. These selections give a flavor of the season.
The Dark Is Rising, by Susan Cooper
And finally, because many youth titles are really books for all ages, don’t miss this chance to read or re-read Susan Cooper’s haunting series. Young Will Stanton discovers he is the last of the Old Ones, those gifted with special powers to ward off evil. Will’s mission is to gather the weapons of the Light before it is too late. Cooper fills this series entry with suspense and adventure, as well as intriguing references to druidic rites and legends.
Death of a Fool, by Ngaio Marsh
Golden-age mystery writer Ngaio Marsh set her 19th detective novel, starring series sleuth Roderick Alleyn, in the English village of South Mardian, where the traditional winter solstice pageant involves a ritual sword dance of ancient vintage. This time it ends in murder in Marsh’s cleverly plotted tale, filled with fascinating details of druids and folk legends.
The Haunted Abbot, by Peter Tremayne
Murder greets Sister Fidelma, seventh-century religieuse of the Celtic Church, at Aldred’s Abbey in East Anglia. She and her companion have arrived in the middle of a snowstorm on the eve of the winter solstice. Not only does the abbey seem to be haunted but Christians and pagans are engaged in armed conflict in this mystery rich in historical detail.
The Shortest Day: Murder at the Revels, by Jane Langton
Series sleuths Homer and Mary Kelly are occupied preparing for the solstice festival, which includes ancient rituals, Morris dancing, and skits. This time, there’s more drama offstage than on, as the couple investigate multiple murders. Langton is known for her cozy mysteries, intriguing background details, and charming illustrations.
The Supernatural Enhancements, by Edgar Cantero
This Spanish author incorporates the dark imagery of the season in a chilling tale about a young man who inherits an estate. When he visits, he begins to sense that the house is haunted. What does happen at the house each year at the winter solstice? A good bet for readers craving a seasonal ghost story.
Winter Solstice, by Rosamunde Pilcher
This novel focuses on the bright side of the solstice, its heralding of more light to come, and the cycle of rebirth. Pilcher gathers together a disparate group of lonely people in snowy Scotland in December, and they find comfort and healing in this heartwarming story. Charming, and as soothing as cup of tea.