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David Morrell: The Spy Who Came for Christmas (A Review)

Updated on November 5, 2014

David Morrell Writes a Christmas Novel Packed with Accurate Descriptions and Subtle Action

"What a perfect Christmas Eve" enthuses a woman caught up in the holiday crowds admiring Christmas decorations along Alameda Street in the historic district of Santa Fe, New Mexico. It's a perfect festive night for most of the crowd, but a matter of life and death for the quarry of three thugs using the code names of Melchior, Balthazar and Gaspar. The quarry is wounded in his left arm, carries a bundle in his good right arm beneath his ski parka, and desperately needs place to hide.

It is less than a perfect Christmas Eve for Meredith, an abused wife and mother and Cole, her twelve-year-old handicapped son. Their husband and father, in a frenzy of rage, has just battered Meredith inflicting damage to the side of her face, smashed all the land line telephones, and taken Meridith's cell phone before fleeing the house.

The quarry, in his bleeding struggle to keep moving with his bundle secure, while he flees through the back streets near the historic district singles out the one-story adobe house were Meredith and Cole wait for their chance of escaping from their predicament. The quarry, the bundle in his good arm, and Meredith and Cole come face to face. The quarry's immediate problems are caring for the bundle, which is indeed a newborn baby, and winning the trust of Meredith and Cole.

"The Spy Who Came for Christmas" is a slim volume that is packed with accurate descriptions of Christmas in Santa Fe, where the author lives, caring for a newborn baby, and some of the nuances of spy-craft. It also includes the spy's versions of The Magi and The Child of Peace. Morrell also deftly includes Meredeth's tale of The Christmas Rose and the significance of rose in spy-craft.

This quick-to-read novel makes an excellent holiday gift for mystery and thriller aficionados on anyone's list. I can also highly recommend the trilogy featured below. Word of warning: Make sure the recipient doesn't all ready own the novels!

Santa Fe's Historical District and Alameda Street

show route and directions
A markerWest Alameda Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico -
West Alameda Street, Santa Fe, NM, USA
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One-half of the residential street in Santa Fe's historic district where the action takes place.

B markerEast Alameda Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico -
East Alameda Street, Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA
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The eastern half of Alameda Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico

An High-action Espionage Trio

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More High Action Thrillers from David Morrell - The Brotherhood Series: Orphans searching for a foster father

This trilogy, written and published in the 1980s, is still as fresh as yesterday. Morrell combines deftly combines religious and traditional events and symbolism to form the backbones of these novels. The backstory as to why there is no fourth novel to boost this series from a trilogy to a quartet. Words of David Morrell "As a child, I'd been put in an orphanage, so it was natural that the theme of orphans fascinated me. But after my son Matthew died in 1987, I found myself writing about fathers searching for sons. I could no longer identify with the series. The trade paperback (and perhaps the e-book) includes a short story, "The Abelard Sanction," in which I tie a loose plot thread (the motive for the attack on Saul's village) that would have led to the fourth book in the series."

Tale of a Monk Who Gave Up Espionage

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The Beginning of a Suspenseful Trio

Fraternity of the Stone
Fraternity of the Stone

According to critics this book changed the genre of high action thrillers. It combines elements of religious and historical conclusions with action-packed spy craft. It tells the tale of Drew who gives up espionage and terror to.join a cloistered monastery in Vermont. His past enemies come after him and thereon hangs the tale of a Fraternity of espionage which Drew did not know existed.

 

Youthful Ties Go Subrosa

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Two important questions: What is the rose, and what is brotherhood?

The Brotherhood of the Rose
The Brotherhood of the Rose

Chris and Saul are raised in a Philadelphia orphanage and bond in friendship and devotion. A man called Eliot visits them, treats them like sons and ultimately binds them to himself. He trains them to be assassins, but as they approach mid-life, he desperately wants them gone - as in dead. This novel is crammed with love, devotion and action that spans the Globe. As in all great action novels, the end is a stunning surprise.

 

Sons Paying for Sins of their Fathers

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The thrilling climax in which sons pay for the sins of their fathers

The League of Night and Fog: A Novel (Mortalis)
The League of Night and Fog: A Novel (Mortalis)

This action-packed novel is the climax to what some call a classic espionage thriller. The heroes of The Brotherhood of the Rose (Saul) and The Fraternity of the Stone (Drew) come together to solve a baffling mystery: Why are ten elderly men from around the world, who apparently have no ties with each other, been kidnapped at the same time? The cycle of revenge that the heroes are drawn into stretches back to World War II. It appears that sons are being forced to pay for their father’s darkest sins. The novel straddles two generations bound by one chilling legacy.

 

A traditional Christmas flower in warm climates

White Christmas Rose (Helleborus)
White Christmas Rose (Helleborus) | Source

The Legend of the Christmas Rose

David Morrell draws heavily upon religious and traditional beliefs to stage the settings for his novels. A paraphrase of the 15th-century German hymn, "The Christmas Rose" and the definition of sub rosa from the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Espionage" set the stage for The Spy Who came for Christmas.

In Paul Kagan's (our quarry) attempt to enter the adobe house sheltering Meredith and Cole he sees what he thinks is a rose. However, he convinced himself he is hallucinating. Later Meredith tells Paul about her Christmas rose, not a real rose, but a hellebore which blooms at Christmas.

The Illustration above this explanation is a copy of an old engraving from an 18th century botanical journal of a Christmas rose (hellebore.) Image:William Curtis [Public domain], via Wikimedia Common

The Magi

A Magi Following a Star
A Magi Following a Star | Source

The Magi

The Magi: Kings who were not really kings, but secret agents.

In an effort to relax and gain Cole's trust, and pass time, Paul Kagan tells the story of the Magi as told to him by one of his instructors at the Rocky Mountain Industrial Academy ,a covert espionage training facility. The instructor was a legendary spy-master who was rumored to had once been a Jesuit priest. It's a neat story that puts a logical spin on the story of the Magi knowing the little factual information to which we have access.

According to Kagan the magi were really priests with tremendous political influence. They crossed the desert at night to both avoid heat of the day and Roman soldiers. He draws Cole into the story of age-old traditional spy-craft and double agents with skillful story telling as well as questions which Cole has to think to answer.

Kagan finishes his story by telling Cole that his instincts are so good, he should think twice about becoming a spy.

Dove of Peace

The Child of Peace

The Spy's Version of Christmas: Keeping the baby safe

The bundle that Paul Kagan clutches in his good arm is the boy born to the wife of a Palestinian pacifist who is also an obstetrician. The father sees his child as a symbol of what people desire for their children. His son, he argues, represents every Palestinian. Although born in the U.S., the doctor and his wife are taking their son back to the Middle East "as a symbol of his hope for the future of ll children in the region...if people truly love their children, they'll do everything possible to demand a last truce."

An opposing terrorist organization has paid a group of the Russian mafia a significant sum of cash to steal the baby so that they can educate him and eventually turn him into a suicide bomber. Paul Kagan is an undercover agent embedded in this section of the Russian mafia and charged along with three other thugs to steal the baby. At the last minute Kagan grabs the baby and searches for its safety.

Kagan's story loosely parallels the story of the Magi and their interactions with Joseph, Mary and Jesus, the shepherds, and Herod and his troops. The ultimate goal in both stories is to keep this baby - the child of peace - safe.

More Good Christmas Mystery Reads Make Great Gifts

Below are listed Christmas mystery books from three of my favorite go-to authors when I want a relaxing read. They all bring something slightly different to the mystery genre which makes their works fresh and lively. Try them...hopefully you will be as satisfied as I am with their writing.

The Calm After a New England Storm

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A Great Christmas Mystery Read from Amazon

The Last Noel
The Last Noel

It's Christmas Eve, and all is neither calm nor bright

A Christmas Eve storm paralyses New England. The O'Boyle household becomes unwilling hosts to a pair of brutal escaped killers desperate to find refuge from the storm as well as capture..

 

The Christmas Angel

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An Angel for Christmas
An Angel for Christmas

Two unknown men arrive at the Blue Ridge Mountains cabin of the fraying MacDougal family. Which one should they trust? Which will bring Christmas joy to their hearts? Which is not to be trusted.

 

Author Poll Ahead!

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Authors of Action-packed Thriller and Suspense Novels

Who is your favorite mystery thriller author?

See results

Goodies and Boughs of Holly

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Christmas Crumble: An Agatha Raisin Short Story (Agatha Raisin Mysteries)
Christmas Crumble: An Agatha Raisin Short Story (Agatha Raisin Mysteries)

Nettlesome Agatha Raisin decides to host a dinner party for her elder Cotswold neighbors. The tree is trimmed and the pudding made. Agatha ends up dumping the pudding over the head of the local self-proclaimed lothario who is later discovered dead. Agatha, the logical suspect, needs a Christmas miracle to get herself out of this sticky mess.

Deck the halls with boughs of folly this Christmas with Agatha Raisin, a modern-day Miss Marple, who Publishers Weekly calls “an absolute gem!”

 

A Sleuthing Cat

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Santa Clawed: A Mrs. Murphy Mystery
Santa Clawed: A Mrs. Murphy Mystery

All is peaceful in Crozet, Virginia until Mary Minor “Harry” Haristeen and her husband Fair discover a corpse in the Christmas tree they're about to buy. The murderer grows bolder and more prominent Crozet citizens end up in the morgue. Will Harry end there as well? If Harry and her four-legged friends don't get to the bottom of the killings, will this be her last Christmas?

 

My Christmas Wish List

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On my Christmas wish list

The Hundred-Year Christmas: Cover
The Hundred-Year Christmas: Cover

"The Hundred-Year Christmas" in a Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Signed-limited Edition

I want "The Hundred-Year Christmas" by David Morrell for my carefully and assiduously assembled collection. I would have loved to have been his friend back when he originally wrote this book - in 1983 - and had seven hundred copies printed, numbered and signed to give out.

The book is available now (2009) newly illustrated and printed in 1000 copies, also signed. I haven't had the opportunity to read or see it, but I do have that feeling that it would fit into my eclectic collection.

The premise of this book, gathered from reviews, is that of the "friendship between Father Christmas, who lives a hundred years before being replaced, and Father Time, who lives only a single year before being replaced." Like all friendships this one has its ups and downs, joys and sorrows. The largest sorrow for Father Christmas is watching his friend Father Time dwindle each year. The hundredth year when Father Christmas begins to dwindle is a sorrow for them both. Who will take Father Christmas's place and see over the infant Father Time?

Maybe, if there is no copy of this book under my Christmas tree, I can assemble the funds to buy a copy for myself.

Mystery Genres - Your Favorite?

I like all kinds of thrillers and mysteries as long as they are well-researched and well-written. Below are five of my favorite genres or kinds. Do you agree with me on any of the five? Which one, if any?

What is your favorite type of mystery?

See results

Points to Ponder...

I enjoyed writing this hubpage about one of my favorite Christmas books which happens to be a mystery. The author also is one of my most admired authors.

  • What did you enjoy about this hubpage?
  • What do you think could have been left out of the hubpage?
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  • And I'd love to hear your comments below.

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    • GeorgeneMBramlage profile image
      Author

      Georgene Moizuk Bramlage 4 years ago from southwestern Virginia

      @Elaine Chen: Thanks you so much for your comment about the list. That is good information for me.

    • GeorgeneMBramlage profile image
      Author

      Georgene Moizuk Bramlage 4 years ago from southwestern Virginia

      @PaigSr: Glad I could make you smile :-) I also had a bother-in-law who was a spy and was usually around for Christmas. Thanks for visiting and for your comment.

    • suepogson profile image

      suepogson 4 years ago

      I think it's a lovely lens and your introductory module immediately made me want to read more. Well done.

    • Elaine Chen profile image

      Elaine Chen 4 years ago

      thanks for great list with briefing for each book

    • PaigSr profile image

      PaigSr 4 years ago from State of Confussion

      Don't take this the wrong way but seeing the title the only thing that comes to mind is my brother-in-law. Thanks for the smile.

    • GeorgeneMBramlage profile image
      Author

      Georgene Moizuk Bramlage 4 years ago from southwestern Virginia

      @burntchestnut: Thanks for your reading and comment about the poll. One thing i learned is that there are loads of mysteries out there...the trick is to find the good one that appeal to yourself.

    • profile image

      burntchestnut 4 years ago

      Great list of mysteries. I love cozy and detective mysteries with no gore. I haven't heard of some of these authors and titles.

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