Normally, Detective Inspector Helen Shepherd doesn’t deal with petty crime and pickpockets. But when the Christmas market in Kingston upon Thames is hit by a wave of thefts, Helen and her team are called in to help out.
Harry, a homeless man who always hangs around the market, seems to be the most obvious suspect. But there is also the mysterious man in the black leather jacket some witnesses claim to have seen. Or maybe, the thief can be found much closer to home…
Can Helen and her team crack the case in time for Christmas?
This is a holiday novelette of 7800 words or approx. 26 print pages in the Helen Shepherd Mysteries series, but may be read as a standalone.
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- Santa’s Sticky Fingers is a novelette of 7800 words or approximately 26 print pages. This story is a digital premiere and has never been published previously.
- Santa’s Sticky Fingers also marks the thirteenth appearance of Detective Inspector Helen Shepherd and her assistant Detective Constable Kevin Walker. Scene of the Crime Officer Charlotte Wong, who also happens to be Kevin Walker’s girlfriend, appears as well. No Dr. Rajiv this time, since no one gets killed. Coincidentally, Santa’s Sticky Fingers is also the second Helen Shepherd Christmas mystery after A Bullet for Father Christmas.
- The inspiration for this story was a news report about pickpockets on the Bremen Christmas market, which is a common problem every year. This time around, the report sparked an idea for a holiday mystery.
- Now Christmas markets are a very German thing, even though they have been becoming more popular abroad and many UK cities now have Christmas markets of their own, often with vendors coming over from Germany. And since I needed an investigative team for the story anyway, I thought, “Why not use the team I already have?”
- The next step was checking where there are German style Christmas markets in the greater London area. I eventually settled upon the one in Kingston upon Thames, because it looked pretty and was an open air market. And since Kingston is a very affluent area, a homeless man like Harry would stick out even more. Kingston’s Christmas market really does have a sausage stall topped by a Christmas pyramid, by the way. You can see it in many photos.
- Jeremiah Blue and the various vendors are all fictional, though based on the sort of stall you’d find at a typical Christmas market.
- Mutzenmandeln, the pastries Helen buys from Angela, the waffle lady, are a traditional holiday treat in the Oldenburg area, whereas in Bremen, only 50 kilometres away, you can’t get them. Sprungfedern are another traditional fairground treat found at many Christmas markets.
- Seiffen in the Erzgebirge mountains is a real place and a centre of woodcarving and holiday ornament production in Germany. The various objects described are all traditional ornaments from the Erzgebirge region. The deer that Charlotte craves are based on a set I own, inherited from my grandmother.
- The protest at which Günther Safranski got arrested is implied to be a protest against the expulsion of singer/songwriter Wolf Biermann from East Germany in 1976.
- This time around, Helen’s nice Olivia wants a Baby Yoda toy, like pretty much everybody in December 2019.
- There are also a few Brexit references, because that is a subject that simply could not be avoided in December 2019.
- The cover is a stock photo of a nutcracker by GraphicUnited.