Collected in this book are four murder mystery short stories by P.D. James, all centered around Christmas and two of which feature the young poet-detective Adam Dalgliesh. In the title story, a bestselling crime novelist describes the crime she herself was involved in fifty years earlier. In "A Very Commonplace Murder," a "pedantic, respectable, censorious" clerk's secret taste for pornography is only the first reason he finds for not coming forward as a witness to a murder. "The Boxdale Inheritance" finds Dalgliesh implored by his godfather to reinvestigate a notorious murder, an investigation that will reveal a family secret so dark that Dalgliesh will firmly rebury it. And in "The Twelve Clues of Christmas," Dalgliesh is drawn into a case that involves a family with "an aversion to natural death."