With virtually the same team as in Heald's Classic English Crime (1991)--only P.D. James, Mike Seabrook, and Nicole Swengley are new to this volume--Heald manages to field a much stronger lineup of homages to Christmas Ö la Christie. It's true that most of the 13 stories are more atmospheric than dexterously plotted (even the James, like the otherwise fine stories by Margaret Yorke and Peter Lovesey, lacks much surprise). But the range of atmospheres is impressive, from David Williams's straight-faced clerical whodunit to Robert Barnard's waspish theatrical anecdote to Susan Moody's chilling hunt among a doomed family's skeletons; and Simon Brett's archly inventive tale of publishing fraud, which, like all the best parodies, builds on the tradition it skewers, towers above anything in the earlier volume. Stocking-stuffers by H.R.F. Keating, Liza Cody, Catherine Aird, and editor Heald round out this dose of Christmas in July.