There are dozens, possibly hundreds, of novels with mistletoe in the title, though they are, mostly, romantic fiction and I tend to ignore those. But I was reminded, recently, of P.D.James’ The Mistletoe Murder (published in The Spectator in 1991 and in anthology The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories in 2016) and realised I couldn’t remember the plot, particularly the mistletoe bit, assuming there is one. So I re-read it yesterday and re-found, to my disappointment, that mistletoe only has a bit part. Indeed the un-named narrator (the inference being it is P.D.James herself, though the biographical details don’t match) acknowledges this from the start, excusing the title on the basis that she likes alliteration. The story is a classic country house mystery with a body in the locked library. The sole role given to mistletoe is a place to hide a key, an action that is given away by the clue of some dislodged berries on the floor below the library door. Which is fine, except that, in reality, mistletoe berries mostly stay in place. But fiction is fiction (assuming of course, that in this case it is…). To make up for the disappointment I looked out more stories of mysterious mistletoe misconduct and seized upon The Necklace of Pearls, a story by Dorothy L Sayers (a chapter in the anthology Hangman’s Holiday published in 1933). No mention of mistletoe in the title but it does play a major role. This story is also set in a country house where, after dinner one Christmas, a string of pearls is found to be missing. Lord Peter Wimsey, the aristocrat detective, takes charge and everyone is searched. No pearls are found. But Wimsey works it out. A day or two later he gets his man by showing that the pearls had been pinned to some mistletoe, where they would look just like berries, to be collected at leisure. Ingenious. Though not really that unusual, not for us mistletoe people anyway. When I used to supply mistletoe I often had summer time requests from advertisers doing Christmas shoots for TV or magazines. They wanted real mistletoe, but in August. This could be supplied, no problem, but of course it wouldn’t have the pearlescent white berries that make it extra distinctive. So we would advise them to glue or pin artificial pearls onto the plants, no-one would tell the difference as long as it was only a background decoration.
Grow your own pearlescent berries with a Mistletoe Grow-Kit from the English Mistletoe Shop.