Murder for Christmas

Murder for Christmas

by Francis Duncan

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A festive mystery for the holiday season: mulled wine, mince pies… and murder

When Mordecai Tremaine arrives at the country retreat of one Benedict Grame on Christmas Eve, he discovers that the revelries are in full swing in the sleepy village of Sherbroome–but so too are tensions amongst the assortment of guests.

When midnight strikes, the partygoers discover that presents aren’t the only things nestled under the tree…there’s a dead body too. A dead body that bears a striking resemblance to Father Christmas. With the snow falling and suspicions flying, it’s up to Mordecai to sniff out the culprit–and prevent anyone else from getting murder for Christmas.

So yall may know that I am a sucker for holiday themed mysteries, especially Christmas (lets be honest..Halloween is really the only other holiday themed mysteries I read). So I scoured Audible for a fun Christmas mystery and stumbled on Murder for Christmas. I couldn’t say no to a snowy British Christmas, a historic home, and a dead Father Christmas. Murder for Christmas turned out to be the perfect holiday read!

I absolutely loved the setting! Mordecai Tremaine, amateur sleuth, is invited to a traditional Christmas at the country home of an acquaintance. The story takes place in a large historic home surrounded by snow and all the traditional holiday trimmings. It was fun wandering the halls investigating the inhabitants with Tremaine. Duncan does a fantastic job providing with a variety of unique and quirky characters that kept the story engaging. Most were steeped in layers that were slowly peeled off throughout the story. I found myself actively trying to figure out whodunnit and i as happy to be (mostly) surprised by the big reveal at the end. Also, the voice actor was fantastic! I definitely recommend the audio version of Murder for Christmas.

And, I liked Mordecai Tremaine. I loved that he secretly indulged in romance stories and that he couldn’t help but investigate those sharing the holiday with him. I especially enjoyed how kind he was. He was a gentleman to a fault and a romantic dreamer. The writing can be a bit pushy and a tad antiquated at times, but I have a feeling I will continue the series just because of Mordecai Tremaine.

I will note that Mystery lovers may find Tremaine to be very blunt and a tad heavy handed in his investigation. He was very forward with his questioning resulting in the people being questioned closing up on him on numerous occasions. I was initially irked at this style but eventually decided it was just part of his charm.

Murder for Christmas is the perfect story for those needing a little mystery during this holiday season. Let me know what mysteries you’re reading this weekend!

Merry Christmas!

Lindsay

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A Christmas Beginning

A Christmas Beginning

by Anne Perry

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Whatever the season, a new novel by bestselling author Anne Perry is always a wonderful gift, but her holiday novels are particularly special treats, and A Christmas Beginning is a deeply felt story of passion and redemption.

Superintendent Runcorn of Scotland Yard is spending Christmas on the wild and beautiful island of Anglesey off the north coast of Wales. On one of his solitary strolls, the lonely bachelor stumbles upon a lifeless body in the village churchyard. The unfortunate victim is quickly identified as Olivia Costain, the local vicar’s younger sister.

In life, Olivia had been a free spirit, full of charm and grace. For Runcorn, she is a haunting reminder of Melisande Ewart, the one woman he’s never been able to forget. Everyone on Anglesey is quick to insist that only a stranger to the island could have committed the heinous crime. But the evidence proves otherwise, and the unpopular work of discovering who among Olivia’s friends and neighbors–and numerous eligible suitors–is a ruthless killer falls to Runcorn. A plebian outsider in the drawing rooms of the snobbish local gentry, Runcorn never dreams that the key that will unlock the secrets of Olivia’s life and death may also, miraculously, open the door to a new future for himself.

Last December I was struggling to find a historical fiction novel that had a good mystery and involved Christmas in some form. Goodreads kept recommending Anne Perry, and I picked up a few of her novels at the local library. Sadly, there was always something that had me putting the books down by the end of the first chapter. I just couldn’t embrace the characters, or the mystery didn’t intrigue me. I finally picked up the audio version of A Christmas Beginning and it satisfied my Christmas mystery needs.

I won’t provide a summary of the story as the synopsis above does a pretty good job, but I do want to start the review by saying that I wasn’t a huge fan of A Christmas Beginning. With that being said, I am going to state the positives first. I really liked Superintendent Runcorn. I found his gruff personality, subtle kindness, and struggles with self confidence endearing and I would probably love a tv show staring him. He wasn’t perfect, and that’s is what kept me reading. I also enjoyed the murder mystery. The brutality of Olivia Costain’s murder was shocking and stark for the setting, and it may seem morbid, but it was perfect. I was glued to the investigation because 1. I had to know why this murder happened the way it did and 2. I wanted Runcorn to succeed so badly.

Now, you may be asking why I wasn’t a huge fan of this novel after those last two points. It’s because of the writing style. There were times when the prose was tedious and repetitive, and I lost count of the number of times Runcorn was reminded of his social standing and the proper way of everything. Yes, I know it was a different time with different social rules and groups, but the reiteration of this point every few minutes was downright annoying. I also felt aspects of the investigation and reveal were too hurried, which in my opinion, diminished the brutal effect of Olivia’s murder. When I think back on the story months later my initial response is ‘eh.’

Will I be reading another Anne Perry Christmas story this December? Nope. But, I do want to hear from those who love this author and her stories as she is such a staple in the historical fiction community. Please let me know your recommendations, because I loved Runcorn enough to maybe give Perry another try.

What are you reading this Christmas?

Lindsay

Murder on Santa Claus Lane

Murder on Santa Claus Lane

by William G Bogart

Murder on Santa Claus Lane

G-Men Detective, January 1943
MURDER ON SANTA CLAUS LANE
by William G. Bogart

With a Blackout in Hollywood, Rookie Patrol Car Cop Johnny Regan Does Some X-Ray Work to See Through Crime!

Murder on Santa Claus Lane combines two of my typical December reading trends: Christmas mystery and crime noir/pulp fiction.  My love for Nero Wolfe has me slowly branching out to similar noir pieces and I found this short story through Barnes and Noble.  Murder on Santa Claus Lane has been publish in e-book format by Peril Press, an independent publisher based in Portland, and was initially printed in the January 1943 issue of the G-Men Detective Magazine.  This publication featured ‘G-Men’ crime stories and was produced from 1935 to 1953.  William G Bogart was a prolific crime novelist who worked on the Doc Savage novels. (Note: Limited research was involved so please feel free to correct me if I am wrong!)

Johnny Regan is a rookie patrol cop in Hollywood.  He is stuck working the streets over the Christmas holidays and is disappointed that air raids have the city blacked out.  He isn’t even able to enjoy the Christmas lights on patrol.  But, all thoughts of holiday cheer are forgotten when he and his partner, Big Ben Slattery, get tangled up in a holiday robbery.

Murder on Santa Claus Lane is a fun short story full of that classic noir flavor.  Regan is a young buck who is headstrong, cocky, and quite fond of shapely blondes.  Big Ben is his always-cheerful mentor.  Together, they scour the less wealthy streets of Hollywood for crime.  The passages just dripped with the raw imagery of the genre.  My imagination put me right there in the middle of the grainy black and white scene as the copper raced to help his cornered partner…  I love this genre!

Surprisingly, the story, and characters, are just a tad too flat for me.  Bogart was missing some essential descriptive language and I was left feeling that this was a short story he pinned for some extra dough and exposure.  I just couldn’t really connect with any of the characters and that is essential for short stories.  You want your readers invested by the end of the first paragraph.  There were a few continuity errors that forced me to re-read parts.  Just small things that left me thinking, “Where in the world did that flashlight come from?”  The story composition was just rough.

Murder on Santa Claus Lane is worth checking out if you are a fan of the genre.  I suggest something a tad bit more polished for those starting out in crime noir.  Hardboiled crime/crime noir is a rugged pulp fiction style that is definitely an acquired taste.  I love it!  The grittiness, clichés, and language push me to read more of the genre.  Any hardboiled crime/crime noir fans out there?  What is your favorite book?

Lindsay

Gingerbread Cookie Murder

Gingerbread Cookie Murder

by Joanne Fluke

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Nothing’s better on Christmas Eve than waiting for the stroke of midnight with a cup of eggnog and a plate of warm gingerbread cookies. This text presents a collection of three Christmas mystery stories.

I want to start this review by stating that I only read Gingerbread Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke and didn’t have time to read the short stories by Leslie Meier and Laura Levine. Nothing against the other ladies; I just didn’t have the time during the holidays to finish the second two short stories.

Gingerbread Cookie Murder follows Fluke’s leading lady, Hannah, as she tackles the Christmas holidays. She is slammed with cookie orders and stuck embracing her mother’s over active love life, but Hannah is still enjoying the season. That is until she discovers her obnoxious neighbor dead in his kitchen. Everyone deserves justice and Hannah sets out to find this Christmas killer!

I love a good cozy mystery but have avoided diving in to Fluke’s extensive series primarily because I lack the baking enthusiasm. I may have to remedy this because I enjoyed spunky Hannah!

Gingerbread Cookie Mystery was a fun read but you will figure out the culprit quite quickly. I don’t really understand our main character’s love triangle relationship, but that’s my fault for jumping in mid series. It was cute, funny, and full of delicious cookies!

I recommend reading now before those New Years resolutions kick in! Anyone a Joanne Fluke fan?

Lindsay

Starry Night

Starry Night

by Debbie Macomber

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’Tis the season for romance, second chances, and Christmas cheer with this new novel from Debbie Macomber.

Carrie Slayton, a big-city society-page columnist, longs to write more serious news stories. So her editor hands her a challenge: She can cover any topic she wants, but only if she first scores the paper an interview with Finn Dalton, the notoriously reclusive author.

Living in the remote Alaskan wilderness, Finn has written a mega-bestselling memoir about surviving in the wild. But he stubbornly declines to speak to anyone in the press, and no one even knows exactly where he lives.

Digging deep into Finn’s past, Carrie develops a theory on his whereabouts. It is the holidays, but her career is at stake, so she forsakes her family celebrations and flies out to snowy Alaska. When she finally finds Finn, she discovers a man both more charismatic and more stubborn than she even expected. And soon she is torn between pursuing the story of a lifetime and following her heart.

Filled with all the comforts and joys of Christmastime, Starry Night is a delightful novel of finding happiness in the most surprising places.

A couple of weeks ago I was in desperate need of a Hallmark style holiday romance read since I can no longer actually watch Hallmark movies (no cable). I knew Debbie Macomber was pretty much the queen of Christmas romances so I picked up Starry Night at the local library.

It was the perfect choice! Starry Night tells the love story of reclusive author Finn and vivacious reporter Carrie. I loved the snarky relationship development between Carrie and Finn while they are stuck in his Alaskan cottage. The nightly conversations between them and the dog kept me giggling and I love how sweet Carrie is despite Finn’s moodiness. I even love how protective she is over his feelings and privacy. I just couldn’t quit reading!

I finished Starry Night in one sitting but the best part of the story is Finn and Carrie in Alaska. I’m a sucker for the rugged snowy outdoors setting despite being a winter wimp in real life. I don’t like cold, but the setting was perfect. The story just kinda faltered for me once the main characters were back in the city. I think it’s because I identify more with Finn instead of Carrie. The magical aspect of building a relationship in the city together did not feel all that magical for me. There interactions were just a little too forced for me. I also wouldn’t have hesitated to relocate to Alaska, especially if, like Carrie, I wasn’t happy with my job and already planning on moving.

I did enjoy the read and found the relationship between the main characters sweet. It was cute story that focused on love, compromise, and the small important things. All wonderful points in my opinion. Plus, I wish Finn’s novel was real because I want to read it!

So, definitely pick up Starry Night if you’re in need of a sweet winter romance to chase away any holiday blues. Any Debbie Macomber fans out there? What is your favorite?

Lindsay

Holiday Loves: Christmas Episodes

Do y’all remember last years Christmas post series called Holiday Loves and Quirks? I shared some of my favorite aspects of the holidays and felt like resharing them! Feel free to share your favorite aspects of the Christmas!

Christmas Episodes

I collect favorite TV shows.  Just ask my husband; he has to put up with it on a daily basis.  Some shows come and go, but each year I find myself watching the same Christmas special episodes.  They never fail to put me in the Christmas spirit!  So, without further ado, here are my favorite four Christmas episodes.  Note: All images are from my Holiday Pinterest board.

Warehouse 13 – Secret Santa

(Season 2, Episode 13)

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Warehouse 13 is my all time favorite show.  Unfortunately, I don’t have enough time to discuss all the reasons why I love it this time around.  Myka and Pete are sent on an artifact retrieval in California while Claudia is determined to find the perfect gift for Artie.  Secret Santa focuses on the importance of family, specifically the relationship between father and child.  The artifact retrieval is gloriously outlandish as are Claudia’s antics.   The highlights of the episode are Judd Hirsch as Artie’s father and of the mention of the Christmas Truce of 1914 during World War I.

Eureka – O Little Town

(Season 4, Episode 10)

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Sheriff Jack Carter recalls the first Christmas he spent in Eureka in O Little Town.  He is stuck spending Christmas in pure Eureka style, which means the town is on the verge of disaster thanks to the perfect fruitcake!  O Little Town emphasizes that family is not just blood; family are those who are always there for you.  The whole community comes together to save Eureka from being wiped of the map.  Plus, Taggart as Santa….

Bones – The Man in the Fallout Shelter

(Season 1, Episode 10)

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I will always consider The Man in the Fallout Shelter one of the best Bones episodes of all time.  A 50 year old body is discovered in an atomic fallout shelter and brought to the lab.  A fungal spore is released from the bones leaving everyone stuck in the lab under quarantine.  The emphasis of this episode is, once again, family.  We learn the details of Brennan’s parents disappearing while the team works to uncover ‘Careful Lionel’s’ story.  The witty banter keeps you laughing, except during the revolving family scene.  I cry buckets every time!

Supernatural – A Very Supernatural Christmas

(Season 3, Episode 8)

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Sam and Dean Winchester must hunt down a cannibalistic Santa Claus.  YES!  A Very Supernatural Christmas is a surprisingly uplifting episode.  Yes the brothers must vanquish a pair of pagan gods, but we get to learn more about their childhood in the process.  It is Dean’s last Christmas thanks to a deal with the crossroads demon and he is determined to do it right.  Sam is forced to relive some painful childhood memories only to realize that Dean has always been there for him.  They end up spending a touching Christmas Eve in pure Winchester style.

Honorable Mentions:

Doctor Who and Psych!  Both series have a number of Christmas Specials that are usually watched in December.  I enjoy them as well.

I definitely recommend all of these if you are looking for a different type of Christmas show!  What are your favorite shows?  Do you have certain episodes that get watched yearly?

Lindsay

Holiday Loves: Christmas Decorations

Do y’all remember last years Christmas post series called Holiday Loves and Quirks? I shared some of my favorite aspects of the holidays and felt like resharing them! Feel free to share your favorite aspects of the Christmas!

Christmas Decorations

White Christmas lights have to be one of the greatest invention of all time.  They have always been my favorite and I cant help but feel all warm and happy when I see them.  This is a good thing because I am in charge of putting up, and taking down, our Christmas decorations.  My husband does not want to deal with them and I love organizing them all…it works!

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Simple is the key word for our decorations.  Our house isn’t big and we just don’t have the dough to compete with the Griswolds.  So our outdoor decorations are restricted to the bay window area and our indoor decorations are placed strategically around the living room.  We also reuse our decorations from year to year.  I made our stockings three years ago and we still use the fake tree I bought seven years ago during my first round of college.  We lovingly refer to it as our Charlie Brown tree.

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Our decorations have stories and some of our favorites are my husband’s homemade pieces.  Each were handcrafted by his grandparents.  They are a sweet reminder that one of the best parts of the holidays is spending time with family.  A reminder for us to ignore the frustration and stress we may feel during the season and to focus on the good parts.  They are a reminder that our loved ones remain with us years after they have gone.  Each one has a story to share.

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The decorations are simple.  And we wouldn’t want them any other way!  My favorite will always be my great-grandmother’s ceramic Christmas tree that has been the Christmas nightlight in my room since I was seven.  What are your favorite decorations?  What stories do they tell?

Lindsay

Christmas Music

Do y’all remember last years Christmas post series called Holiday Loves and Quirks? I shared some of my favorite aspects of the holidays and felt like resharing them! Feel free to share your favorite aspects of the Christmas!

Christmas Music

Today’s post is about Christmas music. I loved Christmas music as a kid and still couldn’t wait to start rocking out to my Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas CD during my first round of college. Then I worked in retail…and I never wanted to hear Christmas music ever again. All day. Everyday. For two months. There is only so many times you can listen to Grandma Got Ran Over By A Reindeer before you lose it! I spent years refusing to listen to Christmas music.

Then I heard Nat King Cole’s Christmas Song. That was all it took to get over my Christmas music hiatus. That song always induces happy tears. It was one of my grandpa’s favorites and a can see my Daddy Bill’s smiling face every time I hear it. How could I not listen to music that brings such wonderful, happy memories?

So now I’m back to listening to Christmas music, but I am still quite a picky connoisseur. I prefer Judy Garland’s Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas and my Christmas playlist includes Elvis, Dolly Parton, and Nat King Cole. I just can’t get in to the new pop versions of songs that insist on adding two-three syllables to each word! But I’m not completely archaic 😀 I do have some Kelly Clarkson and classic N’SYNC on that playlist, as well as the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Now I sing along at the top of my lungs!

So here is some music to brighten your day and I have included my favorite, Carol of the Bells. What is your favorite Christmas song? What happy memories do they hold for you?

Lindsay

Six Geese A-Slaying

Here are the reviews of the two Christmas stories I finished last month.  Sorry it took so long to get these to you!  Enjoy!

Six Geese A-Slaying

by Donna Andrews

 Six Geese A-Slaying (Meg Langslow, #10)

Meg and Michael’s house is serving as the marshaling point for the annual Caerphilly Christmas parade. The theme is “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” and it features twelve drummers from the school marching band, eleven bagpipers, ten leaping lords costumed in medieval finery from the college drama department, etc. There are also assorted Christmas-themed floats, a live nativity scene on a flatbed truck, the Three Wise Men on Caerphilly zoo camels, and Santa Claus in a bright red horse-drawn sleigh (eight reindeer were beyond the zoo’s scope).  Meg has been volunteered to organize the parade, which is to proceed from her house to the local campus, where Santa will take up residence to hear the Christmas wishes of the town’s children. Of course, getting all the camels, pipers, leapers, and drummers in order is proving every bit as difficult as Meg feared it would be. Then her nephew Eric, wide-eyed and ashen-faced, whispers, “Meg, something’s wrong with Santa.”  The local curmudgeon, whose beard and belly made him a natural for the role, has been murdered. Now Meg and Chief Burke, who is playing one of the wise men, are faced with the two-fold mission of solving the murder and saving Christmas!

Meg is the Mistress of the Revels, the woman in charge of the Caerphilly Holiday Parade.  This means that she is responsible for wrangling the town, and most of her family, in order to deliver the perfect parade.  All is surprisingly working out until Santa Claus, played by the rather unsavory Mr. Doleson, is murdered in the pig barn.  Meg’s farm is now a crime scene.  To make matters worse, it turns out that that Mr. Doleson has been blackmailing most of the town.  Everyone in the parade is a suspect, so Meg does her own snooping while keeping a big city reporter at bay.  It’s just a typical Caerphilly Christmas!

I always enjoy Andrews’ cozy-mysteries.  The curious and brutally honest Meg is a kindred spirit!  Just remember, these are cozy-mysteries, so don’t worry about how many murders occur on Meg’s farm over the series; just go with it!

Six Geese A-Slaying is the tenth book in the series and was just not as funny as I had expected.  The first novel in the series, Murder with Peacocks, had me crying I was laughing so hard.  This installment was good but I didn’t laugh until I peed myself.  Instead, I giggled some, smiled, and enjoyed a pleasant chapter or two each night.  The writing felt a tad rushed and the novel had a difficult time holding my attention with all the holiday craziness happening around me.  Also, the e-book version that I read had numerous continuity errors when it came to spelling, but I am sure this is not an issue for the printed copy.

I love the cast of characters, and that folks, is the reason why I keep coming back to this series.  The characters are wonderful and I feel like I am meeting up with old friends each time I read one of these books.  I adore Meg’s crazy family and her sweet husband.  My favorites are Meg’s dad and stubborn Meg!  These characters are real, funny, and just sincere through the entire series.  Here is one of my favorite excerpts (so much funnier in context):

 

“I was still standing on the back porch, adjusting to the cold and looking around for Clarence, when I heard Michael’s voice.

“This is Ernest,” Michael was saying.  “Our first llama.”

First llama?  I’d been referring to him as ‘the’ llama.”

This was the perfect Christmas cozy-mystery.  I enjoyed the description of the parade preparations and what could be better than the police chief riding a camel, Santa on a motorcycle, and 36 geese a-laying?  Are you a fan of Donna Andrews?  Which book is your favorite?

Lindsay