31 December 2015
A Death in Christmas Town
Rest Ye Murdered Gentlemen, Vicki Delany
This is the anticipated first book in a series taking place in Rudolph, a New York town near Lake Ontario, which has fashioned itself as an all-year-round "Christmastown" after its connection to the War of 1812 ended a bit ignominiously (that's a pretty amusing story, too). Our protagonist, Merry Wilkinson (her dad is named Noel since he was born on Christmas Day) runs the high-end gift shop Mrs. Claus' Treasures, and as the story opens, her float in the town's annual Christmas parade almost doesn't make it in the queue due to its transport not working, just the first in a series of mysterious mishaps. Then, later, after a non-alcoholic post parade party, a reporter from an international travel magazine, in town to do a story on Rudolph, is found dead in the park. Initial verdict: he was poisoned by a gingerbread cookie made by Merry's best friend Vicky, owner of the town bakery.
This is a middle-of-the-road cozy which I didn't love, but didn't hate. I do like the idea of a Christmas town, the main character is appealing (although I think her dog contributes nothing to the plot and it seems she's always leaving him home alone to work or do other things), and there are enough red herrings: a woman determined to oust the local mayor, a jealous boyfriend, and the citizens of Muddle Harbor, one town over, which is economically depressed and no competition for Rudolph—unless its food can't be trusted. Plus I really enjoyed some of the supporting characters, especially Merry's dad (who should be working in her shop, as he always magically seems to know what customers want) and her retired opera-singer mother (who reminded me a lot of Hilary Booth from Remember WENN). Tiresomely, however, Merry's got two gorgeous guys fighting over her, which tends to trip the story into romance fantasyland occasionally, and there seems to be the usual stock characters (nosy landlady, aggressive opponent, etc.) tossed in the mix.
However, I love Christmas, and just the idea of a Christmas town and the characters I do like will overcome what I don't like. Put me down for the next one, too.