Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide By Lois Winston: Review/Giveaway/Guest Post

Nov 16, 2019 | 2019 Articles, Kathleen Costa, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Kathleen Costa
& Lois Winston

We have our first 2 Christmas mystery reviews of the season up this week and this one is called Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide. We also have a fun guest post by Lois. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win an ebook copy of Homemade Ho-Ho Homicide, and a link to purchase it from Amazon.

Homemade Ho-Ho Homicide: An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery By Lois Winston
Review by Kathleen Costa

Crafty Cozy Creates Conundrums!
Anastasia Pollack, widow and mother, found it easier to be responsible for her husband’s debts and keeping his secrets, despite some personal peril, than being responsible for her octogenarian, pain-in-the-backside mother-in-law Lucille. So along with her two teenaged sons Alex and Nick, her own mom, a Shakespeare-quoting African Grey named Ralph, her mother-in-law’s French Bulldog Manifesto (AKA Mephisto or Devil Dog), photojournalist/boyfriend/suspected spy Zack, and annoying half-brother-in-law Ira with his trio of just plain annoying kids (Whew!), she lives a complicated life, works as crafts editor at American Woman magazine, and gets into loads of trouble with dead bodies, murder investigations, questionable family issues, and close scrutiny by local law enforcement, especially from Detective Spader. Add some crafting tips and projects, and…What could be more entertaining?

Christmas mysteryHandmade Ho-Ho Homicide earns 5/5 Santa Sleighs…Clever, Engaging Fun!
It may be the Christmas season, for sure, but when your house is the victim of an overzealous “Secret Elf” named Ira, it seems enough should be enough! But, when taking the decorations back to the “Elf,” they discover another over-the-top Christmas display with a blinding lights and loud music, gawkers choking the streets, and Anastasia’s late husband’s half-brother, Ira Pollack, in the middle of some angry neighbors! Then… KAPOW! Out of nowhere, someone punches Ira right in the face. Kids call 9-1-1, but the man disappears as the cops arrive. The assault happened so quickly, Anastasia and other witnesses don’t seem to be able to identify the culprit beyond “average.” No problem…The next morning, when Anastasia tries again to return the unwanted decorations, she finds a body, in the sleigh, on Santa’s lap, covered with snow. That’s the man! Ira could very well be the best person of interest, but her family-in-law’s pedigree and other discoveries into criminal connections could make the suspect list much longer. Anastasia needs to sort through all of this and prep for Christmas…multi-tasking at its best!

Merry Crises! Lois Winston has brought back Anastasia’s delightful first-person narrative of family, friends, dysfunction, and murder, and made it again very entertaining! With descriptive language and dialogue perfect for each character, the murder mystery is well-written and steady-paced with some misdirections, more peril, dead ends, more danger, kidnappings, and a mother-in-law that would cause anyone to go crazy! Accenting an already entertaining read, Anastasia’s clever quips, fun stories, and well-deserved digs kept me smiling, and reading the many funny parts to my husband…does that count as two thumbs up in one? Anastasia, her boys, and Zac are enjoyable, but the chilly weather has invaded their “Peace on Earth” with conflicts and talks of “I know a guy who knows a guy!” to deal with the antics of the mother-in-law, her friend, Ira, and his kids. Wow! Can you spell M-O-B? What a great journey!

Just in time for the holidays…Anastasia’s Repurposed Greeting Card Crafts. Lois provides easy-to-follow directions for 3-D Ball Garlands, 3-D Ornaments, Triangular Flag Garlands, Triptych Wall-hanging Photo Frame, Greeting Card Wreath, and DIY Decorative Gift Bags. For additional ideas check out Anastasia’s Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog, the blog of Anastasia Pollack, crafts editor, and reluctant amateur sleuth.

Be a Big Lois Winston Fan!
USA Today bestselling author Lois Winston is quite the accomplished writer. Along with her cozy crafted now nine-book Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, she pens a three-book Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mini-Mysteries and a two-book Empty Nest Mystery series. She also writes five romantic suspense, romance, and Chick Lit books under the name Emma Carlyle along with three novellas and short story collections, a children’s chapter book, four non-fiction books, and has joined in four multi-author Romance Super Bundle boxed sets. But writing is not all. She is also an award winning designer of needlework and craft projects for various publications and craft kit manufacturers. She channeled Anastasia Pollack for several years as a crafts editor and uses her art and design background as source material in her fiction. Her writing style and creative “crafty” eye makes her Anastasia Pollack Mystery series a Top Ten favorite of mine!

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Kathleen Costa is a long-time resident of the Central Valley, and although born in Idaho, she considers herself a “California Girl.” Graduating from CSU-Sacramento, she is a 35+ year veteran teacher having taught in grades 1-8 in schools from Sacramento to Los Angeles to Stockton to Lodi. Currently Kathleen is enjoying her retirement revitalizing hobbies along with exploring writing, reading for pleasure, and spending 24/7 with her husband.

Fool Me Once…
By Lois Winston

I recently finished reading an Agatha Christie mystery, and it got me thinking about my first encounter with Dame Agatha. It was decades ago when I saw Murder on the Orient Express, well before I’d ever thought of writing any novels, let alone mysteries.

I have this maddening habit of being able to figure out whodunit very early on in a mystery. Doesn’t matter if it’s a book, movie, or TV episode. My husband has made me promise not to say a word while we’re watching mysteries, even if he says something like, “He’s the killer, right?” I have to remind him that I’m not supposed to offer an opinion until the credits roll so that I don’t spoil the ending for him.


Lois Winston

I once attended a screenwriting workshop where the instructor asked us to raise our hands if we’d figured out the ending to The Sixth Sense before the dramatic conclusion of the movie. Mine was the only raised hand. Not only had I figured out the ending ahead of time, I’d figured it out during the first scene of the movie. Was I the only person on the planet who put two and two together, having been bombarded for weeks by the trailer of Haley Joel Osment saying, “I see dead people”?

But back to Murder on the Orient Express

As I sat watching the movie, to my utter shock and amazement, I couldn’t figure out whodunit! Not only couldn’t I figure out whodunit, but then Dame Agatha threw me one huge curveball of an ending. I remember thinking, “Well done!”

This knack for ferreting out whodunit is a trait I believe I inherited from my grandfather. Grandpa Ben was a police detective and then captain of a major metropolitan police force back in the heyday of gangsters and organized crime. He was responsible for helping bring down some notorious felons. Who knows? If I’d been born a few years later, I might have gone into police work, but back when I was contemplating a career, that option wasn’t even on my radar.

There’s an old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” This might be true for many things but not for well-written mysteries. If a mystery author fools me, that author has a fan for life. Even though Anastasia Pollack, my own amateur sleuth from my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, is far more Stephanie Plum than Miss Marple, Dame Agatha will always hold a special place in my heart for being the first mystery author able to fool Ben Schaffer’s granddaughter. I can only hope my own mysteries give readers the kind of wonderful surprise she gave me all those years ago.

To enter to win an ebook copy of Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “ho-ho,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 23, 2019. If entering via comment please include your email address. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also check our our new mystery podcast which features mystery short stories and first chapters read by local actors. A new episode goes up next week!

You can use this link to purchase this book from Amazon. If you have ad blocker on you may not see the link:

Opens to author website

USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is a former literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry. You can learn more on her website.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. Thanks so much for the glowing review of Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide and for featuring me today on KRL!

  2. I love cozy mysteries and Christmas books. I’d love to read Ho-Ho Christmas.

    • Good luck in the drawing, Jeanne! I hope you’ll give the book a try, even if you don’t win. 😉

      And FYI, Drop Dead Ornaments, the 7th book in the series is currently on sale for only .99 cents.

  3. Sounds great. Christmas is the time for crafts. Count me in the drawing!

  4. Glen, since for much of my life I made a living designing crafts, I like to think of any time of year being perfect for crafts. Good luck in the drawing!

  5. Trying this again…I left replies to Jeanne and Glen’s comments yesterday, but they don’t seem to have gone through. 🙁

    Thank you both for stopping by and commenting. Best of luck in the drawing!

  6. This sounds wonderful. Thanks for the contest. ckmbeg (at) gmail (dot) com

    • Thank you, Carol! Good luck in the drawing.

  7. As an author of mysteries myself, I was interested in your comment about figuring out the killer/culprit early on in the story. I would hope that my stories hold that same appeal of keeping readers guessing to the end. Black Cat Mysteries and Mrs. Odboddy mysteries (WWII elderly sleuth)
    Your story sounds fun and madcap, another similarity. Best wishes in your writing journey.

    • Thank you, Elaine! I’m not familiar with your books. I’ll have to check them out.

  8. New author to me. Sounds like a great holiday read.

    • Thanks, Dianne! I hope you’ll give the series a try.

  9. I love seasonal themed mysteries.

    • Dianne, I hope you’ll get to know Anastasia and her madcap family. Thanks for stopping by.

  10. Unlike Lois I have only figured out who the killer was one time.

    I did not ready any other mysteries by that author!

    Always great to have a new Christmas mystery available.

    karen94066 at aol dot com

    • Karen, there are now two Christmas mysteries in my series, and Drop Dead Ornaments, the one that came out last year is currently on sale for only .99 cents.

  11. Sounds like a fun read.

    • Thanks, Doward! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  12. Sounds like it’s a wonderful book and fun to read. I like Christmas ? books. Thank you for the chance

    • Thank you, Donamae! Good luck in the drawing

  13. This is a new Author who sounds great and I love ebooks as much as print. Thank you for any chance.
    Marilyn ewatvess@yahoo.com

    • I hope you’ll give my series a try, Marilyn. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  14. Cozy Mysteries written around a holiday season are fun reads. However the thought of a dead body on Santa’s lap in Santa’s sleigh is just so wrong. Lois Winston is a creative writer and I am hoping the way it’s written will be done tastefully.

    • Rest assured, Robin, there’s nothing graphic in the scene. It’s quintessential Anastasia.

  15. Yes please, I’ve enjoyed Lois’s writing for many years. Sadly the only book I do own of here is the cookbook. I’d love to add this one to my library and build from there.

    • Good luck in the drawing, Nora-Adrienne!

  16. We have a winner!


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