by Cynthia Chow
& Kate Carlisle
We start off the Christmas season with another Christmas mystery, Deck the Hallways by Kate Carlisle, along with a fun Christmas guest post by Kate. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Deck the Hallways. We also have a link to order it from Amazon, and from an indie bookstore where a portion goes to help support KRL.
Deck the Hallways: A Fixer-Upper Mystery by Kate Carlisle
Review by Cynthia Chow
Every year before Christmas, the residents of Lighthouse Cove work together to build a home for a needy family. This year not only will they be subdividing the enormous Forester House into units for fifteen fortunate families, but contractor Shannon Hammer is heading the entire project for the first time. Encompassing numerous contractors, decorators, and volunteers donating their time to Holiday Homebuilders, Shannon must organize and oversee the development from start to finish. While she knew this would lead to confrontations with obnoxiously micro-managing bank manager Peter Potter, she did not expect that it would also involve reigning in an enthusiastic brigade of reformed Santas. Shannon isn’t sure who to believe when a volunteer slaps and accuses a Santa of being inappropriate, but she is certain that Mr. Potter’s presence on the site will be nothing but trouble.
Although Mr. Potter had been doing his best impersonation of a Scrooge, even Shannon would not have placed his getting axed to death on her wish list. Far more upsetting was that Shannon’s father was the one who was witnessed very loudly and vehemently threatening the banker with a customized ax. Considering that Shannon’s dad ostensibly retired from Hammer Construction following a heart attack six years ago, she was more than a little concerned that the stress of a murder accusation could jeopardize his health. On a mission to complete the renovation before Christmas and keep her father out of the jail, Shannon once again finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation.
Even before the murder, Shannon had grown tired of her own cranky anti-holiday spirit. It had been a long forty-two days since celebrity thriller writer MacKintyre Sullivan left for a book tour and film location trip, and the fact that he hadn’t even sent a text was a harbinger of doom for their budding relationship. With longtime bête noir Whitney Gallagher still buzzing around to cast a cloud of snark, it will take more than Shannon’s delightful West Highland terrier Rob Roy to lift her spirits.
The prolific author of the Bibliophile Mystery series, Kate Carlisle can always be relied upon for a lead character whose wit is as finely honed as her intelligence. More than adept in the art of home construction, nothing gives Shannon more satisfaction than designing the perfect living spaces for her deserving clients. Since the victim is a despicable lout whom no one will miss, this holiday mystery can be thoroughly enjoyed without a glimmer of sympathy for the deceased. An unexpected bounty further guarantees that readers will be more than satisfied with the final resolution. Full of clever humor and more than one plot twist, this novel serves up equal amounts of generous holiday goodwill and delightfully entertaining characters.
Christmas Traditions that Came from the Victorians (and One that Didn’t)
by Kate Carlisle
I write mysteries that are set today, but that have strong ties to the past. In the Bibliophile Mysteries, that connection comes through the rare books around which each murder revolves. In the Fixer-Upper Mysteries, the connection comes via the Victorian homes of Lighthouse Cove, California, homes that contractor Shannon Hammer brings back to life while solving murders.
Deck the Hallways is my latest Fixer-Upper Mystery, and the first one to be set at Christmas. I was especially excited because in my mind, “Victorians” and “Christmas” go hand-in-hand. Many of the traditions we celebrate today originated in Victorian times.
The first commercial Christmas card ever was commissioned by Henry Cole and illustrated by John Callcott Horsley in 1843. The three-panel artwork shows two acts of charity and a cheerful family in the center toasting the holiday. The temperance people were not amused, especially about the young child at the center who is ? let’s be honest ? guzzling a glass of wine.
But perhaps the controversy fueled sales. Within the decade, Queen Victoria herself was sending Christmas cards to her mailing list. By the 1880s, millions of Christmas cards were being produced worldwide every year.
In 1840, Queen Victoria married her first cousin, Prince Albert, of Germany. (That’s not quite as disturbing as this: Albert’s father’s second wife was his own niece.) Albert brought with him the tradition of decorating a tree as a symbol of life during the long, cold winter. Within ten years, an illustration of the royal family around a decorated tree captured the world’s imagination, making the Christmas tree an upper-crust must in status-conscious Victorian England…which, as always, soon swayed those across the Atlantic, too.
In the early 19th century, small gifts were typically exchanged at New Year. Imagine making children wait that long! By mid-century, Christmas had eclipsed New Year and the date for gift-giving moved accordingly.
Wrapping Paper (the One that Didn’t)
For a time, wealthier Victorians wrapped their gifts in wallpaper, but because it was difficult to use and because of its tendency to tear, brown paper was preferred, albeit elaborately decorated with bits of ribbon and whatnot. Then tissue paper became the norm. In 1917, two entrepreneurial young Americans, brothers Joyce and Rollie Hall, “invented” the commercial gift wrap we know and love. When the brothers’ stationery store ran out of tissue paper, they slapped a price tag on fancy French paper meant to line envelopes and were stunned by how quickly it sold out. The same thing happened the next year, so the following year, they went into production. Thus, Hallmark was born.
To enter to win a copy of Deck the Hallways, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “hallways,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 3, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
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