by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
This week we have 2 more Christmas mysteries for your holiday reading in this post, plus a few more Christmas mysteries also up in KRL and KRL News and Reviews this week-Christmas Candy Corpse: A Courtney Archer Mystery by Rosemarie Ross & Murder at the Mistletoe Ball: A Ferrara Family Mystery by J. D. Griffo. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of both books and links to purchase them at the end of each review–you may not be able to see the Amazon links if you have ad blocker on.
Christmas Candy Corpse: A Courtney Archer Mystery by Rosemarie Ross
Review Cynthia Chow
After finally admitting to her fraudulent identity as the non-farming host of “Cooking with the Farmer’s Daughter,” Courtney Archer continues to be embraced by her audience and even signed on to become one of the hosts of “The American Baking Battle.” Their upcoming special Christmas edition has them all at the Coal Castle Resort in Poconos, Pennsylvania, where six bakers compete in three challenges of candy-making, cookie baking, dessert-making. They are barely through their first filming episode when there’s a disruption involving director Kinzy Hummel, the first sign that this holiday show will not go smoothly. Indeed, it’s not long after an obnoxious attorney is dragged off the set that Courtney discovers Kinzy’s body, strangled to death with an apron. Truly unfortunate is that the apron happens to be part of a new product line designed by Shannon Collins, one of the competition’s judges and who has recently become Courtney’s good friend.
Courtney begins to question the trustworthiness of their friendship when Shannon seems unstable and acts out irrationally, becoming very defensive when called out on it. Her refusal to admit that anything is wrong is alarming, especially when Courtney fears that Shannon may be jeopardizing her marriage. While Courtney’s maybe-boyfriend Eric Iverson encourages her to reach out to Shannon, he warns Courtney away from investigating the murder, as her previous encounters have nearly gotten her killed. His role as her producer does complicate their relationship, and Courtney is still hesitant to fully commit or announce their dating status. Her hormonally-charged attraction to the show’s Head of Security Drake Nolan may factor into this slightly, but she’s more concerned over her and Eric’s rather smooth and unexciting transition from friends to something more. While Courtney attempts to sort out her relationships behind the scenes, in front of the cameras tempers are flaring while chocolate is tempered as the contestants battle during what should be a celebration of their families’ holiday traditions.
This third in the series would be just as entertaining if it focused only the baking competition and the interactions between competitors and judges and not on the murder mystery. The author skillfully builds up the suspense and drama for each cooking challenge, and the commentary by the judges reveals much about all of the participants. Considering the complexities involved in the candies and cookies prepared by the chefs, it shouldn’t be surprising that no recipes are included in the novel. There are more than enough descriptions of the flavors and aromas from the treats to please foodies though, with an abundance of gingerbread houses, filled cookies, and fudge candies spread throughout the competition. Readers will be as frustrated with Shannon’s behavior as Courtney, yet the explanation for it turns out to be unexpected and not the one that first comes to mind. Each of the three challenges are as exciting as the reveal of the final culprit, making this an enticing Christmas-themed novel with the bonus of it also being a lively murder mystery.
Murder at the Mistletoe Ball: A Ferrara Family Mystery by J. D. Griffo
Review by Sandra Murphy
Alberta Scaglione hasn’t seen her adult daughter in years. After the way they ended things, Alberta hasn’t tried to reach out. Of course, Lisa Marie hasn’t either. At least Alberta’s granddaughter, Jinx, is staying with her in Tranquility.
When an unsigned Christmas card arrives with a message, ‘I need you’, Alberta is sure it’s from Lisa Marie. There’s no way to reach the family until, surprise, they turn up in Tranquility, too. Lisa Marie’s son, Sergio, hasn’t been seen for six months. He fell in love with Natalie and given a choice between home and true love, he chose love. Last anyone heard, he and Natalie were headed for New York City. The irony of the situation is not lost on Alberta and Lisa Marie. True love is the reason Lisa Marie left town years ago.
It looks like Lisa Marie’s choice was much better than Sergio’s. Natalie seems to be involved with unsavory people. Sergio is sighted, sneaks away to rejoin Natalie, and the hunt is on. Again.
It is Christmas so the family attends a fundraiser for the hospital to take their minds off Sergio’s drama for one night at least. It doesn’t work out that way. As the festivities begin, one of the snowman decorations begins to list to one side. Before anyone can stop it, it falls to the floor and splits open, spilling out is one very dead Natalie. Standing over Frosty and Natalie is Sergio and he’s got a bloody knife in hand. The good news is he’s been found. The bad news is, he’s the prime suspect for murder.
This is book six in the series. Alberta thought life in her later years would be calm, if not boring. Then she inherited a house from her aunt, had her granddaughter move in, found a few dead bodies, totally by accident, and well, the next thing you know, she’s solving crimes. Her family drives her crazy, but what are you going to do? Familia!
Being Italian, of course, Alberta will share recipes – calamari stuffed with crabmeat, gluten-free struffoli (honey balls), marinated anchovies, and chocolate panforte, full of candied fruits and chocolate.
To enter to win a copy of both books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “pair” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 11, 2021. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If you are entering via email please include you mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. You can read our privacy statement here if you like. BE AWARE THAT IT MAY TAKE MUCH LONGER THAN USUAL FOR WINNERS TO GET THEIR BOOKS DUE TO THE CURRENT CRISIS.
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 listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. A new Christmas episode goes up next week.
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