by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
This week we have a fun group of 3 Christmas mysteries from Penguin authors-Murder on St. Nicholas Avenue by Victoria Thompson, Trimmed with Murder by Sally Goldenbaum, and The Iced Princess: A Snow Globe Shop Mystery by Christine Husom. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win all 3 books & a link that you can use to purchase them.
Murder on St. Nicholas Avenue by Victoria Thompson
Review by Sandra Murphy
Frank and Sarah, ex-police detective and ex-midwife (they inherited money), have tied the knot and are off on a long honeymoon in Europe. That leaves Frank’s mother to care for his son, Maeve to act as nursemaid for Sarah’s daughter, and Gino back on the police force.
When Mrs. O’Neill arrives on the doorstep to ask for help, Maeve feels it’s her duty to say yes. Besides, she needs a change from being nursemaid. Gino is delighted to help since that means he gets to spend time with Maeve as well as away from his real job. The police force has more crooks on the payroll than a crime family. Mrs. Decker, Sarah’s mother, has helped in the past, without the knowledge of her husband. He’s stuffy and would never understand.
It seems Una O’Neill, now Pollack, has been married about three months. Since the wedding, Mrs. O’Neill hasn’t seen Una by orders of the new husband. It doesn’t look like Una lacks for anything—she has a new home in Harlem, servants, new furniture and clothing. Why then, is she found sitting on the parlor floor, covered in blood, cradling her dead husband in her arms? She claims to remember nothing of that day and didn’t speak after her arrest, even to the lawyer her mother hired.
Maeve and Mrs. O’Neill went to the house to get a change of clothes for Una. While Mrs. O’Neill packed, Maeve snooped—and hit the jackpot when she found she could open the safe. There was over $37.000 on hand. Maeve had never seen so much money.
Una can’t even tell people what kind of job her new husband had. He didn’t think it proper to discuss business with her. Basically, she was a trophy wife, there to show off and nothing more. Of course, when she displeased him, it was his right to beat her so she would remember to do better the next time.
It would look like a case of self-defense but those kind of rules didn’t apply back then. Mrs. Decker is able to help with the servants. After all, she’s gentry and that makes her an authority figure to them. Gino uses his charm and wit to get answers. Maeve relies on snooping. When they hit a wall in finding out anything, Mrs. Decker suggests asking her husband. Little does she know, he’s almost as intrigued by investigating as she is.
With Frank and Sarah on their honeymoon, it’s a great opportunity for readers to get to know the side characters. Maeve is a delight and the potential for romance with Gino is fun to watch. Mr. and Mrs. Decker may look like and act like gentry but have the snoop gene as well. Even Mrs. Malloy, Sarah’s mother, lightens up a little.
The mystery comes to a satisfactory end just before Frank and Sarah’s return at Christmas time. Maeve even bought some of those new-fangled electric lights for the tree—what will they think of next?
This is book eighteen in the series. It takes readers back to a time when upstairs and downstairs didn’t meet—unless there was a murder and an opportunity to find out who done it. Each have their own ways of finding out what happened and without working together, murderers would go unpunished.
Trimmed with Murder by Sally Goldenbaum
Review by Sandra Murphy
Nell, her niece Izzie, their friends Cass and Daniel who are mostly a couple, Birdie, an older woman who knows everyone in town, Nell’s husband Ben, Esther the dispatcher at the police department, Sam who belongs to Izzie, Abby their charming toddler and Red, their dog, are back in a holiday tale. They say a mystery starts when someone comes to town or leaves town. In this case, it’s a double homecoming—Charlie, Izzie’s brother, is finally home after years of self-exile. With him is Amber Harper, a hitchhiker he picked up during a rainstorm.
Amber brings her own storm with her. She’s related to the Cummings family, the ones who own seven or eight plant nurseries. Lydia, the matriarch, died recently and stipulated in her will that all the recipients be on hand to hear it read. Amber doesn’t think she’ll inherit much but shows up anyway, to find closure over her mother’s death. After all, it will only take a day or two.
She didn’t count on Charlie, who’s an attractive guy. She’s pretty prickly but they seem to get along well. It’s apparent that the rest of the family doesn’t want her around and would just as soon pay her to leave town.
Amber’s inheritance is larger than she thought it would be—she’s now the owner of one of the nurseries. Considering her grandmother ignored her since birth, that’s a surprise. Lydia blames Ellie, Amber’s mom, for her son’s death and unfortunately, Amber looks a lot like her mother.
Once Amber starts to look at the company’s books, her mother’s death, and finds new friends, it looks like her luck has changed—until her body is found during a Christmas celebration.
Nell and friends have figured out cases before and this time, think that following in Amber’s footsteps, they can do it again. It’s hard to understand everything Amber was doing though while keeping Charlie from becoming a suspect. It looks like he’s home to stay and they want to keep it that way.
Nell and Ben are an older couple, obviously still in love and active in the community. Friends drop by on Friday nights for impromptu dinners or Sunday mornings for breakfast brunch, whether at a restaurant or for Nell’s cooking. On Thursday evenings, it’s knitting time at Izzie’s yarn shop—with a lot of good food. After all, they’re in Sea Harbor so fresh seafood is a given.
The close friendship between the women is to be envied. This is a small town where everyone pitches in to help each other and is happy to do so. You’d want to stop at the yarn shop (go on a Thursday night for help with knitting bloopers or to learn a new stitch—and the food) as well as Nell’s house for her good cooking or Ben’s grilling (in any weather). Birdie’s housekeeper, Ella, contributes as well. The rest of them? It’s a good thing they can rely on good restaurants, Nell and Ella!
The mystery is a good one. I did figure out the killer’s identity and most of the motive but it makes no difference. More than a puzzle, this book is about friends. Reading it feels like going home for the holidays.
In the back of the book, there’s a pattern for a knitted sailboat ornament for the tree and the recipe for Nell’s easy pork tenderloin.
The Iced Princess: A Snow Globe Shop Mystery by Christine Husom
Review by Cynthia Chow
A scandal in Washington, D.C. may have cut short her career in politics, but it was her mother’s illness that sent Camryn Brooks back home to Brooks Landing, Minnesota to run her parents’ Curio Finds shop. Specializing in new-and-used snow globes, Cam adores the delightful dioramas that remind her of her beloved late mother.
As Black Friday approaches heralding the start of the holiday shopping season, Cam and her best friend Alice “Pinky” Nelson consider hiring new staff to help run their adjoining store and coffee shop. They didn’t expect to immediately have two candidates volunteer to apply, the first being their old high school classmate Molly Dalton, soon followed by retiree Emmy Anders. Known to the rest of their peers as the “princess,” Molly had transformed from a once shy and studious introvert into a fluttery, pampered wife of a wealthy attorney. Although Pinky and their friends Erin Vickerman and police officer Mark Weston have their doubts about both new employees, Cam is willing to give them a trial period; with disastrous results. The two women get along like oil and water, but before Cam can intervene she is devastated to discover Molly’s body in the store’s bathroom.
Cam justifiably worries that Molly’s death may lead to a lawsuit, so despite warnings from assistant police chief Clinton Lonsbury, Cam begins looking into reasons for why someone permanently iced the princess. Even more disconcerting is that Molly was poisoned while wearing Cam’s old clothes, clouding the issue of just who was the intended victim. Disturbing appearances by Cam’s former employer and the senator’s husband, both who blame Cam for their fall from grace, have Cam worrying that even more danger is in her future.
This second of the series continues to feature the same warm characters whose long familiarity with one another allows for good-natured banter and teasing. While one wishes that Cam would be more assertive and aggressive in her own defense, it is her big heart that makes her such an engaging and likable character. Her confusing and every-changing relationship with Clint add an element of spice to the narrative, while pennies from heaven and dreams of Molly bring in a dash of the paranormal. This is a sublime cozy novel to snuggle in with for the holidays, and readers will enjoy the warm friendships that can be found in Brooks Landing.
To enter to win a copy of all e books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Christmas,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 12, 2015. 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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