by Cynthia Chow
& Barbara Early
This week’s issue is packed full of more Christmas mysteries including Murder on the Toy Town Express by Barbara Early. We also have a fun holiday guest post by Barbara. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Murder on the Toy Town Express, and a link to purchase it from Amazon, and an indie bookstore where a portion of the sale goes to help support KRL.
Murder on the Toy Town Express: A Vintage Toyshop Mystery by Barbara Early
Review by Cynthia Chow
A costumed superhero takes a less-than-majestic flight in the second mystery featuring Liz McCall and the Well Played Vintage Toyshop. November’s East Aurora Train and Toy Show in Western New York is a profitable opportunity for Liz and her father to promote their vintage toys before the holiday season, but Liz never expected that her childhood nemesis would be hosting the comic book booth next to her. Craig McFadden tormented Liz since kindergarten, and would continue to bully and abuse her until finally disappearing into the foster system. The Craig’s Comics assistant Maxine seems amenable and willing to coax the feathers he ruffles, although it appears as though the event’s censorious security guard is the one spreading unhappiness throughout such a joyous and nostalgic event.
Craig was suited up as spandex-clad Mr. Inferno presumably as a publicity stunt, but unfortunately flight was not one of his superpowers. After a plunge lands him in the hospital and makes a destruction zone of a train set display, over ninety-thousand dollars worth of collectable comics go missing from his booth. This makes Craig’s initial fall look more than a little suspicious, especially when a multitude of shady characters seemed to be around the toy expo. Not in the least of these was Terry Wallace, a man Liz’s now-retired police chief once arrested for theft and was the reason Jack Wallace ended his relationship with Liz. They’ve since mended their relationship, although this complicates her friends-without-benefits situation with police chief Ken Young.
While many women wouldn’t mind having to choose between two extremely handsome, intelligent suitors, Liz would prefer to assist her father as he becomes the show’s temporary head of security. In the past Liz reprimanded her dad for seeming to have forgotten that he was the RETIRED chief of police, but this time she’s sullen about not being involved. So that explains how she hilariously ends up at a home cleaning product demonstration, meeting her favorite fantasy heroine, and learning more than she thought possible about the comic book industry.
Liz’s acerbic inner dialogue and turn of the phrase will have readers giggling and laughing out loud, while her father’s affection for puns make eyes roll. This latest in the series explores the world of train set collections, the art and business of comic book valuation, and the publishing industry. Liz does make a decisive romantic decision, but the results will not be what she expected. Financial intrigue, a unique Santa, and investigations conducted while playing board games will have readers clamoring for the next toy-centric mystery.
Memories of Christmas Past
by Barbara Early
It seems as if Scrooge wasn’t the only one visited with ghosts from his past around the holidays. From the time we carve the Thanksgiving turkey, leading right through ringing in the New Year, we are bombarded with traditions that often evoke vivid memories. Can one decorate the tree without remembering where each ornament came from? Every one is treasured, from the antique glass handed down from our grandparents to the construction paper and pinecone creations our children brought home from school.
When I set out to write a series of cozy mysteries set around a vintage toyshop at Christmas time, I suspected I’d have to research the types of toys valued by collectors and learn what made them valuable. But what I discovered, to my delight, is that value is derived most often from memories and the nostalgia they inspire.
Yes, toy collectors often make purchases considering the condition (and mint-in-box items will often bring more dollars), but you can’t walk around a vintage toy show for very long without hearing a squeal from someone who just spotted a treasured toy, just like the one they played with as a child. Depending on the age of the collector, that could be anything from antique tin to early Star Wars action figures, a Chatty Cathy doll to a Teddy Ruxpin. See, most people who’ve reached adulthood could claim they once owned what would now be considered a vintage toy collection.
Oh, and the memories they create! I spotted a Hoss action figure—or action man, as he was labeled back then—and instantly I was wading through mustard-yellow shag carpet to change the channel on our television—pre-remote control days—and the Cartwright brothers galloped into view.
A Mrs. Beasley doll inspired a bit of jealousy still. I’d wanted one after seeing it on Family Affair, but I never got one. My cousin did. Enough said.
So many finds trigger memories long forgotten. Sitting on the living room floor, putting together a cabin with Lincoln Logs, sticking Colorform pieces onto a colorful background, and opening the Fisher-Price barn door, just to hear the cow moo.
And the memories don’t stop forming when our own childhoods end. Those of us blessed with children and grandchildren see the toys and games that once sat under those Christmas trees, waiting for little feet to stampede down the stairs and little hands to rip off the bows, and tear open the colorful wrapping. We remember the hours spent playing Candy Land and Cootie and later Monopoly at the kitchen table, building elaborate Lego creations, and forming people and flowers and anything our imagination inspires us out of fragrant Play Dough.
A recent university study concluded that nostalgia promoted optimism and might even help combat the negative effects of dementia. I don’t know about that, but I can promise that a pleasant trip down memory lane might be just the thing to lift sagging holiday spirits.
To enter to win a copy of Murder on the Toy Town Express, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “toy town,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 16, 2017. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section.
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