Holiday Mystery Book Reviews

Dec 17, 2011 | 2011 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze, Sandra Murphy

by Sandra Murphy

Enjoy some more holiday book reviews for the season! At the end of this article is a special discount for KRL readers on Classical Coffee.

A Puzzle in a Pear Tree by Parnell Hall

This is one of the most convoluted plots around, with rotating Virgin Marys, Josephs, and a cast of unknown numbers singing and dancing the “Twelve Days of Christmas” with multiple stage lefts, rights, exits and entrances. They’re all suspects! Three dead bodies, multiple puzzles to solve–full of clues—and you’ll never see the solution until the very last pages.

This is an oldie but a goodie from 2003. If you missed it then, now’s the time to make a cup of Earl Gray Breakfast tea, sit back and read an American mystery with a British accent.

Candy Cane Murders by Joanne Fluke

Three-in-one! In this 2007 book, you get Candy Cane Murders by Joanne Fluke, The Danger of Candy Canes by Laura Levine and Candy Canes of Christmas Past by Leslie Meier.

Since Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swenson refers to her morning coffee as Swedish Plasma, brew up a pot of Swedish Blend coffee which has a fuller taste because of the different coffees used and the addition of French roast, but not heavy enough to have a smoky taste—smooth but stronger than a medium roast coffee. Guaranteed to keep you alert enough to follow the clues to the real murderer.

Santa, in the form of Lake Eden’s stingiest man, has been conked over the head and left behind a huge snow bank. How was the body found? By following the trail of candy canes of course.

The shorter lengths of these three stories make them ideal for holiday reading when you need a little relaxation but don’t have a lot of time to spare. You’ll love the recipes Fluke provides.

The Danger of Candy Canes by Laura Levine

Decorating a home for the holidays cannot only be stressful and competitive, it can be murder. Garth Janken takes a fall from his roof and the widow blames the roofer, client of advertising writer Jaine Austen (no relation). Jaine looks into the death, discovers it’s really murder, and snacks her way through casual interrogations. She not only solves the murder but reveals a fraud no one had suspected. Warm up with a cup of Peppermint Herbal tea and snack vicariously with Jaine to the solution.

Candy Canes of Christmas Past by Lesley Meier

Lucy is new in town. Life with a toddler, a baby on the way, no relatives or friends nearby, and a fixer-upper of a house can get the strongest woman down. When the oven won’t stay lit long enough to make her favorite Spritz cookies, Lucy takes a break and heads to the library—haven’t we all? Miss Tilley, head librarian, invites Lucy to bake at her house and over sherry, tells the mystery of her own mother’s death. Lucy’s intrigued but can she really find out the facts of a very cold case before the holidays? Curl up with a cup of Cinnamon Sticky Bun coffee or chill out with Mellow Moments tea, nibble on old fashioned cinnamon Sand Tart cookies (recipe in the book) and find out who really done it!

Gingerbread Cookie Murder is another triple shot of three novellas in one book by Joanne Fluke, Laura Levine, and Leslie Meier

Joanne Fluke delivers a dead body in the snow, a potluck dinner with recipes and holiday spirit. Published in 2004, if you missed it then, catch up now. Recipes include sausage stuff mushrooms, radish soup, cranberry muffins, Delores’ E-Z lasagna, not-so-Swedish meatballs, cherry bomb cookies and jalapeno brownies—the result of a prank Hannah played on Mike. It backfired when Mike liked the heat in the chocolate.(Gingerbread Cookie Murders)

Laura Levine’s Jaine Austen not only is visiting her parents in the retirement community but is pressed into service to help with the play being put on for the holidays. When the playboy of the retirement home falls off the stage, dead, it’s up to Jaine to figure out who-dun-it. Was it a jealous woman, a miffed husband or someone from his past? (Dangers of Gingerbread Cookies)

Leslie Meier presents a missing five-year-old boy named Nemo, his dead father and a race against time before the murderer can strike again. Following a trail of gingerbread crumbs, Lucy Stone once again leads us to the killer.(Gingerbread Cookies and Gunshots)

In A Catered Christmas Isis Crawford (2005) puts a little darker twist on the holidays when a television cooking show host is killed by an exploding oven filled with Christmas ornaments, so NOT the secret ingredient. A second murder soon follows—death by Christmas lights? The list of suspects and motives is long but Bernadette and Libby, with the help of their boyfriends, Dad and Clive the police detective, cook their way to a solution.

Great recipes included. (Note: Do NOT put a camera and Christmas ornaments in the oven.)

Comment on this article and get 10% off any coffee/teas mentioned from Sandy’s Classical Coffee site.

If you love mysteries, why not check out Left Coast Crime:
Mystery Conference in Sacramento, March 29-April 1, 2012.Registration through 12/31/2011 is only $210 (it goes up to $225 after that). Registration information can be found at the conventionwebsite, or by sending an email to or

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the arch, in the land of blues, booze and shoes—St Louis, Missouri. While writing magazine articles to support her mystery book habit, she secretly polishes two mystery books of her own, hoping, someday, they will see the light of Barnes and Noble.


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