Saturday, January 03, 2009

More Christmas mysteries

Bishop, Claudia. A Carol for a Corpse. New York: Berkley Prime Crime, 2007.

A bit to my surprise, this book goes down as one of my favorite Christmas mysteries. It's the latest in a series featuring sisters Sarah and Meg Quilliam, who run an inn in a small town in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. I've read the first two books in the series, but hadn't gone further. Finally, in reading this book, I remembered why. Sarah, the main character, oversees the general operations of the inn. Her sister Meg is the chef, and she can be completely OBNOXIOUS. Throwing things and basically acting like the rules of good behavior don't apply to her.

I loved the small town, winter setting of this book. The townspeople are quirky, and they and the town really do help make the book. I enjoyed the visitors to the inn as well. I enjoy the humor--it's not laugh-a-minute, but it's there. Fortunately, Sarah's pretty sympathetic. The book involves quite a bit of Christmas caroling--planning and rehearsal--always a bonus for me.

Hyzy, Julie A. Hail to the Chef. New York: Berkley Prime Crime, 2008.

Second in the series featuring White House Chef Olivia "Ollie" Paras. I've always been interested in domestic, ordinary life at the White House, ever since watching the tv mini-series Backstairs at the White House as a kid. Reading this series makes me feel like I really am behind the scenes at the White House. Hyzy has lots of scenes involving cooking, decorating, and entertaining, and how the domestic staff interacts. The action in this book doesn't move out of the White House too much--there's not a lot about Washington DC.

As for the holiday feel, it's there. There's a lot about the White House gingerbread house (familiar to anyone who's watched HGTV's specials on Christmas at the White House). The book starts shortly before Thanksgiving, and ends about 10 days later.

Sefton, Maggie. A Killer Stitch. New York: Berkley Prime Crime, 2007.

This was a pretty weak mystery, and not a great book overall. It was set at Christmas, in Fort Collins, Colorado (which may have a different name in the series). The series revolves around a knitting shop. Most of the characters are one-dimensional, and the similarity of names of characters doesn't help (two retired men, both mentors to the lead character, Kelly, are named "Burt" and "Curt"). The action and the setting are both very limited, and there's not much "detecting" going on.

The knitting aspect is obviously a draw for some. I do like two things about the series. First, the main character, Kelly, a woman in her late twenties or early thirties, is involved in sports. She plays on a softball team in some of the early books, and she plays in a tennis tournament in this book. It's just nice to see recreational sports incorporated into a cozy mystery series. Second, Kelly has a circle of friends around her own age, who are single or, if paired up, don't have children. There are a few members of the circle who are quite a bit older, and serve as kindly parental figures for the group. Considering that Kelly moved to the town at the beginning of the series, and it hasn't been a year since the move at the time of this novel, having the circle of friends she does is amazing, and enviable.

There's one Christmas-themed event in the book, but otherwise I wouldn't say it's too holiday-ish.


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