My rating: 4 of 5 stars
4+ stars to Vicki Delany‘s We Wish You a Murderous Christmas, her second novel in the “Year-Round Christmas Mystery” cozy series. Whether it’s Christmastime or not, you need to unwrap this gift and dive into the great fun packaged into this holiday treat.
Rudolph, New York, also known as America’s Christmas Town, is home to the famous Yuletide Inn which has been a staple of this adorable village for years. When one of the owners has a heart attack, his son Gord moves back home to help take care of his father and the Inn until he recuperates. Unfortunately, Gord hasn’t changed since he was a kid growing up in Rudolph and still has a ruthless, money-hungry attitude which leads to one of his enemies stabbing him with a knife from the Yuletide Inn. Gord was secretly looking for ways to cut costs and make the Yuletide appear even more profitable for a potential buyer.
Merry Wilkinson, daughter of Rudolph’s previous mayor, also moved home recently but she came back full of Christmas spirit hoping to help revive the town and grow their tourist industry. When her father (also known as the town’s Santa Claus) is suspected of murdering Gord in support of his long-time friend who had a heart attack, Merry is on the case. She conducts her own “off the books” investigation working closely with her friends and family to try to uncover as much about Gord’s life back in California before he moved home to Rudolph.
With a cast of at least 6 to 8 suspects, including a rival town that hopes to sink Rudolph so they can be the tourist capital of upstate NY, Merry has her hands full trying to figure out who is telling the truth and who lacks all Christmas spirit. Add a few side stories (blossoming romance with 2 suitors, a hunky new chef who’s lusting after her best friend, a Santa Claus being fired from his job due to being the primary suspect and the on-going battles with the current mayor and a rival shop owner) and you’ve got quite a mystery to solve.
In the end, Merry of course solves the case with her friends and family’s help, but it ends in a risky unexpected confrontation where someone pulls a weapon with intent to harm Merry and her family. She survives, helps the local police capture the criminal and also walks right into the next mystery about to unfold in the third book to launch in this enjoyable series.
1. The cast of characters is dynamic and complex. Sometimes an author will create too few characters or cast too wide a net such that you can’t keep track of all the options. Even with 6 to 8 potential suspects in this story, each person is well-described, has distinct motives and pops up throughout the stories in all the right places. It’s easy to keep track of everyone which also makes it very easy to figure out who you like and who you don’t like.
2. Who doesn’t love Christmas? Ok, so if you don’t, then why are you reading this book? Nevertheless… it’s the perfect balance of story and backdrop setting: you can enjoy the story without realizing it’s all about Christmas or you can totally immerse yourself in the drama and mystique of the holiday. The settings and descriptions really add to the story and help you believe in a town that thinks about Christmas all year long. You want to run out now to visit it even though it’s Halloween (OK, it is for me when I just read the book)… but you also want to meet the people and see the village store windows.
3. The story is complex. It winds around in all the right places. And it drops tons of red herrings not only in this book, but back in book 1. (If you haven’t read book 1 in this series, you MUST read that one first and then read this one – you’ll enjoy it even more knowing what you missed previously).
1. The character of Jackie… I’m a little uncertain of how I feel about her. In the first book, I liked her even when she occasionally rubbed me the wrong way in how she treated Merry, her boss. I blamed it on her boyfriend’s (Kyle) influence; however, in this book, Jackie supported Kyle too much over the whole replacement Santa storyline. I am not sure if I’m supposed to like her or dislike her – and I’d like to figure that out sooner rather than later. Perhaps she’s being saved for a future book, which would be fine – but I’d like to see a different balance here — either good or bad. There are already a few other women who are part love / part hate (Betty, Sue-Anne, etc.)
2. I want more of Merry’s siblings! We hear about the three of them but never see them. Get them to Rudolph soon please…..
As far as cozies go, this one is very good. You can immerse yourself in the entire book and really feel as if you are part of the story and the setting. If I had to pick a cozy series that would help get more readers to the genre, this could be an option. Readers would have to be good with a “Christmas” theme, but as far as characters, plot, setting, romance, fun, et al, this is at the top. If you read book 1 and were on the fence, you must check out book 2. If you haven’t read this series, start with book 1 (Rest Ye Murdered Gentlemen) and then read this one. It’ll take a few hours for each book and it’s well worth it.