Deck the Hallways by Kate Carlisle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Deck the Hallways is the 4th book in Kate Carlisle’s ‘A Fixer-Upper Mystery’ series. This one has a Christmas theme as Shannon and her construction crew renovate a home for multiple low-income families to move into over the holiday. As a feel-good, cozy story about a small town and the fun inhabitants, I enjoyed this book. As a mystery, it fell short for a few reasons. Let’s dive in.
All the makings of a fine whodunit are in place. Shannon and several people clash with the executive from the bank who’s making their lives miserable as they rush to close on the renovations. A mysterious woman claims a Santa Claus helper inappropriately touched her during a meeting. Jewelry has been stolen. Many people want that banker to leave for good. At about 20% in, we’re prepped for a wonderful mystery full of culprits and side stories. Then things kinda fell apart for me, which is unusual. Rather than kill him off at the normal place in a story, it doesn’t happen until almost 50% into the book, allowing for more people to show potential motives. I would’ve been okay with this except more suspects kept creeping up rather than exploring the 4 or 5 already noted. And then the book quickly jumped through 7 days to get to Christmas Day, giving maybe a page to a few lines of narrative telling us what happened each day. There were lots of those “***” markings noting scene changes which didn’t work well in this style of book.
By the time the villain was revealed, it was a little too much for me. I normally try to find the reasoning and get on board, but in this book, it felt like this was rushed way too quickly. I saw several other methods including starting the book closer to Christmas, fleshing out 1 or 2 stories in more detail rather than add 4 or 5 odd red herrings, and adding more twists to the core action. A few items were also left a little too open, and I was jarred out of reading because of the frequent scene changes. All that said, it’s not bad… just not the normal caliber I’ve seen from the author. It felt sort of average, so I ended up with 3 stars on this one. Worth a read to see character growth, learn all about the remodels, and find some good mystery elements… just not complete enough to say it’s better than others.
On the good side, Shannon’s relationship with Mac changes. I loved the bonding scenes with her father. She and her core group of friends have a solid connection. The town feels real. I like the potential change between Whitney’s and Shannon’s tension, although it could go in either direction based on what happened in this book. I’ve already ordered the next one to read soon. I’m sure it was just a one-off, but I look forward to getting back on track.
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