CHRISTMAS CARD MURDER by Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis and Peggy Ehrhart; Kensington Publishing, 2020; 343 pages, $26.

CHRISTMAS CARD MURDER

Christmas cards are usually fun to send and receive, unless it’s a card that announces murder. And that’s exactly what happens in these three cozy mystery novellas. This is a suspenseful and exciting holiday treat, featuring three talented writers whose imaginations bring new meaning to “Happy Holidays!”

The story “Christmas Card Murder” is by Leslie Meier, author of “Egg Not Murder.” While renovating an old farmhouse in Tinker’s Cove, Maine, Lucy Stone finds an old Christmas card hidden in a wall, and the card’s written message is menacing. Intrigued, Lucy investigates the background of the house’s previous owners, discovering some very disturbing history involving a convicted murderer, perjury, a frame-up and revenge. And she is unwittingly drawn into more violence and death.

In “Death of a Christmas Carol” by Lee Hollis, one Christmas card delivered to three women is a threat against all three, but only one is the real target. Hollis is a brother-and-sister writing team, born and raised in Maine. Haley Powell and her two best friends are the card’s recipients and worry what the threat really means. When the card’s sender, the notorious town flirt, is found murdered, their three husbands are the prime suspects. The husbands all have alibis, but all three are lying and the police quickly discover why. The wives are frantic now, investigating the murder on their own, learning the threat wasn’t a prank. It was real.

“Death of a Christmas Card Crafter” by Peggy Ehrhart is a clever mystery involving a hand-made Christmas card, showing the “Twelve Drummers Drumming.” But the card’s picture shows 13 drummers. Why? Who is it? When the card’s artist creator is murdered, knitter and amateur sleuth Pamela Patterson uncovers the meaning of the card and a plot steeped in rage and jealousy.

Happy Holidays!

 

A DOG-FRIENDLY TOWN

A DOG-FRIENDLY TOWN by Josephine Cameron; Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2020; 384 pages, $16.99.

Brunswick author Josephine Cameron has figured out how to write entertaining fiction for middle-grade readers: have an original plot, introduce colorful, goofy characters, then add kids, dogs, suspense, action, mystery and plenty of silly humor. The fun result is “A Dog-Friendly Town.”

This is a young-reader mystery, loaded with hilarious social commentary on obsessive “blogging” and “trending,” dog-worshipping adults, hippy parents, surfer dudes and wacky kids’ antics. Think of the “Big Lebowski” for 12-year-olds, with dogs running everywhere.

Epic McDade (12), his younger brother Rondo (9) and little sister Elvis (8) help their parents run the Perro del Mar bed-and breakfast inn in the seaside town of Carmelito, California. The town has just been named “America’s #1 Dog-Friendly Town” and is hosting a huge celebration for dogs and dog-lovers, including the ever-popular Yappy Hour and Sip and Yip social events.

The town attracts celebrity dogs like Sir Bentley, dog star of her own (yes, he’s a she) TV detective show. Sir Bentley is a pampered pooch who wears a bejeweled dog collar worth half a million dollars. While Sir Bentley and her owners are staying at the inn the collar is stolen, setting the McDade kids into an investigative frenzy, determined to solve the crime.

Suspects and motives abound — the greedy dog owners, the jealous dog stylist, the suspicious vet student, the tattooed Goth blogger, a slacker rival innkeeper, and maybe even the Silk Bandit jewel thief from Los Angeles. Epic and the kids go from one mishap to another, annoying parents, guests, and even the local surfer cop. They collect clues and evidence, and then they cook up a clever plan to draw out the jewel thief.

This is as much a satire as a mystery, a nice combination of laughs and excitement.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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